Conscious Choice Publications: the Latest Victims of Changing Media Landscape
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By 2004 Dragonfly had acquired Whole Life Times, Common Ground, and Evergreen Monthly, and launched as one of the first of its kind, a big, multi-market progressive media company built on progressive values. The socially just, eco-friendly, locally sourced content was produced in socially just, eco-friendly local offices and printed by socially just, eco-friendly local printers. Williams brought in a few publishing veterans to help manage the company. The eight editors had autonomy in their markets and collaborated on shared content. Each magazine had its own look.
Despite this noble vision, the expansion was more than they could support in the long run and Dragonfly hemorrhaged money. Williams blew through an estimated $5 million in 3 years, mostly on a payroll that was dominated by the lavish salaries of his upper management and those of the individual publishers of each magazine. On November 15th, 2005 the company was to shut its doors forever.
And then, seemingly out of nowhere, appeared a man named Christopher Miglino, to ostensibly save the day.
In his mid-thirties at the time, short and pug-nosed, with long hair and a SoCal surfer patois, Miglino might have, at first glance, appeared a likely savior for a bunch of greenies and new agers. He's a yoga fanatic with a penchant for Osho and Eckhart Tolle, follows the every whim of at least two Indian gurus, and employs the use of "dude" and "aggro" in disproportionate quantities. And he owned a piece of the Golden Bridge Yoga Studio in Hollywood to boot.
But as a media CEO, he was definitely cast against type. Aside from an unsuccessful stab as a film producer, he had no media or publishing experience, and certainly didn't have the slightest clue what journalism was. He didn't read, and was largely unaware that a world existed east of the San Bernardino Mountains.
Miglino had heard that Dragonfly was folding and he wanted to buy Whole Life Times and turn it into a yoga-and eastern-spirituality magazine to compete with Yogi Times, a fluffy high-gloss West Coast monthly, the kind with meditating waif models on the cover that primarily served as a vehicle to hock high-end spas and yoga products.
Dragonfly wouldn't sell just the one magazine, so Miglino ended up having to take on the entire company (he essentially assumed Dragonfly's debt, and was handed the keys to the operation). His initial plan, at least in spirit, bore some similarity to Ron Williams'. He wanted to eventually turn all four magazines into one magazine, Conscious Choice, albeit with a radically different look and content. The design would be overhauled to be full color, slick, "sexy," and commercial. The content would focus mainly on yoga, eastern spirituality, and all the lifestyle products connected to each, complete with shameless editorial plugs of advertisers products and content heavy "Special Advertising Sections."
Of course, this was not what he told the former Dragonfly employees. They were promised business as usual, and no interference in Editorial.
Miglino then set about the task of retooling the company. He pulled together some private investor-friends, got some venture capital from LA-based IBS Capital Holdings, hired an overpriced graphic designer with shocking prima donna tendencies, and a lawyer straight out of the velvet mafia, and set up shop in an office tower on Sunset Boulevard as Conscious Enlightenment, Inc. (CE).
Despite the patois, the vibe was pure corporate, with huge overhead right out of the gate and rules and regs galore. Emanating from the LA command center, the budding Conscious Enlightenment "empire" consisted of the four former Dragonfly magazines, each with their own local office, a social-networking site for yogis called (fittingly) Yogamates.com, a graphic design studio, Organic Media Design, an in-house film production studio that released DVD's about Miglino's favorite gurus and yoga teachers, and his crowning glory, the "Enlightenment Card," a Visa card emblazoned with Ohm symbols that promised that the more you spent, the more spiritual peace (and spiritual reward points) you would attain. Nope, that's not a typo.
As Miglino cleaned house and centralized operations in LA, very soon things began to change. Out went the Dragonfly management team and each of the individual publishers. So too a number of production staff and all but one of the associate editors. In their place, everyone had doubled and tripled workloads. Good-bye socially just workplace. Miglino also centralized the printing in order to cut a few bucks. Away went the environmentally safe paper and ink and local production, and in its place was a carbon footprint that quadrupled, as the magazines had to be trucked over 2000 miles to reach the West Coast.