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MIT tech journal getting new publisher, overhaul

R. Bruce Journey is stepping down as publisher of Technology Review amid a strategic overhaul that will cut back publication of the magazine's print edition from 11 times a year to six while enhancing its Internet presence.

Journey will be replaced by Jason Pontin, who will also continue in his current role as editor-in-chief.

Technology Review was founded in 1899 as the alumni magazine of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In 1996, when school officials rebelled at the cost of operating the magazine, Journey was brought in from Fortune magazine, where he had served as New England advertising director. Journey set out to transform Technology Review into a mass-market publication that could compete with magazines such as Wired and Scientific American, and thus pay its own way.

During Journey's tenure, Technology Review's circulation rose from 90,000 to 315,000. But the latest circulation audit found that paid subscriptions have fallen to 291,000. Meanwhile, the magazine's Internet site has seen strong growth. Between August 2004 and July 2005, the site attracted 3.4 million unique visitors, and advertising impressions grew by 23 percent in the first six months of 2005, compared with the previous year.

Ann J. Wolpert, who chairs the magazine's board of directors, said that Journey was leaving the publication to pursue other interests. ''We've had an incredibly successful strategy for the past 10 years," Wolpert said of Journey's tenure. ''Technology Review did everything we hoped it would do."

But Wolpert said that Journey's departure coincides with a shift of the magazine's audience from the printed edition to the online version. ''With this change of leadership," Wolpert said, ''it seemed to us we also had a fine opportunity to rethink the distribution model."

Under the new strategy unveiled by Wolpert, the Internet will become a much more important venue for Technology Review. ''A redesigned technologyreview.com will be launched in November that will feature news analysis, daily commentary, audio and video feeds, blogs, podcasts, and 'webinars' about the impact of emerging technologies," Wolpert said. The print edition will focus on longer articles, and will be published every other month.

Samir Husni, chairman of the journalism department at the University of Mississippi and an analyst of magazine publishing, wasn't impressed by the strategy. ''If you cannot sustain being in print, you can't have a viable Internet site," Husni said. He added that specialized technology magazines in general are on shaky ground these days, since most general-interest newspapers and magazines provide similar coverage. ''Any time a specialty becomes part of the mainstream," Husni said, ''those magazines start losing their usefulness."

Although Pontin declined to comment for this story, Technology Review's strategy echoes ideas published by Pontin in July on his personal weblog. ''While there may still be demand for print publications from readers . . . publishers will have to find a much larger proportion of their revenues from online advertising and subscriptions," he wrote. ''All this will mean more online publishing, and fewer print publications."

Hiawatha Bray can be reached at bray@globe.com.

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