Monday, December 20, 2010

A Year-End Visit to the Corporate Graveyard

A listing of companies that went bankrupt and brands that disappeared in 2010 includes a number of retailers -- Blockbuster and A&P most notable, but also Urban Brands and Jennifer Convertibles. A lot of car brands on the list, as carmakers downsized -- Mercury, Pontiac, Hummer ...

I was also struck by not just the number, but the variety of media listed. There was Affiliated Media, which publishes a bunch of major newspapers (San Jose, Denver, etc), but also Penton Media, a trade press group (Nation's Restaurant News and Farm Press among them), and trashy tabloid publisher American Media (National Enquirer, Star). And then there was mainstream magazine Newsweek, which didn't exactly go bankrupt, but when you're sold for $1, it's pretty much the same thing.

Most of course are just companies that over-expanded or got over-leveraged in buyouts when things were good. That's usually the story in a recession. But the broadness of the media category of failures is a reminder that there's a systemic element to this. We all are conscious of the effect of the internet on local newspapers and broadcast (though there were no big broadcasters on the list), but trade press is equally damaged by the changing dynamics of news delivery. And as for gossip -- who needs to read it in the checkout aisle anymore?

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