Biotech magazine short-circuits

March 01, 1992|By Paul Hemp | Paul Hemp,Boston Globe

BOSTON -- Just days before the scheduled launch of a high-profile new magazine, Cahners Publishing Co. has pulled dTC the plug, citing the dismal advertising climate.

Biotechnology Week was to serve what is supposed to be one of the hottest industries in America. If any publication could make it in these troubled times, Biotechnology Week would seem to be it.

But a combination of worse-than-expected advertiser response and, according to some employees, Cahners' overly timid approach sunk the magazine -- at least for now.

Cahners, a major trade magazine publisher based in Newton, Mass., said the launch would merely be delayed until late fall. But employees expressed skepticism that it would be revived that soon.

And Biotechnology Week publisher Robert Ziegel said he and several co-founders would try to find a buyer for the magazine, as provided for in their contract with Cahners. "We're looking for a publishing company to adopt this magazine," Mr. Ziegel said, "because we feel it should be launched now, not later."

Mr. Ziegel and several partners brought the Biotechnology Week idea to Cahners, which hired about 20 other staff members, including editor-in-chief Richard Krawick, previously editor of a biotechnology newsletter. A prototype issue was produced and distributed in October.

The first issue had been slated for March 9, to coincide with a biotechnology trade show, with weekly publication to begin in April. The controlled-circulation publication was to be distributed about 30,000 readers.

Instead, staff members were notified this week that there would be no first issue. Although many were transferred to other Cahners operations, some biotechnology writers couldn't be placed elsewhere in the organization and were dismissed, employees said.

Biotechnology Week's problems simply may be a sign that the biotechnology industry isn't quite the unmitigated boom business it's often cracked up to be.

"Biotech is so hyped up that people say, 'Hey, we have to get in on this, let's start a publication,' " said Mary Ann Liebert, publisher of Genetic Engineering News, a rival magazine. "But, while they think they're going to put out a glitzy publication for millions, it's not that kind of industry."

Although biotechnology stocks have skyrocketed in the last year, some analysts say that the actual purchasing of new equipment has been slow recently. For another, potential advertisers -- mostly suppliers to the industry -- often do their selling at trade shows or through personal sales calls.

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