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Starving to Death on $200 Million: The Short, Absurd Life of the Industry Standardby James Ledbetter
Synopses & Reviews
The Industry Standard sought to chronicle the world of Internet business, but instead became one of its spectacular failures — and its collapse turned out to be a funnier story than you'd expect.
It was not that long ago that The Industry Standard was an international publishing phenomenon. Founded in 1998 with the grandiose goal of being "the BusinessWeek of the Internet economy," it soared to unprecedented heights during the dot-com boom, with far-flung bureaus, a thriving conference business, and a seemingly endless supply of cash. In 2000 alone, The Standard published more than 7,000 ad pages, generating revenues of over $200 million — more than any other magazine in the history of America. Little did anyone imagine that the following August the entire organization would file for bankruptcy.
Starving to Death on $200 Million a Year is James Ledbetter's mock-heroic chronicle of the magazine that lived large and died young: the wild dreams, the sudden success, the wanton excesses, the fatal hemorrhage. From his vantage point as one of The Standard's top editors, he saw up close how it succumbed to the same gold-rush fever as the Internet businesses it was supposed to be chronicling, realizing too late that he had been infected as well.
As America continues to reckon with its post-nineties hangover, Ledbetter offers a sardonic look at a thriving business that died on the verge of taking on the world.
"[A] terrific inside account of the Internet boom....This mix of corporate history and memoir captures the story's economic and human sides, although at times it's hard for readers to keep track of the characters and events. Despite having a limited initial audience — how many people really want to read about a magazine that croaked not long after its second birthday? — it serves as a fantastic testament to a bygone era." Publishers Weekly
"Ledbetter's chronicle of the ride read like a business thriller from start to finish." James J. Cramer, The Street.com
"Ledbetter's account of the backroom negotiations that attended the Standard's demise drags in places, but he is adept at capturing both the late-nineties atmosphere of irrational exuberance and the bitter, hung-over feeling that followed." The New Yorker
"A little long and occasionally repetitive, but a solid account nonetheless: a fine study of both the business of business journalism and the corrosive power of corporate politics." Kirkus Reviews
"This is a story of a monumental media business failure, entertaining and instructive in equal parts." Netsurfer Digest
Book News Annotation:
The magazine The Industry Standard, founded with the goal of being the "Business Week of the Internet economy," suffered the same fate as many of the companies it covered, declaring bankruptcy a few years after its founding. Ledbetter, one of the magazine's editors, chronicles the rise and fall of the publishing enterprise. He details his beliefs about why the magazine failed and attempts to assign blame for its problems. Annotation (c)2003 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
This is Ledbetter's mock-heroic chronicle of the magazine that lived large and died young. From his vantage point as one of The Standard's top editors, he saw up close how it succumbed to the same gold-rush fever as the Internet businesses it was supposed to be chronicling, realizing too late that he had been infected as well.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -280) and index.
About the Author
James Ledbetter was the European bureau chief of The Industry Standard, having previously run the magazine's New York bureau. A former media columnist for The Village Voice, he has also written for, among others, The New York Times, The Nation, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and GQ. He lives in London.
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