entertainment 3 days ago

City Arts is officially done: Magazine ceases publication, lets go of staff

The Seattle Times — Brendan Kiley The Seattle Times

Nov. 08--After roughly a decade of covering arts and culture in and around Seattle, CityArts is done.

The monthly magazine made the announcement in a post on its site and an email to readers that began: "It is with a very heavy heart that we write to you to let you know that, despite our very best efforts, as of today we are ceasing publication and letting go of our staff."

Publisher Andy Fife, who led the charge for a crowdfunding campaign launched in April, confirmed the news.

City Arts began the campaign after spinning off from its parent company, Encore Media, best known to the general public for its printed performing-arts programs distributed at, say, the theater, ballet or symphony.

That Indiegogo crowd-sourced campaign only publicly raised about 38 percent of its goal: $56,944 out of a hoped-for $150,000.

Fife originally came to Encore as a strategy consultant in 2016, where he concluded that City Arts was a "loss leader" for the company. It put Encore's name in more hands, he said, but cost the company between $100,000 and $200,000 a year.

"It wasn't horribly negative in terms of expenses," he said back in April, when City Arts struck out on its own. "But it wasn't like a drop in the swimming pool. It was more like a drop in the bucket."

In August of 2016, Encore announced Fife would become the magazine's publisher. This April, City Arts announced it would become its own entity -- a stand-alone company co-founded by Fife, Editor Leah Baltus and Encore President Paul Heppner.

Now it's done.

The failure of the Indiegogo campaign was only part of the problem. "We had a much larger investor fundraising goal," Fife said. He, Baltus and Heppner hoped to raise $1 million to $1.2 million over the course of a year. "This first round, our goal was $300,000-$350,000," Fife said. They only got halfway there. Their deadline was this Tuesday, Nov. 6. Fife said they gave themselves a few more days for "emergency pleas, but did not get any support from that."

The magazine, Fife said, will not end with any significant debt. City Arts is still waiting for some advertising revenue to come in and still owes some money to staffers and freelancers.

"We expect to cover that," he said. "Nobody will have to refinance their house."

City Arts, in some form, may still resurface, but Fife couldn't say when or how.

For him, the most significant casualty is the hole City Arts will leave in Seattle's arts and culture coverage. "The loss of this particular team and what they brought as a storytelling methodology and philosophy to this city is not a minor loss," he said. "It's the biggest loss. The mission we started this company with is still something this city really, really needs."

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