Twenty years ago, I was CEO of Faulkner & Gray (F&G), a publishing company I co-founded. Before it was acquired by Thomson Reuters in 1992, F&G was a small magazine publisher run by journalists like myself. With Thomson’s backing, it became a business magazine launching pad, developing 15 new titles in the seven years ending in 1999, when we introduced Internet Retailer.
Internet Retailer magazine debuted in March 1999. The first cover story profiled Kent Anderson, who had recently been named the first president of Macys.com.
At the time, Amazon.com Inc. was just four years old and Wall Street was pouring billions into dot-com startups that spent much of that cash on advertising to establish their brands. Internet Retailer, the first magazine to target online retailing, was an instant rock star, turning a profit in six months. One year later, however, Thomson decided to sell F&G. But before it did so, it first agreed to sell Internet Retailer to Vertical Web Media, a company I formed with four other F&G managers, including executive vice president Kurt Peters, my longtime partner who conceived of Internet Retailer.
The ink was barely dry on that agreement when investors realized the dot-coms they bankrolled were mostly hype. When they shut off the spigot, our advertising dried up. Three ecommerce magazines that had launched after Internet Retailer ceased publication. Highly publicized dot-coms, like Pets.com and Webvan, bit the dust months after raising millions in initial public offerings. Top retail executives were convinced ecommerce was stillborn. Internet became a dirty word.
Faced with mounting losses, my partners and I slashed our salaries and drained our savings to stay afloat. We were not delusional. Internet Retailer covered ecommerce more closely than anyone, and despite the industry’s bad press, we saw online sales growing…
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