UpsideToday Struggles As Business Trade Publishing Woes Continue

Continuing the string of bad news emanating from Web business trade publishers, Upside Media said this weekend that it is cutting its spending on its UpsideToday online property, apparently due to lack of funds.

Although advertisers included Williams Communications and Investor’s Business Daily, the site — affiliated with print magazine Upside — required greater support.

By reducing the site’s offerings, Upside Media chief executive David Bunnell told internetnews.com that he believed the company would save “a couple hundred thousand a month — which is pretty serious.”

Evidently, there was some initial confusion regarding the site’s disposition.

“UpsideToday, the online news division of Upside Media, has ceased operations as of today due to insufficient funds,” read a note posted on the site on Saturday, signed only by “The UpsideToday Staff.” “We have fought long and hard to stay afloat, but now we must say good-bye. We want to thank you, our readers, for visiting our site each day to read our commentary and for sharing your opinions in our discussion rooms.”

But by Monday afternoon, that message had been replaced by a missive — entitled “UpsideToday not dead yet!” — from Bunnell.

Bunnell later said that the site would indeed continue some editorial coverage, as well as other features like its On Trial weekly column, which he said accounted for 40 percent of the site’s traffic in recent months. The site’s less popular and more resource-intensive coverage — like daily stock market reports — would vanish entirely, he added.

“Our ability to do the daily coverage of the stock market is going to end, and we’re going to build a different kind of Web site, less dependent on daily reporting,” Bunnell told internetnews.com. “So the site will live on, in a different capacity.”

Exactly how the site is to be revamped is still under discussion, he said, although the changes are expected to be in place by next week.

Bunnell also said that UpsideToday would be expanded again once the market picks back up, as would Upside, which continues its normal monthly publication schedule, while much slimmer in ad pages than a year earlier.

“But I don’t think we’ll go back to where our main coverage will be tech stocks and covering the markets,” he said of UpsideToday. “We’ll focus more on technology trends … it will be more inside perspectives, and not so much focused on the stock market.”

Among business trades that exploded in popularity in connection with the late 1990’s dot-com boom, Upside was among the most venerable, having been founded in 1989 by Rich Karlgaard (now publisher of Forbes magazine) and Tony Perkins (currently Red Herring chairman). At the height of the Internet stock craze nine years after the magazine’s founding, Upside Media launched UpsideToday to provide around-the-clock market reporting and tech news. (Spearheading the site launch was Bunnell’s son, Aaron, who died last July, possibly due to an accidental drug overdose, according to the site.)

Now, the questions looming over UpsideToday’s fate continue the wave of consolidation taking place among the same magazines that covered the boom.

Earlier this month, Red Herring said it would cut its staff by about 17 percent and return to monthly publication, after eleven months of publishing twice a month. Last fall, the magazine upped its printing schedule to accommodate exploding dot-com and high tech advertiser demand.

In July, AOL Time Warner agreed to purchase Future Network’s ailing new economy publication Business 2.0. AOL ultimately relaunched the publication under its Fortune Group after merging it with the staff and subscribers of its own eCompany Now.

Last month, Standard Media International ceased publishing its business trade, The Industry Standard, and reduced the amount of editorial coverage on its Web site. Following an asset auction on Monday, AOL Time Warner offered to purchase The Standard‘s subscription lists and debts, for about $500,000 million total. Standard Media’s parent company, International Data Group, also bid about $900,000 for the magazine’s Web site, technology, trademarks, newsletters and conferences.

“It’s been just a bad situation, in that the advertising and sponsorship revenue has been very hard to come by — for all content-based Web sites,” Bunnell said. “We were just unable to keep supporting it. For quite a while, we used profits from the magazine to build the Internet magazine. But we can’t continue to keep doing it that way.”

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