Urge overkill? New mag born as others die
The forecast for print media only gets worse. Media General has put the Daily Progress building on the block as it struggles with a plunging stock price of $2.85, down from $27.18 a share in September.
And though two glossies are soon to disappear from local racks, a Richmond publishing company has the urge to launch Urge, a slick regional arts mag with the motto, "Try something different."
TheNext50 was doing well, but "House and Home was taking a beating," says publisher Eric Lund. "We would have kept it going, but with ad revenue down, we would have had to cut quality."
The Daily Progress launched a look-alike glossy shelter magazine three months after Lund, which didn't help. Nor did the crashing real estate market.
Meanwhile, despite slowing home sales, one local real estate magazine, HomeSearch, has a new owner–- John Garner–- and a new name: HomePlace.
It's not like there's a shortage of real estate publications here, with Real Estate Weekly, the Daily Progress' insert, Home Seeker, and a glossy called Fine Properties. Garner did not return phone calls from the Hook, but powerhouse real estate agent Sharon Donovan explains why she advertises in HomePlace: It's glossy, its bimonthly schedule gives it a longer shelf life, and it accepts properties that are too low-end for Fine Properties.
"Real Estate Weekly is too big and unwieldy as a publication," says Donovan. Plus, it's more expensive. Houses are staying on the market longer, and she predicts that as realtors cut back on their advertising, that will be a boon for HomePlace. "I love that publication," she enthuses. "I get great results."
And that brings us to the latest glossy entrant to local newsstands: the winter issue of Urge, with Charlottesvillians Shawn Decker and Gwenn Barringer on the cover.
Richmond-based Palari Publishing noticed a niche. "There was no glossy publication covering the arts since 64," says Urge executive publisher Ted Randler, mentioning the slick, regional arts and culture mag that survived two-and-a-half years before folding in 2002. And glossy is the best way to reproduce paintings and photographs, adds Randler, who has a master's degree in fine arts.
"We saw a need," he explains of the Central Virginia-centric mag that stretches from Charlottesville to Fredericksburg, Richmond and Williamsburg, and that he'd eventually like to see it distributed statewide. "We recognize people in Richmond will go to Charlottesville, and people in Charlottesville will go to Fredericksburg."
And those people want to find the cool places in the neighborhood, believes Randler. "There are these pods of retail and fine art, and unless you know the region intimately, you won't know about them."
The first quarterly issue of Urge to hit here has plenty of Charlottesville attractions: The Kings of Belmont, the Charlottesville Ladies Arm Wrestling, Main Street Market, and Live Arts.
Urge offers free gallery listings, and its entry-level ad rates rates of $150 make it affordable for the home artisan or small shop to advertise for 90 days in a glossy magazine, says Randler.
As for profitability? "Does anybody make money in publishing?" he asks. "It certainly is a labor of love. And it's on a growth pattern."
Palari has been in business for 11 years and has three other magazines, as well as books and websites. "It's not like we don't have a history of publishing," says Randler.
And hard times are not limited to print media. Saga Communications, which owns the Charlottesville Radio Group and just laid off three broadcasters here, announced a reverse stock split December 30 and is struggling to keep its share price above $1.
Publicly traded Gray Televisions, which owns four TV stations here, opened at 48 cents a share January 12, down from its 52-week high of $8.14.
Randler's theory is that publishing gets a bump during hard times. "Maybe you can't afford to fly to Hawaii, but you can read about it," he says. "Having a free, glossy publication, people are more likely to pick it up. That will be their luxury."
Certainly the first 10,000 copies were snapped up, and Urge just started paid subscriptions because the newsstand copies disappeared so quickly. And now that Urge is the official magazine of the Richmond Arts Council, Randler expects the next print run to be larger.
"We're very upbeat," he says. "We're very positive." And that's something you don't often hear from media moguls these days.