New ‘Republic’ Owners Look to Ramp Up Web, Halt Losses

The new owners of the money-losing New Republic are shaking things up as they attempt to step up the title’s Web efforts and erase its losses in the next year and a half.

Elizabeth Sheldon, who was installed as publisher by the former owner, CanWest Global Communications, is gone as of June 1. She was replaced with Mike Rancilio, who had been the executive director of digital media at the Washington, D.C.-based opinion journal.

CanWest became a majority owner in late 2006 and cut the magazine’s frequency to 24 from 44 times a year to save money. And in the opinion of its longtime editor in chief Marty Peretz, who with an investor group bought back the magazine two months ago, the former owner did little to nurture its online site. “Have you seen our Web site?” he said. “It’s awful.”

“When CanWest had it, we had no money to do anything,” he said. “Our investor group is putting in a decent amount of money.”

The fruits of that investment will start to be manifest Aug. 15, when the site will be redesigned around five channels, starting with energy, health care and economy. Book reviews and film verticals will be added later.

Rancilio, who has the new titles of publisher and chief operating officer, said the site would retain its hybrid paid/free model that restricts some content such as magazine archives to subscribers. In another shift, he said that from now on, all editorial staffers would write for both the print and Web platforms.

The new owners also have added three ad salespeople in an effort to give the business side a much-needed lift. This year through June 1, the magazine carried just 36 ad pages, a drop of 52 percent over the same period a year ago, per the Mediaweek Monitor.