updated 9/20/2004 10:10:14 AM ET 2004-09-20T14:10:14

It's Red Herring, the sequel: The magazine that rose and fell with the tech boom returns next month under new ownership.

Alex Vieux, chief executive of Dasar Inc., which bought the Red Herring name from original cofounder Anthony Perkins over a year ago, said the magazine — once fueled by exuberance — will cover the "facts and realities" of the tech industry.

"We'll follow the money," Vieux said in an interview. "Not just the moods of the time which have misdirected us in the past."

Up to 15,000 copies of a preview issue of Red Herring are slated to appear on Oct. 7, with about 100,000 copies of the first issue arriving in early November.

Vieux is charging $48 for an annual subscription; the magazine, which for nearly a decade came out monthly, will be published weekly. Last month, Vieux, Red Herring's publisher, hired veteran tech journalist and childhood friend Joel Dreyfuss as editor-in-chief.

"I love start-ups and I love magazines," said Dreyfuss, who worked as a senior editor at Fortune and most recently covered technology for Bloomberg Markets in New York.

"It's not often that you get to start from scratch with a great brand name. We have lots of respect for the legacy of Red Herring," he said, but added that the magazine will strive to be more skeptical than it was in the past. Stories in Red Herring will describe the present, rather than predict the future, Vieux said.

Dasar, primarily a technology media and consulting company, is based in Mountain View, Calif. and has offices in Paris. Vieux said the company and magazine will relocate to offices in San Mateo within two months.

Vieux, who founded the company about 15 years ago, has worked as a journalist, a consultant at the former Andersen Consulting and as a university professor. He holds an MBA from Stanford University, and was named one of the most influential people in the European technology community by Time Magazine's European edition.

Vieux and Dreyfuss both said Red Herring's mission will be to report on the tech industry globally, with equal coverage going to companies of all sizes.

"We have a different angle on globalization because our DNA is very international," said Vieux, who said a common criticism of the old Red Herring is that is was too focused on Silicon Valley. Vieux, a French native, used to report on Silicon Valley for the French newspaper Le Monde.

"There's clearly a need in the market for a tech magazine that takes the industry seriously as a business ... and asks as many questions about profit and loss as about the technology itself," Dreyfuss said. "I don't see many publications out there now that are filling that niche."

Red Herring is one of several formerly ad-fat magazines, like the Industry Standard, Wired and Fast Company, that either fell on hard times or crashed and burned when the tech bubble burst. Red Herring grew voraciously through the late 1990s, peaking at about $100 million in annual revenue in 2000 before its rapid decline. It ceased publication in 2002.

But Vieux is not alone in seeing cause to be optimistic. Wired and Business 2.0 have recently reported modest advertising gains, and John Battelle, former chief executive of the Industry Standard, is reportedly working on a new media venture.

The new Red Herring has already been through some turbulence. Dreyfuss follows three previous editors — veterans of Business Week, Business 2.0 and the Wall Street Journal — who left after brief stints.

Vieux declined to name the lead investors in the venture, but said it's a group of friends. Currently, Red Herring has a staff of about 25 reporters and editors; Vieux and Dreyfuss are looking to fill about five senior positions, and continue to hire reporters.

Anthony Perkins, who cofounded Red Herring in 1993 and led it during in its glory days until it folded in 2002, is skeptical about Vieux's plans to publish the magazine every week.

"They're a lot braver than I am," Perkins said in an interview. "It seems like they're going in exactly the opposite direction of where I see the market going." Perkins' web site — which is an interactive blogging and news site for the "global Silicon Valley community" — plans to launch a quarterly print magazine early next year with a circulation of about 100,000. Several former Red Herring reporters will be writing for his magazine.

"Frankly, I wouldn't even be comfortable publishing a monthly," Perkins said. "I think the target market (global technology readers) looks largely for their content online."

Nevertheless, Vieux is cautiously optimistic and said Red Herring intends to be "humble" and "modest" and that it's reporting will be "sober."

"You and I know what happened. We lost our shirts," said Vieux of the '90s tech boom and bust. "I'm not Bill Gates, so when I lost my shirt it hurt."

© 2007 San Francisco Business Times


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