Silicon Alley Reporter Goes Under

By Ryan Naraine

The Silicon Alley Reporter, a glossy magazine which symbolized the birth and giddy growth of the New York new media industry, is folding, publisher and owner Jason McCabe Calacanis confirmed Monday.

Unable to secure enough advertising to keep the Silicon Alley Reporter as a stand alone title, Calacanis told atNewYork the name of the magazine would be changed to Venture Reporter and that editorial coverage would shift beyond New York and the Internet.

He said the first issue of Venture Reporter would hit the streets in December and would be published six times a year.

“It is a business decision first and a personal decision second. You know as well as I do how little there is to write about these days in terms of the Internet.”

Yet despite such an assertion, Calacanis said he plans to continue publication of the Silicon Alley Daily Web site and email newsletter. “The Alley can support an email newsletter (or two), however a print magazine needs a wider audience and it needs to have a larger base of advertising in order to exist.”

Word of the magazine’s demise had been floating around the Alley for several weeks, fueled by the recent bankruptcy filing and fire sale of new economy magazine Industry Standard and the drastic cutbacks at Upside and Red Herring.

Calacanis had also entertained offers to sell the newsletters as well as the magazine to other media companies within the past two years, but turned them down, according to people familiar with the negotiations.

“We could sit around and pretend that the market for Internet startups is going to come back, but the truth is that 90 percent of the innovation in the Internet space is going to come from the top three of four companies (AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft),” Calacanis said.

Putting a brave face on the long-rumored shutdown of his flagship magazine, Calacanis said the debut issue of the new publication would look at life sciences, wireless, security, software and the Internet.

“We could have kept doing Silicon Alley Reporter as a 50 page magazine, but what would the point of that be when there is this huge opportunity to take on all these new industries where things are booming…wireless, life sciences, security.”

The magazine, which fell under the Rising Tide Studios umbrella, first launched in 1996 as a Xerox-copied publication which Calacanis delivered door-to-door. It was known in those days as a gossipy, rumor-driven title which helped create celebrity chief executives among New York dot-coms.

But with the tanking of the advertising marketing and the ongoing consolidation in the industry squeezing revenues, Calacanis said he got the idea to rebrand SAR as Venture Reporter after launching a test site about VC investments last spring.

“Silicon Alley Reporter was a great magazine, but every story has an end and I think that we’ve reached it. The name Silicon Alley is not just a place, but a moment in time. To have a magazine about a moment that is over doesn’t make sense.”

Anna Wheatley, editor-in-chief of competitor AlleyCat News, said the folding of SAR comes as no surprise.

“He (Calacanis) really was perceived as the cheerleader of Silicon Alley. SAR had a clear connection with the party scene, the celebrity CEOs. It was never appropriate for a business magazine. If you don’t have the Jeff Dachises (former CEO of Razorfish) of the world to hang out and party with, it was only a matter of time before it would come to an end,” Wheatley said.

Wheatley conceded the contracting ad market has forced publishers to cut back print schedules but maintained the market exists for a regional publication in the New York tri-state area.

“There are plenty of opportunities that will emerge in this local area. Clearly, times have changed and we all have to reinvent ourselves with the market but we remain committed to following the finance and technology sectors in this area.”

AlleyCat, previously a monthly magazine, now publishes four times a year and its conferences have been postponed, obviously hurt by the soft outlook for advertising and marketing revenues.

However, with new funding in hand, Wheatley said AlleyCat plans to go back to a monthly schedule in January next year.

“It’s still a terrible market. Our core advertiser base is among professional services – law, accounting. We don’t depend on dot-com advertisers as much as SAR did.”

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