Publishing Industry Soundbytes 5-21-04

Posted on May 21, 2004

People

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National Lampoon, Inc. has announced changes to its board of directors (the "Board"), with the addition of Ron Berger and Richard Irvine. Ron Berger replaces Bruce Vann who passed away on February 18, 2004, and Richard Irvine replaces Jim Fellows, who has resigned from the board. Both Vann and Fellows had served on the board since the founding of the original company (J2 Communications) in 1986.

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LeapFrog Enterprises, Inc., a developer of technology based learning products, has hired Dr. Suzanne Barchers as vice president, editor-in-chief of content, to its staff of educational experts. Dr. Barchers is responsible for ensuring that all content for LeapFrog's award-winning consumer platforms and LeapFrog SchoolHouse's classroom curriculum supports LeapFrog's proprietary educational scope and sequence guidelines, as well as national and state educational standards. Prior to joining LeapFrog full-time, Dr. Barchers developed curriculum and materials for the LeapFrog SchoolHouse, including 23 decodable books, such as Leap Hops, Pops, and Mops and I Spy in the Sky. Dr. Barchers has also served as managing editor for Weekly Reader, a periodical that serves more than seven million elementary schoolchildren in 50,000 schools across America. In addition, she has written several books for both educators and students, including two college textbooks and 18 teacher resource books.

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Ziff Davis Media Inc. has announced the promotion of Karl Elken to National Associate Publisher of eWeek. He was previously West Coast Associate Publisher. In his new position, Mr. Elken will develop the publication's integrated marketing and sales strategy as well as manage the entire sales force. He will be based in New York City and will continue to report to Chris Dobbrow, Publisher of eWeek. Mr. Elken, who has been with eWeek since 2001, has helped grow the publication, developing integrated marketing programs that span print, custom publishing and online events. Mr. Elken has over 17 years of sales, marketing and circulation experience, with over 12 years in b-to-b and high-technology media companies. He has held senior-level positions within Ziff Davis Media, most recently serving as West Coast Publisher for Baseline and CIO Insight magazines and prior to that PC Magazine. He has also held senior level sales positions at high-tech media companies including CMP Media. Mr. Elken began his career as a sales representative with Lehman Brothers in New York.

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Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions, a division of Kaplan, Inc., announced that Jon Williams has joined the division as Chief Technology Officer (CTO), a newly created position. In this new role, Williams will provide strategic guidance and leadership on overall technology matters impacting the unit. Williams' responsibilities will include the management of product technology, business systems and web development. As such, he will oversee the various teams responsible for all of the division's critical technologies. Williams brings over twenty years of relevant experience to Kaplan. Most recently, he was the CTO and Senior Vice President of Grey Healthcare. Prior to that, Williams served as a consultant and technology architect for clients including AOL Time Warner, Scholastic, Oxygen Media, and ATG.

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Bob Osher has been named Chief Operating Officer of the Columbia Pictures Motion Picture Group, it was announced by Amy Pascal, Chairman of the Sony Pictures Entertainment Motion Picture Group. Osher, who began working at the studio's Culver City-based, most recently served as Co-President of Production for Miramax Films. Among his other duties, he will oversee business affairs and physical production for the studio. Osher will report to Pascal and will work along side Co-Presidents of Production Doug Belgrad and Matt Tolmach, who will continue to supervise Columbia's feature film slate. Tolmach and Belgrad report to Pascal. Osher joins Columbia after serving as Co-President of Production for Miramax Films, where he was co-head of the production department, and ran the legal, business affairs and physical production divisions. In 2002, he was also placed in charge of Miramax Television and was also co-head of the company's DVD, home video and domestic television sales divisions. Most recently, he oversaw the production of Shall We Dance, starring Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez, Underclassmen, starring Nick Cannon, and he served as executive producer of Anthony Minghella's civil war drama Cold Mountain, starring Nicole Kidman and Jude Law.

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Kim Paulsen, group publisher of the Penton IT Media's Windows Group, announced the appointment of Karen Forster as group editorial director for the Windows Group, headquartered in Loveland, Colo. Forster will be responsible for managing the editorial direction and strategy for print, Web, and email newsletters for Windows & .NET Magazine, SQL Server Magazine, and Connected Home Media. Forster worked with the start-up company, Duke Communications, from 1988-2002, helping it become the editorial leader in its field. In addition to launching SQL Server Magazine in 1999, she served as editor-in-chief of both SQL Server Magazine and Windows NT/2000 Magazine (which became Windows & .NET Magazine). During her two years at Microsoft, Forster served as director of Windows Server user assistance. One of her major responsibilities at Windows & .NET Magazine will be to write a monthly column, "Microsoft Connection," which will provide a place for discussion on timely IT issues between readers, Forster and Microsoft experts. Forster will also continue building and establishing relationships within the Microsoft community.

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MWW Group, a public relations firm, announced that Seattle-based The Silver Company has merged into MWW's Seattle office. Bob Silver, president and founder of The Silver Company, will join MWW as senior vice president and general manager of its Seattle office. MWW also announced that its Seattle office, formerly known locally as MWW/Savitt, has been renamed MWW Group. With background as an award-winning journalist, Silver spent 13 years as an editor and reporter for some of the nation's leading newspapers, including the Seattle Times, St. Petersburg Times, and the Niagara Gazette. His assignments covered the news spectrum, from the Love Canal environmental disaster in 1978 to the Summer Olympic Games in 1984.

Digital Publishing

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LifeWay Christian Resources is moving aggressively to provide its library of Bible resources in electronic form to make preaching, teaching and learning the Bible easier for consumers. A recent agreement between LifeWay and WORDsearch Corp LLC enables LifeWay to create new electronic products that combine the strength of LifeWay's Bible, book and literature publishing content with WORDsearch's Bible-software technology. The new business relationship gives LifeWay rights to both the Navigator software as well as the Internet technology that powers the bible.lifeway.com area on LifeWay's website, lifeway.com. Potential LifeWay content that could be integrated through the new agreement include Bible studies, thousands of ministry and Christian-living articles, as well as books and other resources.

Content Deals

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iVillage Inc., an Internet resource for women, announced that Hearst Communications, Inc. has signed a non-binding Memorandum of Understanding with iVillage to amend and extend for an additional three years the companies' magazine content license and hosting agreement. Under the proposed terms of the extension, Hearst would pay to iVillage approximately $12.5 million over three years for hosting and production services related to the following Hearst magazine websites, all of which will continue to be incorporated into The iVillage Network: Cosmopolitan, Country Living, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, House Beautiful, Marie Claire and Town & Country. The term of the deal is three years.

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The Washington Post Company announced that it had acquired El Tiempo Latino, a leading Spanish-language weekly newspaper in the greater Washington area. The seller is Farragut Media Group, Inc., whose principal owner is Armando Chapelli, Jr., formerly of Bethesda, MD. El Tiempo Latino was founded by Chapelli in 1991. It is published on Friday of each week and has ABC-audited free circulation of 34,000. After the sale the publication will remain an independent newspaper, operated by its current management and editorial team -- Alberto Avendano, Kristen Shepherd, and Zulema Tijero. For several years The Washington Post has had an informal content-sharing relationship with El Tiempo Latino that has included the publication of relevant Post articles in translation in El Tiempo Latino.

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Commonwealth Business Media, Inc. has announced the acquisition of Compass North America, Inc., publisher of the Seaports of the Americas AAPA (American Association of Port Authorities) Annual Directory, the tri-annual AAPA Seaports Magazine, Georgia Ports Authority Guide & Directory, The Port Everglades Guide & Directory and the annual AAPA Annual Convention & Exhibition (AAPA Pocketguide). Compass President and Publisher George Mihaiu will continue his tenure as publisher in Commonwealth's Miramar, Florida office. The above-mentioned titles will become part of The Journal of Commerce Shipper Group, which currently includes The Journal of Commerce, Pacific Shipper, Shipping Digest, Florida Shipper and Gulf Shipper.

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Blockbuster Inc., a global provider of in-home movie and game entertainment, announced that it has acquired the assets of American Satellite and Video, Inc., the owner and operator of Rhino Video Games, a Southeast-based regional games retail chain specializing in buying, selling and trading video games. Blockbuster's acquisition further strengthens the company's position in the growing console games and games trading market. Rhino Video Games currently operates 40 game only retail stores in the Southeastern United States, including Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, Georgia, North Carolina and South Carolina.

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Information Today, Inc. (ITI) has announced the acquisition of the publishing assets of Faulkner Technical Reports, Inc., a diverse line of information products known as Faulkner Information Services. Faulkner Information Services provides Web-based information in the fields of information technology, communications, and security. Its flagship service is called the Faulkner Advisory on Computer and Communications Technologies (FACCTS), which is a continuously updated and searchable library of hundreds of research reports written for IT and communications managers, users, and suppliers. The Faulkner Information Services management team will continue to run the new ITI subsidiary at its present location in Pennsauken, New Jersey. Marty Murphy, the former Faulkner president and principle shareholder, has left to pursue other interests but retains a strong interest in the success of the company.

Launches and Redesigns

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Developer Shed, Inc., a provider of developer resources, has launched Scripts.com, a scripting resource for developers and programmers. Scripts.com joins Developer Shed's other websites, including Dev Shed, ASP Free, Dev Articles, Dev Hardware and SEO Chat. Scripts.com is updated daily in real time to eliminate duplicate entries, bad links and inaccurate descriptions. New resources are added daily. Scripts.com contains listings for over 8,300 scripts in 11 categories. Features of Scripts.com include a search engine, a list of the most viewed scripts and the highest rated scripts organized by category. Users can rate scripts, email them to a friend and read and write reviews. Registration is free.

Film and Television

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Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. (MSO) announced that Martha Stewart Living Television, the Emmy-award winning daily syndicated service show distributed by King World Productions, will be placed on hiatus for Season 12, the 2004-2005 broadcast season. The company will continue production of Martha Stewart Living Television programming for the remainder of Season 11, which is distributed by King World through September 2004 to approximately 52 percent of U.S. local television markets. In addition, the company will continue production of Petkeeping with Marc Morrone. The company will also accelerate its development of special and new programming, such as Everyday Food. Consistent with this announcement, the company will also adjust staffing levels within the Television business segment. The company will take a restructuring charge of up to $2 million in the second quarter of 2004.

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British Movietonews, a London based newsreel archive and television documentary production company, has launched a new free website for the general public. Movietone-portraits.com features 312 one-minute portraits of famous people to include show business personalities as well as many politicians, artists and scientists. There are also portraits of places and lifestyles that were captured for posterity on 35mm black and white film. The site works with either Windows Media Player or Quicktime. The viewer has a choice of either broadband or 56K modem. The collection was originally produced for the international television market utilising the worldwide newsreel assets of British Movietonews. The company has been in business since 1929 and is the only newsreel company still operating today under its original ownership. The project was originally inspired by books of classic black and white photographs that captured an era and a way of life.

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Principal photography began May 17 on location in Santorini, Greece, for Alcon Entertainment's coming-of-age adventure The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants, based on Ann Brashares' bestselling novel about a special 16th summer in the lives of four lifelong friends. Directed by Emmy Award-nominated Ken Kwapis (Malcolm in the Middle), from a screenplay by Delia Ephron (You've Got Mail) and Elizabeth Chandler (What a Girl Wants), The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants stars Alexis Bledel, Amber Tamblyn, America Ferrara and Blake Lively as four 16-year-old best friends who are separated for the first time. On a last shopping trip together, the girls find a pair of thrift-shop jeans that fits each of them perfectly and they decide to use these "magic" pants as a way of keeping in touch over the months ahead, each girl wearing the jeans for a week to see what luck they bring her before sending them on to the next. Though miles apart, the four friends still experience life, love and loss together in a summer they'll never forget. The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants also stars Nancy Travis, Bradley Whitford and Jenna Boyd and will be produced by Debra Martin Chase (The Princess Diaries), Denise Di Novi (A Walk to Remember, Catwoman), Broderick Johnson and Andrew Kosove (Chasing Liberty). Alison Greenspan, Leslie Morgenstein and Kira Davis serve as executive producers, with Christine Sacani, Steven P. Wegner and Melissa Wiechmann as co-producers. After wrapping in Greece, production on The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants will continue in and around Vancouver and Mexico. Set for a 2005 release, the film will be distributed worldwide by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company.

Music Business

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Napster UK, Ltd., a subsidiary of Roxio, Inc., has announced that the Napster 2.0 legal online music service is now live in UK. UK residents can now download the new Napster 2.0 music service for free. Napster allows subscribers to listen legally on demand to more than 500,000 full-length, CD quality tracks - which will grow to over 700,000 tracks in the next 30 days as the company completes loading its catalogue. For those who just want to buy songs to burn to CD or transfer to portable players, Napster Light offers free 30-second samples of the entire Napster UK catalogue and the opportunity to buy singles or albums. The official UK launch of Napster 2.0 follows completion of agreements in the UK with all five major record companies - BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music International, and Warner Music International - as well as independent labels body AIM.

Book Deals and News

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Alibris, Inc. announced that its auction-based IPO did not produce prices attractive to the company and that it would rely on recently acquired private capital to achieve profitability. Alibris CEO Marty Manley indicated that a private financing completed in conjunction with the IPO enables the company to continue its rapid growth. "We are gratified by the many investors who endorsed our business model, management, and approach to the used book, movie, and music market. However, we did not find attractive the prices offered by the public market," said Manley in announcing the withdrawal of the financing. The company does not expect to seek additional financing.

Miscellaneous

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After three days of almost nonstop reporting last week at the 10th annual Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), GameSpot, a property of CNET Networks, Inc., has announced the winners of its 8th annual "Best of E3" Awards. 2.9 million gamers visited GameSpot during E3. GameSpot editors posted approximately 1,300 movies, 12,000 screen shots, and 1,000 reports during E3. GameSpot also served more than 1 million on-demand video streams a day during the show and covered about 650 different products -- roughly 98 percent of all games shown at E3.

"Due to the exceptional efforts and experience of our entire product team, no other games information source matched the quality, depth, and breadth of GameSpot's E3 coverage -- online or offline," commented Ankarino Lara, director of GameSpot. "Our editors are just as passionate about the games of E3 as our users, and our coverage reflects that passion. The winners of our E3 awards represent the most promising and innovative new games our industry has to offer."

Best of E3 Winners