A Double Shot of Cahners Publishing Nostalgia

Via Folio: and New York magazines.

In March, Folio: vice president Tony Silber, a self-avowed fan of Steve Maas’ 2015 book In a Niche by Himself: The Norman Cahners Story, decided to mark the 30th anniversary of the death of the trade publishing pioneer by highlighted four excerpts. The Cahners Publishing Company was founded in 1960, acquired by Reed Elsevier in 1977 and relocated from Boston to New York in 2002.

The weekly Folio: series culminated March 29 and included all sorts of colorful reminders of the pre-digital age. For example, during the earliest days of the magazine Modern Materials Handling, still publishing today via Peerless Media, Cahners recruited Western Union telegraph operators (!) across the U.S. to help identify key purchasing executives. That granular approach became a hallmark of The Cahners Publishing Company, necessitating some offshore support:

How did Cahners keep track of all the data? Through outsourcing, according to Walter Cahners. Every day a batch of information was flown down to an island on the Caribbean (which one, he couldn’t recall) to be punched into IBM data cards. “When that island had a hurricane, [Cahners] became the big supplier of first aid and food, because 90 percent of the island worked for him,” Walter said of his brother.

And this week, New York magazine’s Audie White has delightfully revisited some of her publication’s “Strictly Personals” ads from the 1980s and 1990s. By coincidence, the second item in her slide show – dated Nov. 22, 1999 – is from a former Cahners employee:

We hope Ms. Levitt’s search for a suitable son-in-law ended successfully. And on this throwback Thursday, we happily salute the days of Western Union telegraph operators and hard-copy personal ads.

@hollywoodspin rhorgan@gmail.com Richard Horgan is co-editor of Fishbowl.