The Housing Chronicles Blog: California Builder magazine to cease publishing offline version

Friday, May 8, 2009

California Builder magazine to cease publishing offline version

California Builder magazine, the CBIA-associated title which helped to launch my sideline writing career when I was with Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, has announced that the current edition will be the last offline version. Due to a lackluster ad sales environment and budget cuts, the magazine will now be only online.

Between January of 2006 and the middle of 2007, I wrote 9 or 10 feature-length articles for the magazine including market trends for SoCal/CentralCal/NorCal, high-rise condos, mixed-use developments, master-planned communities, transit-oriented developments and adjusting to the new market realities. I learned a lot from that experience, and it gave me the confidence (and the proof) to pursue more writing assignments with the Los Angeles Times and, more recently, Inman News.

John Frith, the VP of Public Affairs for CBIA and PCBC, has written a final farewell that I think makes an interesting read of its evolution. Some excerpts:

The downturn in both the homebuilding and publishing industries has caught up with us, and with ad revenue down sharply, it’s not possible for CBIA to subsidize the magazine’s production costs. So I thought I’d steal the headline from our late Chairman Ray Becker’s last column in 2008, because this issue marks the end of one era and the beginning of a new one.

The brand is not going to go away completely. The dead-tree edition is suspending publication but may return when times improve. But in the meantime, Editor Greg Robertson and I are working to reinvent California Builder as an online publication for our members. We’re still working out details, but we hope to continue publishing at least one trend story on our bimonthly publication schedule, and to create a blog and enhanced Web site to keep you all informed of breaking news in the industry....

During the first couple of years, cover stories ranged from economic forecasts to exclusive reports on landmark legislation such as SB 800, with promotions for PCBC and lavish coverage of the Gold Nugget Awards regularly occurring as well. We added some new standing features, including chief lobbyist Tim Coyle’s hard-hitting “Checks and Balances” column, which has anchored the back page since July/August 2002. How hard-hitting was it? Shortly after Tim started writing it, he asked us to stop sending the magazine outside the CBIA family so he could continue calling it the way he saw it.

We took a big step at the beginning of 2004 when we unveiled a new design that Sandy and I had worked on for several months to make CB more professional. Among the new features were the hard-news “Developments” section in the front of the book and an expanded and rebranded “In the Know” section at the end of each issue to keep members apprised of happenings in the industry. We also introduced design consistency throughout the publication. While the design has been tweaked and improved on bit by bit since then, that look is still the framework for what you see in this issue.

A second major development in 2004 was that we hired a full-time editor. The magazine was averaging more than 48 pages per issue by the end of 2003, and it was hard finding time to give the magazine the attention it needed while carrying out my PR responsibilities. We hired Janelle Leader Lamb, a solid publications editor who helped us take CB to a higher level. Under her leadership we were finalists for the first time in the prestigious Western Publication Association’s Maggie Awards competition for magazines west of the Mississippi. And we expanded our coverage to such subjects as builders participating in Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, ways builders could fight back against trial lawyers and new trends in urban infill.

We took another leap forward at the end of 2005 when a new editor, Sarah Langford, came on board. Sarah had been the editor of a local weekly newspaper and she brought a lot of new ideas and energy. During 2006, we launched several popular standing features, including regular market trends articles from Hanley Wood Market Intelligence, a Perspectives column featuring a wide range of industry experts who often looked at issues from a completely new viewpoint, and a monthly Q&A with an industry legend or up-and-coming trendsetter...

It’s been a lot of fun being involved with the growth and successes of California Builder, and there’s a long list of folks to thank — too many to list here. For a full list, check the CB Web site, but I do want to recognize editors Janelle Leader Lamb, Sarah Langford, Dani Kando-Kaiser and Greg Robertson, and art directors Sandy Simpson and Deb Rasmussen for their talent and hard work over the years.

Special thanks go to Bob Rivinius, whose column ran in every issue and who was a strong supporter of the publication every step of the way, and to CBIA’s governmental and political affairs staff — especially Tim Coyle and Bob Raymer, whose work ran in both the first and last issues of CB and many in between.

Whatever the future holds, it’s been a privilege to help bring this member benefit to you over the years, and we look forward to offering you news you can use online. But it’s still hard for this former newspaper reporter to say adios if not necessarily goodbye to what we always tried to make the best association magazine in the land.


1 comment:

John said...

Thanks for the shout out, and for all your help.