Monday, October 29, 2007

Alexander Graham Bell's g-g grandson to revive American Heritage magazine

Last April, we reported that the venerable history magazine American Heritage was being suspended by Forbes Inc., its owners. Now, Edwin S. Grosvenor, the great-great-grandson of Alexander Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone and a founder of the National Geographic Society, has bought 75% of American Heritage and its affiliated Web site ( and book division. According to a story in Folio: magazine, Mr. Grosvenor, 56, paid $500,000 in cash and assumed about $11 million in subscription liabilities. Forbes retained a 25 percent stake in the company.
The crux of his plan is to bring the brand back to “what we believe it stands for,” when contributing writers included John F. Kennedy and Pulitzer-prize winning historian Bruce Catton, while bringing it back into black as well, Grosvenor says. He also plans to ramp up the Web site by leveraging the “passionate” readership of American Heritage to add more blogs and other social tools.
He said he was going to take the magazine back to its literary and historical roots and away from a pop culture detour that it had taken a few years ago in a last ditch attempt to appeal to youth.

“As a publisher, I saw saving
American Heritage the way a preservationist sees preventing Grand Central station from being turned into an office tower,” Grosvenor told the New York Times.

Grosvenor, an inventor and technology investor who will be editor in chief, plans to publish his first issue in December. No stranger to publishing, at one time in the 1970s and '80s he published Portfolio, an art magazine. The Times says he is putting together a group of investors to raise about $2.25 million to invest in the company. John F. Ross, a former senior editor at Smithsonian magazine, to be managing editor.
Grosvenor [told Folio:] he is grateful to the Forbes family for keeping a 25 percent share. “They could have made a lot more money selling all the assets off, but they are betting on this new strategy,” which includes a psychographic, rather than demographic, target audience. “I think it was a mistake to target demographics, he says. “There was this perception that only older people were interested in history, so they tried to widen the editorial scope to include pop culture, like the history of the martini or pizza.”

The main problem, he says, was with dropping renewals. “They might have picked up some incremental subscribers, but they lost a lot of their core.”
American Heritage Media, the company he has created to handle the takeover, will see about 90% of its revenue coming from American Heritage and a sister publication Invention and Technology; the company also has a backlist of about 400 book titles.



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