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Writer’s Digest Parent Company F+W Media Files for Bankruptcy

I was hoping to present at the Writer’s Digest Conference in NYC this August, but now it looks like the conference could be canceled.

Forbes reports that F+W Media filed for bankruptcy last week.

F+W Media, facing near-term liquidity issues with only about $2.5 million in cash available and $105.2 million in outstanding debt, yesterday filed for protection under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code, citing in various documents a perfect storm of secular industry decline, poor investments, and even mismanagement.

The New York-based company, one of the country’s largest publishers of specialty and enthusiast media, said it plans to sell its businesses while continuing to operate, in order to "maximize the value of their estates for the benefit of all their stakeholders."

F+W Media also launched and ran the Digital Book World Conference for 8 years between 2010 and 2017. The conference was shut down following a drastic decline in attendance in 2017, and was later sold off.

Other assets were also sold during that period, including a knife show, a quilting e-commerce business, and others, but neither the sell off nor a reorganization could stem the bleeding. F+W was unfortunately still mostly a publisher of special interest magazines, and like many it saw both its ad revenue and subscriber count shrink over the past decade. Subscribers left because they could find similar content elsewhere (Youtube, forums, niche interest sites) and of course advertisers flocked to Google and Facebook.

F+W now owes money to just about everyone. The filings show that it owes somewhere between $100 million to $500 million to an estimated 1,000 to 5,000 creditors.

In comparison, its assets were estimated at $50 million to $100 million.

Basically at this point the company is dead, and the only thing left is to sell parts of the corpse in the hopes that the parts can live on.

image by mikecogh via Flickr

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Mike Cane March 12, 2019 um 5:08 am

A sad end for Writer’s Digest, the best mag out there for writers.

David Gaughran March 12, 2019 um 7:52 am

I’m not remotely sad about F+W Media going down, or Writers Digest. I’m sorry for the workers, but F+W Media ran a vanity press in partnership with Author Solutions for years. Writers Digest pushed shady stuff to its audience all the time, took ads for exploitative services, did media/ad partnerships with lots of other vanity presses.

Not sorry to see them go.

Anna Castle March 12, 2019 um 9:33 am

Before the advent of the world wide web, Writers Digest Magazine was probably the most accessible resource for a wannabe writer looking for a clue. I lost interest in them when blogs and online groups emerged as better sources. I guess they turned in the wrong direction, failing to see the indie revolution as anything other than a whole bunch of customers for vanity presses, who were so much easier to exploit!

Mike Cane March 13, 2019 um 6:47 am

How long were you a reader? Maybe what you describe is the latter WD, but the one I read in the 1970s wasn’t scammy at all. (Yes, there were some vanity press ads, but they never advised people to use them.)

David Gaughran March 13, 2019 um 7:07 am

Pretty sure that change started happening when F+W Media took over Writer’s Digest, which would have been in the mid 2000s IIRC. I do remember there being a little bit of a fuss when they hooked up with Author Solutions in 2009 or so and Jane Friedman leaving Writer’s Digest just before that happened, and writing afterwards that this kind of development was why she left. I might have some of the dates slightly off, but I think that was the general trajectory. And then the amount of shlock pushed on writers via the website, and by its mailing list, gathered pace from that point.

Which is why I’m not remotely sad about F+W Media going bust. Writer’s Digest as a brand still has, presumably, some value and will most likely be picked off in the ensuing fire sale and probably survive in some form.

F+W Media won’t. And I’m not sorry to see the back of them.

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