Mountain Gazette shuts its Frisco doors
January 8, 2007
Aspen, CO Colorado
FRISCO ” Mountain Gazette fans, hang onto the Christmas edition because changes at the publishing company mean printing will take a two-month hiatus.
The magazine, known for its irreverence and an honest portrayal of the West’s culture, will take a break from day-to-day operations while publishers try to nudge financial operations into the black.
Paul Gibb, one of three new owners that make up GSM Media, which purchased the magazine in September, said shutting down the Frisco office and eliminating two full-time positions was just one needed change.
A new printing contract means different paper and a smaller product size, from physically tall and thin to square. Readers will initially see fewer pages when the magazine returns to shelves in March, from around 48 pages to 36.
Administrative functions will move to Paonia, where Gibb works as a financial consultant. Two additional men who live in Boulder and Orange County, Calif., are in publishing and round out the company’s ownership.
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Plans also call for a new website and a re-look at the inside design. The cover, while smaller, will retain its distinct flavor, Gibb said.
These small publishing changes may appear minor to the product’s devoted readers, who are likely more concerned about the magazine’s future content.
John Fayhee, part-owner until the sale and editor since he relaunched the magazine in 2000, will continue to control the editorial content from his new home in New Mexico.
In his typically sarcastic fashion, Fayhee introduced GSM Media and the three new owners this past fall in issue No. 128. In the long, explanatory piece he tells readers, “This change will be for the way, way better,” then follows that sentence by translating what he calls his own bullsh**: “I’m nervous as hell. I really hope these short-hairs don’t mess this wonderful magazine up.”
“Messing it up,” according to reader letters, would include “best of” lists, exposing “secret” recreation spots and other such dross featured regularly in mainstream glossies. Some of the feedback received was that readers want real stories written for them, not written to generate new advertisers.
Gibb says he has no intention of messing up the stories. His marching orders to Fayhee are, “Keep doing what you’re doing.”
However, the Mountain Gazette operated for the past year at a slight financial loss with each issue, and a few surprises during the two months after GSM Media purchased it plunged the bottom line deeper into the red. Something had to be done or the magazine would go out of business.
Gibb’s main plan is to change the business model.
“The size has been driven more by editorial content and then we sold ads wherever we could to fill up the pages, and we just can’t do that anymore,” he said. “We have to fit the size of the book to the number of ads we can sell. That will sustain the business.”
Fayhee cultivated the Mountain Gazette’s following by transcending the way many people look at mountain country. Instead of a quick recreational fix or, “How can we make some money here?” Fayhee aimed for an honest publication. His understanding of the West and its issues, inflicted with his good-natured and often dead-serious crankiness, quickly generated fans.
For those who know him, the magazine is a true reflection of its editor. Reading it is like sitting at a bar with the man, after he’s had a few beers but not before he’s had too many.
Going forward, the magazine will come together under a virtual office as Fayhee continues his role from Silver City, and advertising representative Chris Hickey remains in Frisco with Eric Caperton, the art director.
Typical for an editor, Fayhee is most concerned about the smaller format and fewer pages. The magazine under his watch has run extraordinarily long pieces ” up to 9,000 words ” that are not edited but for spell check and grammar tweaks.
“The days of the 8,000-word-story in the Gazette are over,” Fayhee said. “Some departments and some things will probably go bye-bye.”
Fayhee readily admits he is not a business man, noting in a recent issue that the Gazette needs the type of in-house organization and numbers-crunching the new owners want to bring to it. But for now, readers and editor alike are taking a wait-and-see attitude.
With the sale of an existing magazine, “there is the perception that things will undoubtedly go to hell in a hand-basket once the papers are signed,” Fayhee wrote in issue No. 128. “New owners are often guilty until proven innocent.”
And that’s were Gibb sits now, knowing he will have to rest uncomfortably there until March 1, when No. 131 hits the stands.