Back in 1997, in the midst of a camping trip to the deserts of the southwest, on a night when the sky sparkled with a thousand stars, I made an important decision. *I accepted publisher “Chris Anderson’s”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Anderson_%28TED%29 offer to co-found a new magazine, “Business 2.0”:http://money.cnn.com/magazines/business2/.*
Two weeks earlier, just as I was throwing my tent and sleeping bag into my car, Chris made the proposal. I told him I’d consider it during the journey. I already had a gig that I enjoyed—I was then a features editor at “Wired”:http://www.wired.com/ –but as Found|READ’s community already knows, the opportunity to launch something new was too good to pass. That night, with the Milky Way spread like a celestial highway across the sky, the decision was easy. New galaxies were out there; time to explore.
I asked for one promise: that the new magazine would not look, feel or read like anything we had done before. Chris, an experienced magazine entrepreneur who launched dozens of successful enthusiast publications as head of “Future Publishing and Imagine Media”:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Future_Publishing (readers might remember titles like MacAddict and PCGamer), readily agreed.
Business 2.0 was launched nine months later—the same gestation period as a child. (The name, incidentally, was conceived by Amazon head Jeff Bezos in a hallway conversation at the “TED show”:http://www.ted.com/ in Monterey.)
The next chapter in B2’s history is fairly well known. The magazine thrived for several years. In 2001 we got purchased by AOL/Time-Warner. We got subsumed into Ecompany Now! (an in-house competitor of Business2.0). AOL/TW wisely choose to ditch the Ecompany Now! moniker and stick with Business 2.0, and this is the magazine that young entrepreneurs enjoy reading today.
*Now, any founder who has brought a project to life only to feel the pain of seeing it die at the hands of another steward (I’m guessing there are many of you), the rest of this tale will be familiar, also.*
Yesterday, whispers turned into headlines when news surfaced that “Time Inc. may fold Business 2.0”:http://www.nytimes.com/2007/07/17/business/media/17mag.html?_r=1&oref=slogin before the September issue. Insiders say it’s likely to happen even sooner.
*The problem, ironically, is B2’s success.* It’s now breaking even, stemming its recent string of multimillion-dollar yearly losses. But those dollars came at the expense of “Fortune”:http://money.cnn.com/magazines/fortune/ magazine. *Time’s plan is to shut down B2, and fold its crew into Fortune. _Very Business 1.0._*
Groups have sprung up to save B2 (for a time there was even a “Facebook”:http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=2420762508 page where enthusiasts can rally), but it appears that *Time, Inc. isn’t really interested in selling.* What they fear, no doubt, is that someone invests in the magazine, does a few smart things (better paper and design, more targeted distribution, pumps up the conference business) and makes money. Then Time looks bad for having bought high and sold low.
*I’m six years removed from the sale of B2, but it’s still painful to see the end of an old friend* so near. Startups are true labors of love; designed to make money, to be sure, but filled with countless hours of obsession, compulsion, joy and frustration. The metaphor of a start-up feeling like a child may seem overreaching, but it’s true. And every parent expects their child to one day leave the nest as it matures and grows. Most don’t expect it to get hit by a bus on that journey.
Ironically, Business 2.0 may be shelved just when the phrase “(Fill in Blank) 2.0” has widely entered the lexicon as shorthand for next-generation change. Indeed, the dozens of so-called Web 2.0 companies that are growing like mushrooms after a spring rain could provide just the impetus for a while new phase of creativity and regeneration at the magazine.
In the late lamented series “The Sopranos,” one of the assorted wiseguys would often justify the murder of a colleague with the bloodless explanation that *“it’s just business.”* And perhaps that the end of B2 is simply that – just business. Cold, bloodless business. *But that doesn’t mean it isn’t painful for any founder to see his/her baby die.* Especially when it has so many galaxies left to explore.
Editor’s Note: Om, who is another Business2.0 alumnus, is writing a complementary post on his pain over the magazine’s imminent demise at GigaOM. Stay tuned for it.