• 11 in 2011- #3 Powerboat Sold, Closed, Opened, Closed

    by Serious Offshore

    If one were to be told the story of the last year of the life of Powerboat Magazine, not knowing the story, they would surely think they were being put on. It is hard to believe that a magazine with the history of Powerboat would be purchased, pumped for upgrades and pushed to get more subscriptions, then be terminated, then be reopened with bigger and better plans with fewer issues, pushed for more subscriptions, then after investing in content for the 2012 year be closed once again.

    Judging from the disappointment among the magazine’s fans at the first closing announcement an their excitement upon hearing of its resurrection, one can easily assume the second and purported final closing of the magazine will be permanent.

    If you’re reading this its probably a waste of time to explain Powerboat to you. Like many, you began some years or even decades ago drooling on its pages after waiting anxiously for its monthly arrival. For thousands it was their only window into the sport beyond their own area.
    Some may not realize where Powerboat began or know much about the man that created and published it for decades. Founder and publisher Bob Nordskog was an engineering genius, industrialist and entrepreneur. Nordskog Industries was at one point the largest manufacturer of aircraft galleys in the world. While aviation was his business, powerboating was his passion. Often attributed to Bob’s Viking heritage, his love of boating and racing was undoubtable. This interest eventually led to the introduction of Powerboat in 1968.

    It would take volumes to detail the number of boats tested, races won and impacts on this sport and industry that Bob Nordskog was responsible for. Suffice to say that his passing in 1992 at the way-too-young age of 79 left an enormous, gaping hole that has yet to be filled. To give you one of the thousand possible measures of who Bob Nordskog was, just a month prior to his untimely death he competed in and won his final offshore race. It was the 52nd victory for Bob.

    Powerboat ownership passed to Bob’s son Jerry who, after publishing it for several more years sold the magazine in 2005 so that he might focus on his own passion of publishing Christian books.
    That sale to Affinity Media Group ushered in a new era for Powerboat. Quite possibly it was the change necessitated by the times and possibly it was the corporate ownership, but after Bob’s passing and the sale to Affinity, Powerboat never truly felt like it once did. The magazine though was not without connection to its roots. Long-time staffers such as Bob Teague continued to carry Nordskog’s vision forth into every issue, as best as they were able. Affinity did a good job of providing a quality product while dealing with the challenges of a swiftly changing landscape, in both powerboating and publishing.

    Many things have happened in the world of print media over the last few years. Printing and mailing has become prohibitively expensive. An there has been a dramatic shift in the habits of people in how they access media. While we have no true idea why the decision was made, Affinity sold a bundled group of publications, including the Powerboat title, to Bonnier Corp early in 2011. Bonnier is a large publisher of special-interest titles and their portfolio includes a number of automotive enthusiast publications as well as several boating titles.

    Immediately after acquisition, Bonnier stunningly announced the closing of Powerboat. While we aren’t privy to the behind-the scenes activities, one would assume that the outcry from readers, coupled with the enthusiastic lobbying of former Powerboat insiders, Bonnier reconsidered its decision. It was announced that Powerboat would in fact be resurrected, with Jason Johnson returning as editor.
    The new Powerboat was slated to be delivered as the December 2011 edition, with a semi-annual publishing schedule for 2012. Immediately the Powerboat staff went to work, assembling some solid content and presumably looking for industry support to keep the ongoing publication both viable and attractive to new owner Bonnier.
    A large push for subscriptions ensued. A dedicated readership responded, knowing it would take their support to help ensure Powerboat’s survival.
    The void left by a missing Powerboat was certainly felt. It was with great expectation and a dash of concern that many waited out the publishing hiatus of the magazine. As several months wore on, some questioned if it was in fact really coming back. Those concerns were allayed when magazines began appearing in mailboxes and on newsstands.

    Apparently what Bonnier saw wasn’t enough to sustain their interest. This is the inevitability when something is done by corporations owned by investors and shareholders. It’s return on investment, pure and simple. Or as the chilling line from a famous movie purports, “It’s not personal, just business”. Unfortunately, during economic downturns sometimes an institution requires a passion for it’s purpose rather than a return on investment. Not many people get into the boat business because they think it’s an easy way to make loads of money. Those that do pass through rather quickly. This is an industry that survives on passion. Right now many are just holding on by the sheer will to continue doing something they love.
    Sadly, the new Powerboat only survived for two issues. It did though make it into 2012. Maybe the worst part of Bonnier’s decision was the quality of what was being published. The last Powerboat issue was exceptionally solid and well-assembled. Many commented that it was the best issue in some time. While no real consolation to those responsible, this last issue will remain as a permanent example of their passion to hold this institution together and move it forward.
    For the rest, at least you’ll now be getting BOATING in your mailboxes in the near future.

    If Bob Nordskog is looking down on all of this, he most likely understands why it all happened, but he would still be very disappointed that something he poured so much into came to an end in this way. More than that, Bob would certainly care most about the people who persevered in attempting to keep Powerboat alive.
    Rest in peace, Bob. Rest in peace, Powerboat.