Ambitious venture unable to build subscription base

NEW YORK — Kurt Anderson’s Powerful Media is about to become a tad less powerful.

Less than a year after its launch, the ambitious venture has abandoned hopes of dominating the media news biz and launching a splashy IPO. On Monday, the company will announce plans to be acquired by Gotham-based Primedia and Brill Media Ventures.

Powerful Media’s Inside Magazine, which was introduced several months after the flagship Web site Inside.com, will be folded into Brill’s Content magazine, which will be renamed Brill’s Inside Content.

The online site will most likely become part of Media Central — a recently formed subsid that consolidates Primedia’s newsletters, magazines, online properties and other assets under one roof. In January, Brill Media Holdings took a chunk of Media Central and Steve Brill became chairman-CEO.

Layoffs are anticipated at Powerful Media’s business, production and sales arms. The editorial staff, considered to be the company’s strongest asset, appears safe although it’s unlikely top execs Anderson, co-chairman and editor Michael Hirschorn and CEO Deanna Brown will stay on.

Anderson was formerly editor in chief of New York Magazine, which is owned by Primedia, which was formerly called KIII after controlling shareholder Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts. Brown was the former publisher of Brill’s Content.

While Inside succeeded in creating buzz and establishing a brand in a relatively short period of time, it wasn’t able to build the subscription base it hoped for. As the ad market went south and the stock market imploded in recent months, rumors circulated that Inside was looking for a buyer. It held talks with a number of potential bidders.

Earlier this week, Brill gave a veiled clue that he was interested in Powerful Media during an interview on “The Charlie Rose Show” when he defended Inside.com after Rose called it a “dying property.”

Powerful Media was founded in late 1999, backed by a $30 million cash infusion by a group of investors, including Flatiron Partners, Standard Media Intl. and Morgan Stanley.

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