Thursday, August 02, 2007

Business 2.0 gets a Stay of Execution

Business 2.0 gets a Stay of Execution

Everyone was expecting Business 2.0, the Time Inc.-owned tech magazine where -- full disclosure -- I used to work, to shut down this Friday after staffers sent the September issue to the printers. But that is, as of last night, no longer the case. Time Inc. is giving the magazine an eleventh-hour reprieve, in the manner of the governor calling in a pardon just as a sentenced prisoner is being strapped into the electric chair. Top execs at the publisher are now, instead of arranging funeral plans, sorting through a flood of offers to buy the magazine. Here's what's changed -- and why.

Business 2.0, up until late yesterday, was unquestionably in the process of shutting down. Columnists had been told not to bother turning anything in for October. Staffers -- both those whom Time Inc. hoped to retain, and those not on the favored lists -- had been seeking other employment. And a squad of higher-ups at Time Inc. had set travel plans to fly out to California to finish shutting the magazine down.

And now, most of those travel plans have been cancelled. Employees have been asked to stay to work on the October issue, and freelancers have been assigned pieces. And, I can only imagine as the fellow who used to write these things, hurried revisions are being made to a valedictory editor's letter. It's good news of the exceedingly inconvenient kind.

As of last night, Time Inc. execs have decided to enter into some form of due diligence with prospective buyers, and keep the magazine alive while it considers the dozen or so offers it's received. (Want to buy a magazine? It's not too late to throw your hat in the ring: send email to Maurice Edelson, the VP who's running the sale process.)

The question, though, is why? Did social media save the magazine? Perhaps so, in a roundabout way. The Facebook group "I Read Business 2.0 -- and Want to Keep Reading!" numbers more than 2,000 people, but that's hardly enough for Time Inc. honchos, who deal with magazine circulations numbering in the millions, to pay notice. But Facebook, with its early-adopter audience, may have proved an ideal way to get the attention of serious prospective buyers.

Everything's up in the air, of course. Time Inc.'s top brass could decide to refuse the offers. They could proceed with plans to fold some of the staff into Fortune. They could even -- though this seems unlikely -- decide that the buyers have a good idea in wanting to own the magazine, and reconsider holding onto it.

This much is clear, however. Business 2.0 has gone, overnight, from certain death to an uncertain life. It's the kind of back-from-the-brink business-revival story that I used to read all the time. In the pages, naturally, of Business 2.0.

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