Publishing Industry Soundbytes 6-4-04

Posted on June 4, 2004

People

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Axel Ganz, President of Gruner + Jahr's International Magazine Division announced the appointment of J. Russell Denson, as President and CEO of Gruner + Jahr USA. Denson was most recently president and CEO of the Reiman Media Group, a subsidiary of The Reader's Digest Association. Denson, age 53, will start on June 14, and report directly to Ganz. Prior to running the Reiman Media Group, Denson was President, Chief Executive Officer and Director of Weider Publications and was responsible for the strategic direction and management of the company with titles including Muscle and Fitness, Men's Fitness, Shape, Fit Pregnancy and Natural Health. Denson, who rides a Harley Softail Duece and restored a Triumph TR6, is a recent former Board member of the Magazine Publishers of America, and holds a B.B.A. from the University of Houston.

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Meredith Corporation has appointed John S. Zieser Vice President/Corporate Development, effective immediately. In this expanded role, Zieser will lead a newly-created area focused on growing the company's footprint in and adjacent to its current media business. Zieser cited Meredith's acquisition of the American Baby Group and its start-up of a CBS affiliate in Springfield, MA as two recent conventional examples of the company increasing its media presence. Zieser is currently Meredith's General Counsel and Vice President/Corporate Services with responsibilities for the Legal, Human Resources, Corporate Communications and Government Relations functions. He will retain oversight of those areas in addition to his new duties. Prior to joining Meredith, Zieser spent six years with First Data Corporation where he held senior business development positions, including Group President, First Data Merchant Services. Prior to that, Zieser spent several years with Sullivan & Cromwell working on a wide-range of transactions both in the U.S. and internationally.

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Emmy Award-winning programmer Ian Valentine has been named Senior Vice President of Programming for GSN, a network for games, announced Rich Cronin, President and CEO, GSN, to whom he will report. Valentine will be located in the company's Santa Monica headquarters. Valentine's responsibilities for the Sony Pictures Entertainment and Liberty Media owned cable network will include overseeing GSN's production, development, acquisitions and program planning for the 54 million home network. He will be charged with managing the programming staff as well as the company's casting and production departments. His mandate will be to produce and acquire game/competition-related programming in a variety of genres, including reality series, casino/gaming programs, game shows, video game programs, specials and documentaries. Among his first projects will be to oversee the network's horse racing reality series, American Dream Derby. He will also work closely with GSN's industry-leading interactive television team to provide programs with iTV enhancements.

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Judith Princz, Publisher of Progressive Grocer, has announced the appointment of Stephen Dowdell as the Editor-in-Chief of Progressive Grocer magazine. Dowdell comes to Progressive Grocer from a career at Fairchild Publications. For 11 years he worked on Supermarket News, beginning as a reporter and working up to senior editor. He served in Fairchild's New Media division as Editor-in-Chief of Fairchild Internet. And most recently, he was managing editor of Footwear News.

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John McGuire has joined The Jim Henson Company as Vice President of Business and Legal Affairs. The announcement was made by Peter Schube, President and COO of The Jim Henson Company, to whom he will report. In this position, Mr. McGuire will have day-to-day supervisory responsibility for the business and legal affairs of all U.S. film, television and ancillary businesses for The Jim Henson Company. Previously, Mr. McGuire was Vice President, Business Affairs and Co-Productions at Starz Encore Group, LLC. Before that, he was Vice President of Business Affairs at ABC, Inc. and then Head of Business and Legal Affairs at UFA International Film & TV Production. Mr. McGuire is a graduate of New York University School of Law. He also received a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Columbia University.

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Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, Inc. announced it has nominated four new board members for election to the Board of Directors at the Company's annual stockholders' meeting on June 21, 2004. Their election would expand the board to nine members from its current five. The proposed new board members are: Rick Boyko, Managing Director of the Virginia Commonwealth University Adcenter and former Co-President and Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather; Michael Goldstein, Former Chairman and CEO of Toys "R" Us; Susan Lyne, former President of ABC Entertainment; and Wenda Harris Millard, Chief Sales Officer of Yahoo! Inc. The Nominating Committee of the Company's Board of Directors, with the input of Martha Stewart, MSO's Founding Editorial Director and majority shareholder, identified these candidates.

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Meredith Corporation has announced a realignment of its publishing operations that includes the creation of seven senior positions to oversee all operations. The new organization will become effective July 1, 2004, coinciding with Jack Griffin's previously-announced promotion to Meredith Publishing Group President. The new positions are: Several executives will assume additional responsibilities:
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Ziff Davis Media Inc. has announced the promotion of Bart W. Catalane to President of the Company. He will retain the title of COO. Mr. Catalane who joined the Company in 2001 as COO and CFO will continue to report to Robert F. Callahan, Chairman and CEO of Ziff Davis Media. Mr. Callahan previously held the title of President. As President of Ziff Davis, Mr. Catalane will oversee all activities relating to the day-to-day operations of the Company. He will also focus on the strategic direction for Ziff Davis and play a pivotal role leading the management team. Mr. Catalane joined Capital Cities/ABC in 1984 and held various senior- level positions in the Corporate Finance division, which oversaw the acquisition of ABC, Inc. In 1989, Mr. Catalane joined the ABC Radio Networks as Vice President and CFO and was promoted twice, first, to Senior Vice President and then to Executive Vice President, In 1996, Mr. Catalane was promoted to Executive Vice President and CFO of the ABC Radio Division and served in this capacity for three years. In 1999, Mr. Catalane was promoted to Executive Vice President and CFO of the ABC Broadcast Division. Prior to joining Ziff Davis, Mr. Catalane was Senior Vice President and CFO at TMP Worldwide Inc.

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Friendster announced that it has named former NBC Entertainment president, Scott Sassa, as CEO, effective immediately. Scott will be responsible for leading all areas of the company. Scott held several top executive positions at NBC from 1997-2003. Scott spent three years as president, NBC West Coast, responsible for overseeing all of NBC's entertainment-related businesses. During that time, he oversaw the development and production of such shows as The West Wing, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and Fear Factor. Scott originally joined NBC as president of the NBC Television Stations division and later became president of NBC Entertainment before becoming president, NBC West Coast. Before NBC, he spent nine years at Turner Broadcasting System in various executive roles, most recently as president of Turner Entertainment Group and a member of the Turner Board of Directors and the TBS Executive Committee.

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Scholastic, a K-12 educational publisher and children's publishing and media company, has announced the appointment of Frank White to Director, New York City for Scholastic Education. White, who began his career 20 years ago as a 4th grade teacher in New York City, will bring his experience in education technology and publishing as well as his knowledge of educational needs in the New York City area, to pursue opportunities in the region for Scholastic programs and classroom materials. In this newly created position, Frank White will report to Scott Bowker, Vice President of Sales, Scholastic Education. Frank White will help expand the reach of a wide range of Scholastic programs and classroom materials as well as professional development tools and resources for teachers. Prior to joining Scholastic, Frank White was President of The E2 Consulting Group in New York City, focusing on market analysis and concept development services for information and instructional technology companies. He spent several years handling assessment and technology sales in New York City and the northeast for ACTV, Inc., and Kaplan Learning. Previously, Mr. White worked as regional marketing manager for Jostens, Inc. and as a sales representative with major publishers in New York City.

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Universal Studios has announced the creation of Universal Studios Partnerships (USP), an agency-inspired entity designed to oversee multi-divisional corporate alliances as well as theatrical and home entertainment promotions. USP expands upon and renames Universal Partnership Development, a group currently overseeing long term corporate alliances. Stephanie Sperber, Senior Vice President, Universal Partnership Development, has been promoted to Executive Vice President, USP, reporting to Universal Pictures Vice Chairman Marc Shmuger. USP will service the needs of both Universal Studios internal business units and its external partners. The new structure includes an account management function that will serve as a single, point of contact for all brands once they have joined Universal as a corporate or single-property partner.

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Brenda Smith has been named to the position of Group Managing Director of Ascent Media Group United Kingdom, it was announced by Kenneth S. Williams, President and Chief Executive Officer, Ascent Media Group. In her new role, Ms. Smith will be responsible for leading the management and staff (1200+ employees) of Ascent Media UK's businesses; oversight of the UK Creative Services and Media Management operations; coordination of the UK Network Services and UK Creative Sound Services operations with Ascent Media's global business strategy; and developing the UK corporate team to grow core businesses and advance key services for the creative post-production, management and distribution of digital media. Most recently, Ms. Smith served as Managing Director of Granada Television, a position she held for the past seven years of her 20-plus-year career at the British broadcasting organisation, with responsibility for meeting broadcast license obligations, including delivery of news and regional programming, program compliance, regional affairs, diversity, equal opportunities and training. Concurrently, she held the position of Managing Director of Granada Studios.

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Viacom Inc. announced that Jonathan Dolgen, Chairman of the Viacom Entertainment Group, is resigning, effective July 15.

The Board of Directors of Viacom Inc. announced that Tom Freston and Leslie Moonves have been appointed Co-Presidents and Co-Chief Operating Officers, effective immediately. Mr. Freston and Mr. Moonves succeed Mel Karmazin, who has resigned. Mr. Freston is currently the Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of Viacom's MTV Networks unit, a position he has held since 1987. Mr. Moonves is currently Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CBS, a position he has held since 2003. He joined CBS in 1995 as President, CBS Entertainment. In their new roles, Messrs. Freston and Moonves will jointly oversee all of the operations of Viacom, as directed by Mr. Redstone. The Company's corporate staff will report directly to Mr. Redstone. In addition to MTV Networks, Mr. Freston will be responsible for overseeing the operations of Showtime, BET, Paramount Parks, Simon & Schuster and the motion picture operations of Paramount Pictures. In addition to overseeing Viacom's broadcast television businesses, Mr. Moonves will be responsible for the operations of Paramount TV, Infinity Broadcasting and Viacom Outdoor. The appointments are part of a corporate succession plan, which will provide for the orderly transition to the next generation of senior management for Viacom. In connection with this plan, Mr. Redstone has indicated that he will relinquish his role as Chief Executive Officer within three years.

Digital Publishing

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McGraw-Hill Higher Education said it is offering 900 etextbooks at reduced prices. In addition to its etextbooks that span all disciplines, McGraw-Hill is also offering over 9,000 case studies and more than 5,000 readings and articles in a digital format. College costs have risen across the country due to many factors, including state budget cuts in education. McGraw-Hill sais its electronic content is one solution addressing that issue. McGraw-Hill estimates that its etextbooks, offered through its Primis Online service, can result in savings up to 50 percent off traditional print textbooks. Students have the option to purchase a downloadable file or access their etextbook through an Internet connection. With etextbooks McGraw-Hill's 1.5 million pages of textbook content, case studies and other materials can be mixed and matched according to an instructor's specifications. McGraw-Hill says the entire process, from the initial concept to the printed textbook, can be completed in less than eight weeks.

Content Deals

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The Wicks Group of Companies, L.L.C. announced that it has purchased the Daily Racing Form from Alpine Equity Partners. The Daily Racing Form ("DRF") is a publication for the thoroughbred horse racing industry. The Daily Racing Form was founded in 1894 and has served the news and information needs of racing enthusiasts, owners and breeders for 110 years. DRF also publishes an online edition and provides interactive handicapping tools and products for horseplayers, along with National Simulcast Weekly, a weekly racing charts publication. DRF Press publishes books on the horse racing industry.

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Knight Ridder announced that Northwest Publications, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Knight Ridder, has acquired the assets of four community newspapers and three shopper publications previously owned by Superior Publishing Corporation, through its wholly owned subsidiary Murphy McGinnis Media, Inc., and several of its affiliates. Superior Publishing Corporation is a wholly owned portfolio investment of MCG Capital Corporation. The acquired newspapers include the (Duluth) Budgeteer News, The (Cloquet) Pine Journal, The Daily Telegram in Superior, Wis., and the Lake County News-Chronicle in Two Harbors, Minn. The purchase also includes the Manney's Shopper zones in Superior, Cloquet and Two Harbors.

Launches and Redesigns

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A Place for Mom, an eldercare referral service, has announced the publication of the second edition of The Family Advisor magazine, a guide to eldercare resources for families concerned about their loved one's care and housing. The magazine includes articles about alzheimer's disease, incontinence, arthritis and other information relevant to seniors and their well-being. There is also information about how to find and select the best long term care options for your loved ones. Over 250,000 free copies are now available at healthcare and long-term care providers throughout the US or directly from A Place for Mom.

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Zagat Survey, a provider of consumer survey-based leisure content, has released its first-ever U.S. Family Travel Guide in association with Time Inc.'s Parenting, a magazine for moms. The guide integrates everything a parent needs to plan a U.S. vacation, with family-oriented ratings and reviews for more than 1000 sites and attractions, including amusement parks, ballparks, historic sites & monuments, national parks, zoos and more. The guide also covers family-friendly hotels and restaurants. Together, Zagat Survey and Parenting surveyed over 11,000 travelers to rate family-oriented attractions across the United States, ranging from New York's Museum of Natural History (the #3 most popular U.S. destination) to Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii. Sites and attractions were rated by Child Appeal, Adult Appeal, Public Facilities and Service. Cost estimates are also included.

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Integrated communications provider SureWest Communications and The Sacramento Bee, the second-largest newspaper in Northern California, have announced an agreement to make SureWest Directories the exclusive online yellow pages provider for Sacramento.com, a website of The Sacramento Bee. Sacramento.com is now live as a local search destination. Users can search phone book listings and advertisements for Sacramento, Yolo, Placer and El Dorado counties to find local businesses, stores and restaurants in seconds. At launch, the searches will provide business and residential listings, display ads, and coupons contained in the SureWest print directories. The site will be enhanced in the coming months with Sacramento Bee content including advertisements, links to related stories, reviews, shopping tips and more. The technology and content integration behind Sacramento.com is being provided by PremierGuide Inc., of Palo Alto, CA. Sacramento.com's local search capability will also be featured on Sacbee.com, the Sacramento Bee's primary website.

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RB Publishing, a Madison, Wisconsin-based publishing company, has announced its latest magazine, Inside Wisconsin Sports. Inside Wisconsin Sports will cover all of Wisconsin's sports, from prep to college to professional. With an emphasis on team spectator sports such as football, basketball, baseball and hockey, Inside Wisconsin Sports will also cover Wisconsin athletes involved in golf, soccer, Special Olympics, volleyball, NASCAR and more. The premiere issue of Inside Wisconsin Sports will hit newsstands this fall and will begin regular circulation in January, 2005, with 9 issues per year. Mike Heller of ESPN radio will be guest editor of the new magazine. Inside Wisconsin Sports is published by RB Publishing, Inc., a Madison, Wisconsin-based firm, established in 1988. RB Publishing produces national and regional consumer and business publications in a variety of topics. The company has also published custom magazines for Bally Total Fitness, Xerox Corporation, U.S. Postal Service and Pitney Bowes.

Film and Television

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Principal photography recently began on Universal Pictures' The Skeleton Key, a contemporary supernatural thriller, that stars Kate Hudson and Peter Sarsgaard. Iain Softley directs and produces the motion picture, which is written by Ehren Kruger. Daniel Bobker and Double Feature Films' partners Michael Shamberg and Stacey Sher serve as producers. The cast also includes Gena Rowlands, John Hurt, and Joy Bryant. The Skeleton Key began production on April 12, 2004, in Vacherie, Louisiana, and will be utilizing various locations in New Orleans and rural Louisiana prior to returning to Los Angeles to continue shooting on the soundstages at Universal Studios.

Set largely in the dark atmospheric backwoods just outside of New Orleans, The Skeleton Key stars Hudson as Caroline, a live-in nurse hired to care for an elderly woman's (Rowlands) ailing husband (Hurt) in their home ... a foreboding and decrepit Gothic mansion in the Louisiana delta. Intrigued by the enigmatic couple, their mysterious and secretive ways and their rambling house, Caroline beings to explore the old mansion. Armed with a skeleton key that unlocks every door, she discovers a hidden attic room that holds a deadly and terrifying secret. Peter Sarsgaard portrays Luke, the local attorney working on the couple's estate, and Joy Bryant plays Jill, Caroline's best friend. Joining Softley behind-the-camera of The Skeleton Key are director of photography Dan Mindel, editor Joe Hutshing, production designer John Beard and costume designer Louise Frogley. The film is executive-produced by Clayton Townsend.

Screenwriter Ehren Kruger's most recent original screenplay to have been filmed is The Brothers Grimm. His other credits include The Ring, Reindeer Games, Scream 3, Arlington Road and Impostor. His upcoming projects include The Ring 2 and the adaptation of The Talisman, authored by Stephen King and Peter Straub. Producer Daniel Bobker is an independent film producer based in Los Angeles with strong ties to the New York literary world. The Skeleton Key marks the second film with screenwriter Ehren Kruger, who also teamed with the producer on Terry Gilliam's upcoming The Brothers Grimm. Bobker started his career in book publishing, where he cultivated relationships with numerous book and magazine editors and writers in both New York and London.

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Sundance Channel, founded in 1996 by Robert Redford, has just crossed the 20 million subcriber mark, becoming the third premium cable & satellite network in history to hit this important industry milestone. The announcement was made by Larry Aidem, President and CEO, Sundance Channel L.L.C. Sundance Channel stands behind HBO and Encore, which hit 20 million in 1995 and 2002, respectively.

Music Business

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Napster, a division of Roxio, Inc., announced that the Napster 2.0 legal online digital music service went live at napster.ca for music fans in Canada. Napster offers Canadian members an online collection of music, featuring more than 300,000 tracks from the five major labels (BMG, EMI, Sony Music Entertainment, Universal Music Canada, and Warner Music Canada) as well as scores of independent labels, and offers such Canadian acts as Alanis Morrissette, Avril Lavigne, Diana Krall, Nickelback, Melissa Auf Der Maur and Thornley. Napster and Molson, one of the world's largest and North America's oldest brewers, simultaneously announced a multi-year mutually exclusive strategic marketing alliance. As Molson's exclusive music service, Napster will provide limited free access to the service for Molson Insiders.

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Klipsch Audio Technologies has reached an agreement with GarageBand.com, a legal source of free music on the Internet, that includes offering 75 free song downloads every week at klipsch.com. The agreement also allows Klipsch to promote its home, commercial and home-recording products to GarageBand.com's 400,000 registered members.

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ROO Group, Inc. announced that it has completed the purchase of the business and business assets of Undercover Media Pty Ltd (Undercover). Undercover is a provider of music content, including photos, articles and interviews, to websites worldwide. Its clients include Telstra Corporation, AAP and Coca Cola, and its distribution partners include Google, VH1, Nova, Artist Direct and News Now. In addition, Undercover has a strategic online partnership with HMV for online music sales. Included in the purchase is the undercover.com.au website, which currently serves approximately 500,000 visitors per mont. Undercover will operate as an independent business subdivision of ROO Group and the management of Undercover will all be retained.

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MySpace.com, a social networking website which claims an audience of 2 million users, has launched a new music service, MySpace Music. The site offers music lovers and musicians capabilities such as downloads, direct connects with bands through social networking profiles, user testimonials and ratings and networking and mobilization capabilities.

Book Deals and News

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Zondervan has signed bestselling author and international Bible teacher Anne Graham Lotz to an exclusive, four-book contract. Lotz, the daughter of evangelist Billy Graham and president of AnGeL Ministries, will release her first book with Zondervan in the spring of 2006. Anne Graham Lotz launched Just Give Me Jesus in 2000, a series of life-changing revivals held in arenas throughout the United States and around the world. Anne is the wife of Dr. Danny Lotz and has three children and two grandchildren.

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Alibris, Inc., a marketplace for used, new, hard-to-find and out-of-print books, announced that it has signed the 200th publisher, Randall International, to the company's small publisher and press program. Alibris also announced it recently passed the $5 million mark in new-book sales. Alibris started its new books program in June 2002. Alibris sells its inventory of new and used books through its own websites as well as through business partners including Amazon.com, Barnes&Noble.com, Borders, Books-A-Million and other retailers.

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Abebooks, an online marketplace for books, will announce at the opening of BookExpo America on Friday June 4th, that new books are now officially welcome to be bought and sold on Abebooks' four international websites, Abebooks.com, Abebooks.co.uk, Abebooks.de, Abebooks.fr. The official expansion of the Abebooks platform to new books makes it possible for book retailers, publishers and authors to begin selling new books directly to customers online. Abebooks.com began as a site for used, rare and out-of-print books. Abebooks estimates that over the past three years, 50 independent publishers and 100 new book retailers have started listing new books and backlist titles for sale on Abebooks.com, and that 10% of all books currently for sale on Abebooks are new. The company believes that new books will account for one third of all books listed on Abebooks websites within the next three years.

Miscellaneous

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The Electronic Entertainment Expo's (E3Expo) consumer website, E3Insider.com, was one of the fastest growing Web sites in the world for the week ending May 15, 2004, registering over 100 million hits, 6.5 million page views and over 700,000 unique users, the Entertainment Software Association (ESA), announced. According to Internet traffic site ranking company Alexa, E3Insider.com was the fifth fastest growing website in the world during the week of the E3Expo event, rising from a position of below 138,000 to one of the top 2,500 visited sites on the Net.