Obit for a City Magazine

July 01, 1994

These are tough times for specialized city magazines, a genre that thrived in the 1960s and 1970s. As the recession hit the country, local economies suffered, drying up advertising.

The glossy monthlies soon began dropping like flies. The first to disappear in this region was Regardie's, a Washington area magazine that had been fat and profitable in good times. The next to go was Warfield's, an offshoot of Baltimore's Daily Record, which continues in a different format.

Several weeks ago came news that Annapolis, a glossy monthly which began as Annapolitan magazine 24 years ago, was suspending publication after struggling to survive a deep decline in subscriptions and advertising. Its bubble burst when the boating industry collapsed during the recession and it had to fight for scant advertising with its stronger rival, Chesapeake Bay.

We are saddened when local editorial voices fall silent because fewer publications mean fewer points of view. The more publications in a given town, the more that town is energized. nTC Community events and organizations get more coverage, residents and visitors are better informed.

The disappearance of a local magazine is particularly regrettable because radio stations have changed so much in recent years. Many offer little or no news or public affairs coverage. As far as television goes, Annapolis has no station of its own and gets relatively little attention from stations in Baltimore and Washington.

Annapolis itself was also at fault. From the beginning, the city magazine formula could be gimmicky and repetitive. A story concept that first appeared in, say, Washingtonian would be recycled throughout the industry and would appear in various magazines across the country. "Best of this." "Worst of that." "Cheap eats." Readers aren't stupid. They know when they're being shortchanged. A lack of originality and substance is at the root of many city magazines' troubles.

This industry niche started at a time when such advertising alternatives as cable television were not widely available. The most successful survive today because they have strong and talented editors or they keep on reinventing themselves. Those who stand still in today's publishing world will be bypassed.

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