Expedia magazine folding; Brill may be next

Ziff Davis Media will close Expedia Travels, blaming travel woes, and sources say Brill Media's Inside.com and Brill's Content could follow suit.

Jim Hu Staff Writer, CNET News.com
Jim Hu
covers home broadband services and the Net's portal giants.
Jim Hu
3 min read
The anemic advertising market has found more victims in the publishing world.

Ziff Davis Media said it will shut down its Expedia Travels magazine, blaming the cutback in travel and flights because of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The magazine derived its name from travel Web site Expedia, a Microsoft spinoff that is being acquired by USA Networks. The magazine's November issue will be its last.

Meanwhile, Brill Media Holdings may be on the verge of shutting down its media-industry news site, Inside.com, and its journalism watchdog magazine, Brill's Content, according to sources and published reports. Publisher Steven Brill has tried to turn Inside.com into a subscription site by adding content from a partnership with trade-magazine publisher Primedia. To date, it is unclear how well the subscription model has worked for the company.

Ad dollars continue to dwindle as economic uncertainty and the terrorist attacks have caused companies to reassess their ad budgets. The ripple effect has touched many big media companies.

AOL Time Warner, Walt Disney and Viacom warned Wall Street that their earnings for the year would fall short of expectations. Online media companies such as Yahoo also reduced estimates and offered little clarity on when business is expected to pick up again.

The cutbacks highlight ongoing struggles at Ziff Davis and Brill Media. Ziff Davis has been hit hard by the ad slump and has been selling or shuttering some of its less profitable magazines. Earlier this week, Ziff Davis sold off its 50 percent stake in Macworld to rival tech publisher IDG.

The company has also undergone a management shuffle after the board of directors ousted James Dunning, Ziff Davis' former chief executive.

"This difficult decision (to close Expedia Travels) is the result of a confluence of marketplace factors including the tough economy and the impact of the Sept. 11 disasters on the travel market," CEO Bob Callahan said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Brill Media is struggling to make Inside.com and Brill's Content pay off. Shortly after acquiring Inside.com, the company scrapped plans to launch Brill's Inside, which was touted as one of the main goals of the deal.

In a terse e-mail to employees Friday morning, Steven Brill tried to calm the growing speculation that the company had run out of money to continue operations.

"I have every intention of telling everyone exactly what is going on as soon as we have a resolution," read the e-mail seen by CNET News.com. "I expect that that will be some time early next week."

But sources close to the company say something is brewing.

Yesterday, sources spotted David Boies, who represented the Justice Department's antitrust lawsuit against Microsoft and is advising Brill Media, at the company's headquarters. Tom Rogers, CEO of Primedia was also spotted at the offices, sources said. Primedia in January took a 49 percent stake in Brill Media.

However, in times like this, it may be hard for Brill Media to pull off one last trick to stay alive.

Steven Brill "doesn't have leverage in the negotiations because he hasn't been able to prove that Brill's Content and Inside.com are economically viable on their own," a source close to the company said.

A representative for Brill Media declined to comment.