Business 2.0, a magazine where I worked for over three years, is on the rocks. The news, has left me numb, and in an emotional fog full of memories – mostly good, and some bad ones.
It was over four years ago when the real Red Herring shutdown. I was literally the guy to turn off the lights at that magazine’s New York office. What made it worse; it was smack in the middle of World Cup Cricket tournament, a once in four-years kind of an affair that makes everyone from the subcontinent go loco.
A few days after the shutdown, I met with Josh Quittner, editor of Business 2.0, a magazine he was trying to resuscitate and reshape as a magazine for the more pragmatic, post-bust world. Like Red Herring, the original Business 2.0 was an icon of a more gilded, and perhaps a more morally ambiguous time in the history of technology.
It was a cold rainy day, when he offered me a gig, with one condition – come to San Francisco in less than three weeks. I remember it distinctly because it was the day India was playing Pakistan, which is like Yankees and the Red Sox, except with both sides having nukes. I made my choice, packed my bags, and as went west as they say. A day after getting here, I rolled-up my sleeves and went to work.
In the early days, B2.0 had little use for my telecom contacts, or my broadband expertise. The focus was finding stories about technology companies that were making things work, surviving and even thriving. It wasn’t my first choice – I butted heads with Josh, and a bunch of other editors over what was Cosmopolitan-style journalism for the business world.
Six months into the gig, I started appreciating the What Works section, which to me is the heart and soul of the magazine. Lately, there has been less of a focus on that, and more writing about Web 2.0, including me contributing to the noise as a columnist. It made me aware that the service journalism is what creates passionate readers, the kind who would join a Facebook group to try and save the magazine. A Facebook group full of supporters shows that as a magazine Business 2.0 still has readers, in fact more readers than ever before.
In that context, one makes you wonder about the logic of the decision. Time Warner knows how to fold a winning hand, and bet on a sure fire lame duck. AOL anyone? Or Warner Brothers Music? Nevertheless, it still doesn’t take away from the fact that I did some of my best work for Business 2.0, working hard, not because those Time Warner options were going to make me rich, but because I believed in the magazine.
What a fool as I was – in the end it was a business, managed and remotely from a glass cocooned Manhattan tower – where they don’t know a thing about passionate readers, or communities or the fact that their world is no longer theirs. I hope, I never forget this lesson, as I build my little company. As for that Facebook Group – if we close our eyes and clap our hands, maybe Tinkerbell will fly again.
PS: Jim Daly, the founding editor of Business 2.0, before it flamed out and was bought by Time Warner shares his feelings about how much it hurts to see your baby whither away on our sister site, FoundREAD. If it seems all too inside baseball, forgive me, for despite what Owen Thomas says, I am in a blue mood.