Hello, everyone. This is Rick Fienberg, editor in chief of Sky &
Telescope magazine. There's a lot of speculation on this newsgroup
about goings-on at Sky Publishing, so I thought I'd better jump in and
set the record straight. My colleague J. Kelly Beatty and I just posted
the following announcement on our website, SkyTonight.com:
"Sky Publishing has decided to stop producing Night Sky, its bimonthly
magazine for beginning amateur astronomers. The next issue, appearing
in February and dated March/April 2007, will be the last. We are no
longer accepting new orders for Night Sky. More information about the
disposition of existing subscriptions will be available shortly.
"We launched Night Sky in May/June 2004 to serve entry-level stargazers
who want to enjoy and explore the heavens but who find Sky & Telescope
too advanced for their needs. Apparently, there aren't as many of these
folks as we thought -- at least, not enough of them prepared to buy a
magazine like Night Sky.
"Sky Publishing was acquired by New Track Media in February 2006. NTM
chief executive officer Stephen J. Kent explains, 'We decided to wind
down Night Sky because it never gained traction in the marketplace.
Despite three years of aggressive subscription and newsstand marketing,
the magazine showed no sign of becoming profitable. I'm as disappointed
as anybody, because it's a terrific product.' Kent adds, 'We'll enhance
and improve the editorial mix in Sky & Telescope and on our website to
make sure we continue to serve amateur astronomers of all levels.'
"Launching a new magazine is always a gamble. According to Samir A.
Husni, chair of the journalism department at the University of
Mississippi and a leading analyst of the magazine industry, 60% of new
magazines fail in their first year, 80% fail by their fourth year, and
90% are gone within 10 years. Sky & Telescope, founded in November
1941, is now in its 66th year of continuous publication."
Ordinarily, we'd leave it at that. But I'd also like to make a few
additional comments to address the rumors and innuendo circulating here
and in other online forums.
Yes, we laid off five people last week. That's what happens when you
close down an unprofitable part of your business. It was very painful,
but sadly necessary. Four of the layoffs were associated with the
closure of Night Sky, and one with cutbacks in our book-publishing
business, which has also been struggling lately. The affected employees
are sharing the news with friends and associates as they see fit; I
don't think it would be appropriate for me to list their names here.
No, President/publisher Susan B. Lit was not dismissed; she decided to
leave on her own. Over the past six years she led the conversion of Sky
Publishing from a mom-and-pop operation to an enterprise worthy of
becoming the foundation of New Track Media, but with that accomplished,
she was no longer in charge. Not surprisingly for someone who had risen
to the level of CEO, she decided to look elsewhere for new
opportunities to apply her considerable knowledge and skills.
Yes, Stephen James O'Meara will now be writing regularly for Astronomy
rather than Sky & Telescope. I'd tell you why he made this change if I
knew, but I don't. One day he told us he didn't want to write his
column for us anymore, and the next day we heard that he will be
writing for the competition. I don't know what prompted this, and Steve
won't tell me. All speculation voiced online to date is just that:
As far as Sky & Telescope is concerned, the only "writing on the wall"
says that New Track Media is firmly committed to maintaining its
flagship publication's leadership in the astronomy-magazine
marketplace. Yes, we'll be doing some things differently, but all in
the interest of operating more efficiently (to keep costs down and
avoid having to raise the price you pay) and providing a better
experience for our readers/customers.
I'm not going to dignify with a response those parts of O. Dam Itall's
message that are nothing more than baseless speculation and outright
falsehoods. I will say only this: It doesn't take much courage to make
an anonymous post.
Thanks for this opportunity to clarify a few things. Feel free to post
your comments here (I'll be back to read them over the next few days),
and/or you can send e-mail to me directly at
-- Rick Fienberg, Editor in Chief, Sky & Telescope
On Dec 9, 8:11 pm, O. Dam Itall <no.em...@xxxxxxxxxxxxx> wrote:
> Sky & Telescope's younger sibling, Night Sky, will cease publication
> this spring. While not the magazine S&T is - nor was it ever meant to
> be - it made astronomy accessible to a lot of people who might
> otherwise never have a clear, well written introduction to the pursuit
> so many of us love.
> On Friday, December 8, along with the ending of Night Sky, five more
> people at New Tracke Media got sacked. According to my source, more
> than 50% of the editors and employees that worked for Sky Publishing
> before the sale to New Track Media have been laid off. Prior to
> Friday's massacre, the most recent dismissal was publisher Susan Lit.
> She is universally blamed by those in the know as causing the sale to
> be necessary because of her complete lack of leadership. It only makes
> sense that the new owners would toss such a poor businessperson
> overboard, even though she and a few others at Sky engineered the sale
> and rumour is may have been well paid for it.
> It is probably only a matter of time before S&T becomes a shadow of
> its former greatness. The new owners are determined, it seems, to
> wring out every last dollar from the company, even at the expense of
> its employees. How caring could they be - sacking five people just a
> few weeks before Christmas? Couldn't it wait until January?
> When my subscription is up, I may not renew. After so many years of
> reading and buying S&T and the books they published, I feel betrayed
> somehow. Maybe if they cut the price in half I'll consider it. But
> with the recent departure of Stephen O'Meara to Astronomy and the many
> firings, I think the writing is on the wall.
> O. Dam Itall
> If at first you don't suceed, destroy all evidence that you tried.