Saturday, March 13, 2004

Artspike in Trouble

Arie Vandenberg at ArtSpike Magazine has issued an email talking about the magazine and issuing a response to a CityBeat article from Steve Ramos where some less than flattering comments were made regarding Arie. Ramos article publicized the news that ArtSpike has ceased publication. Vandenberg states on his site as well as in the email that he hopes Artspike will be back:
Dear ArtSpike readers & supporters,

As you may or may not know, ArtSpike Magazine is now looking for investment partners and an equity business partner who is strong in sales and marketing in order to continue publication of the magazine. If you're in the position to invest or partner with me to help continue the progress we've made, you can move on to the bullet points I've outlined about our background and business potential. I look forward to hearing from you.

And this week Steve Ramos of CityBeat, after hearing that we might be in trouble, decided to write a short article on us. But after reading it, one which he prepared by interviewing me two separate times for about 30 minutes a piece, as well as 1 more follow up call, I have to wonder what he was smoking besides American Spirit cigarettes when he wrote it. I do understand why he wrote it. Controversy moves papers, and CB knows that if people are talking about it then they are exactly where they want to be - in the public mind. But at what price to its subjects?

To friends who know me, Steve's assertions that I'm a "playboy publisher" don't even pass the laugh test. Comments like, "knows every young female waitress in town... but that doesn't stop him from being a player... Vandenberg's life as the playboy publisher... past glories of wine, women and a pocket of notoriety" are bizarre and cheap. It's like telling a guy who rents an efficiency apartment in Clifton that, "It must be nice living in Indian Hill." Fact is, I'm more likely to be at home programming till 3am than out partying at a local club.

This is certainly not the first time CB has written what amounts to an editorial slap-in-the-face about the local scene, where they inevitably pump their subject(s) for advertising dollars with one hand and sucker punch them with the other. This has been an unfortunate trend of CB but maybe that's what happens when you're the "only" big alt paper for too many years.

It's a shame that out of everything we discussed about the business, so many of the 685 words were wasted. So in the interest of our readers, supporters and detractors, I'm going outline some of the facts that Steve must have deemed unfit for print:

  • First issue of ArtSpike came out in June of 2002. Until March of 2003, we haven't missed 1 issue since the paper started. 

  • I published the first issue of ArtSpike within 6 weeks of its inception as an arts media entity. 

  • As a founder will where many "hats" in a business, my main responsibility was as CFO, General Manager, Webmaster and computer tech. 

  • Melissa Huelsman came on board as Editor in Chief in Sept. 2003, and has done a fantastic job assembling a great writing staff and managing stories.

  • ArtSpike will *not* be receiving the Empowerment Zone loan. The amount slated for request was 60k, which was to be used to increase circulation and hire a full time sales associate to build our client base to where it needs to be. These two areas are critical to its success. 

  • I have extremely detailed financial forecasts that point out where we've been and where we could go as a company if it's supported properly. 

  • I've invested 40k+ of my own money to start up the company. Taking the aforementioned loan into account, my *personal* dept burden would have simply been too high to be manageable. 

  • Since we started, we have never had a competent Marketing & Sales manger on board. This is unfortunate but resulted in poor sales and us being in the position we are in today. 

  • Throughout the last year, we have trained several sales teams to sell advertising, but they were not effective because of lack of experience and expertise in the field. 

  • Despite this hurtle, we were starting to pickup advertising at a steady pace throughout 2003 until our part time sales associate left. Ad retention took a downward slope from there and unfortunately never recovered. 

  • We have developed a great following and readership, and it's a disappointment to everyone involved that ArtSpike may have seen its last issue. 

  • Of the many arts based institutions in Cincinnati, there are a few that stand out as supporting ArtSpike with their advertising dollar. The Playhouse in the Park, The Cincinnati Ballet, The Cincinnati Opera. It's sad I can't mention more that that, but there you have it for "major" arts institutions supporting alternative arts media. 

  • We also had a growing roster of commercial ad clients which were pleased with our ads and level of service. To all of our advertising clients: Thank you for supporting alternative arts media! 

  • It's no secret that we did have a relatively low circulation rate. We printed between 8000-9000 papers per run, which in newspaper "circulation" terms works out to be about 25,000. For a small paper, that's still pretty impressive. 

  • If ArtSpike is to survive, we are going to need a board of investors who 1) believe in the paper as a potent forum for arts and culture and 2) its potential as a sound business investment. 

  • Another thing ArtSpike needs is a professional sales manager to do nothing but sell for

  • We have a great foundation to build upon, including the whole staff who worked to produce the paper.

You know that old saying: It's better to try and fail than to not try at all. I had a vision that Cincinnati could have a great arts based newspaper and I went for it! In many ways, I don't believe I failed. I, along with a many people involved in ArtSpike, did our best to build a great magazine literally from scratch. I hope that even if ArtSpike becomes history, that someone will learn from what we did right and what we did wrong, and launch an arts magazine that has long term success.

If you are an investor or arts patron and would like to discuss being either an equity business partner or an investor, please contact me at, 513-751-9729 (office) or 513-***-**** (home). I would love to discuss the possibilities of taking ArtSpike to the next level.
The future of the website is unknown. Since costs are much lower to maintain the site, it is likely it will continue.

CityBeat has written before on Arie and ArtSpike: 2002 and 2000.

XRay Magazine also provides coverage.

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