Conscious Choice Publications: the Latest Victims of Changing Media Landscape
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We signed the documents and collectively let out what we thought was a huge sigh of relief. A month later I went on vacation after wrapping up the September 2007 issues, and was fired while I was away (not by Miglino, by the way, he never did his own firing). Sadly, I had been the lone voice fighting for content that mattered, but with the Gaiam acquisition, daring and edgy content was the last thing a publicly traded company wanted. There were only two editors left--the only two not to challenge Miglino's authority--who remained until the company folded. Two editors for four magazines. But by this time, of course, there was very little local content in any of them. Predictably, the quality of the content took the expected nosedive into fluff, and out came the "Special Advertising Sections" in force.
Yet despite the dumbing-down there was for a brief instant some faith that the venture might succeed. But that was mostly because no one knew what was afoot at Gaiam HQ.
Eighteen months after Gaiam rescued CE they folded the company. As described by the former CE manager who circulated the farewell missive, it was never really about making the company successful in the LOHAS market:
Let's say you are a large company with plenty of cash in the bank, and you want to keep that cash safe, and at the same time appear to your shareholders that you are expanding into new markets. A good way to do that is to buy a smaller company that has a similar, or remotely similar, mission (note: it is good to find a smaller company in distress because you can buy it cheap). You take this smaller company, and you fire a bunch of multi-tasking upper management because, after all, you are loaded with upper management already, even though they have no experience with what the new purchase does. Once you get that part out of the way, you can fire some of the other employees and cut some of the other operational overhead. Wow, it really looks like you know what you are doing, right? Expenses have dropped like a rock. I wonder why productivity is lack-luster? This has suddenly become a difficult and annoying acquisition. Oh, yeah, that is right, we need a million dollar write off in the first quarter to protect our cash assets... let's do that by giving these pain-in-the-asses the boot and filing Chapter 7 on them! Great idea - now we can all have a bonus. Welcome to America.
CE Media closed its doors on March 31, 2009. Gaiam representatives were on hand to shut down each local office and take possession of all the assets. And that was that.
I am proud of the work I did for CE, and I am honored to say I once helmed a publication as important as Conscious Choice. I know my work was original and took risks, and it stands up on its own. I loved my job, and I know my firing was not performance related. But that's life in corporate America, when you have to work for people like Chris Miglino. I'm just glad I retained a shred of dignity and had the last word.
I received an email from Miglino in December of 2007 offering to buy back my shares of Gaiam stock when the market was at its high and Gaiam stock was hovering around $27.00 a share. I had read Roubini and John Petersen, I knew the economy was going to hit the skids in 2008, so I gladly sold, even if it was also to wash away the bad karma. He even paid me three dollars more than market value, so I got around $30 a share. The money gave me a year to do nothing but write. Today, Gaiam stock is worth around $3, and he's left holding all of it.