Mike Blinder has loved newspapers for as long as he can remember.
For the past 20 years, the media consultant has helped news organizations around the world stay afloat.
The work filled him with pride, but the travel wore him out. By his estimate, he’s flown more than 5 million miles.
“I was the quintessential road warrior,” he said. “And it sucked.”
Now he’s trying to save the industry in a different way.
Last month, he and his business partners bought Editor & Publisher, the self-described “bible of the newspaper industry,” which dates back 135 years. He would not reveal how much they paid Duncan McIntosh Co., which publishes Boating World and Sea Magazine.
The monthly magazine — with a paid circulation of about 10,500 — has long catered to newspaper executives and insiders. Blinder wants to expand the audience to include the entire news publishing industry, including television and online-only organizations.
The editorial operation will remain in California, but Blinder will run the business from his home in Lutz, where he lives with his wife, Robin, and their 16-year-old daughter.
Blinder, 63, recently spoke to the Tampa Bay Times. Here are excerpts from the interview, edited for length and clarity.
Why buy a magazine?
I was originally looking at buying Greenland, but apparently it’s not for sale. So I figured, what the hell, I’ll buy a magazine. Seriously, though, the news industry has been good to me. I’ve built a reputation as a money guy in the industry, someone who can help an organization grow its sales. I’m in my 60s, and I figure I’m still good for 10 more years before the wheels fall off the wagon.
Why Editor & Publisher in particular?
I want to do something for the industry I so love. I believe in the news industry in a myriad of ways. Among other things, I have respect for the fact that it’s the last bastion of the separation of church and state. There also remains a high level of editorial integrity in most markets.
Were you nervous starting your own business years ago?
A little. But I was ready for a change. I was at the Portland (Maine) Press Herald in 1999. I told them I was quitting to start my own media consulting business.
They said, “You can’t quit.”
“Um, why not?” I asked.
They told me they were selling the newspaper, that no one knew, but that all the managers had to stay in place. They gave me a $25,000 bonus to stick around for a few more weeks.
I left the day the sale was finished and quickly landed some clients.
How did you end up in the Tampa Bay area?
The short answer: the airport, but it’s a funny story. I’m in Alaska helping a client one winter. I call and tell my wife that she won’t believe that it’s a balmy 70 degrees. She’s back home in Maine, which just got hit with the worst snowstorm in years. She’s fed up. She demands that we move when I get back. I said, we’re going to Tampa.
I picked it because the Tampa airport is the best airport in the world. If I’m going to be flying for a living, I’m flying out of Tampa. I’m halfway home to Lutz before the last guy gets off the plane. That’s pushing it, but you get the point. I would slit my wrists if I was coming home to the airports in Philly, New York City, Atlanta or Chicago.
What has been the reaction to you taking over Editor & Publisher?
I was really scared how people would react. The brand goes back more than 100 years. I don’t want to mess that up. The truth is everybody has been amazingly unbelievable.
You aren’t revealing the purchase price. Can you characterize how much money you plan to spend going forward?
Not really, but it’s a lot. I have the means to do it. Right now, I'm putting some cash into making sure we can advance quickly into some of the places we need to be.
What changes will readers notice in the magazine and on the website?
We will be adding podcasts and launching a brand new website in about a month. I also want to be more than just a print publication, a website and email newsletters. I want to get more voices out there representing our brand. We’ll start next month by adding recorded five-minute industry updates that anyone can get using voice assistants like Siri, Alexa and Google.
I’ve also changed the tagline. It now reads: “Since 1884, THE authoritative voice of #NewsPublishing.”
Newspapers are our heritage. But news publishing as a whole, including newspapers, is our future.
Is the web becoming a bigger piece of the magazine’s financial pie?
We're making more money on the digital side than the print side. If I shut down the print side I’d be saving a whole mess of money. That said, I'm never shutting this magazine down. There's a legacy. It’s too important.
How much control do you intend to have over the editorial content?
I have an amazing editor and managing editor. I will be making suggestions, but I made it very clear to my editorial team that they have complete autonomy. They are allowed to tell me to get bent. They have great respect for our brand, and I expect them to fight me if they don’t like my input. I just want to polish it up and move it forward. Content first, audience second, revenue third. That's news publishing.
Do you plan on making any other purchases?
I have some partners, and we're looking. We’re not done. One of my favorite expressions from Warren Buffett was when people are greedy, be fearful. When people are fearful, be greedy. I think now's a good time to buy.
Where do you see the news industry a few years from now?
I think there's going to be some rough roads ahead, but when all the dust settles, local journalism will still be there. It’s essential to our society.
Bio box: Michael “Mike” Blinder, 63 of Lutz
New owner of Editor & Publisher magazine
Born: Philadelphia, Pa.
Education: Marine biology degree from George Washington University.
Family: Wife, Robin, and a 16-year-old daughter.
Work history: Disc jockey after college before becoming a sales manager for a group of radio stations. Managed television and radio groups. Helped launch a website for the Portland (Maine) Press Herald in 1999. Created the Blinder Group, a media consultancy that focuses on training sales teams and helping news organizations transition to digital platforms. His clients have included Gannett, the Chicago Sun-Times, Morris Communications, GateHouse Media and the New York Times.