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Media

Texas Monthly Acquires Texas Country Reporter

Turns out that having a owner who is a billionaire is a great business model.
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Kelli and Bob Phillips Courtesy Texas Country Reporter

In the September issue of D Magazine, I wrote a ditty about Bob Phillips and his Texas Country Reporter, which this year celebrated its 50th year, making it the longest-running independently produced TV show in the country (according to them). I guess they are no longer independent. Depends on your definition of “independent.”

News came down today that the operation, which shares a building with D Magazine [correction: used to share; they recently moved two blocks down the street], has been snatched up by Texas Monthly. Phillips and his wife, Kelli, had been approached by other suitors, but they say they thought TxMo was the best home for their baby. Here’s how TxMo’s editor, Dan Goodgame, explained the deal and why he sees the show as a good fit in TxMo’s growing media empire (which last week launched America’s Girls, a podcast about the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders that is reported and hosted by Dallas’ own Sarah Hepola).

Something rather extraordinary is happening at “the national magazine of Texas.” Consider The California Sunday Magazine, which was shuttered last year — and then won a Pulitzer eight months later. Or look at The Atlantic, which is on track to lose around $10 million this year. Even beautiful, important work is no guarantee of financial success in a world that grows ever more averse to print.

“Speaking of beautiful, important work, Tim, how is D Magazine doing?”

“Oh, you’re so kind to ask. Thank you. We’re doing quite well, actually, and we’ve got big plans for 2022. But, um, those plans don’t include buying a TV show, if you catch my drift.”

Texas Monthly is cranking along unlike any other major magazine in the country right now. (Go ahead. Try to fact-check that statement.) Last I looked at their masthead, they were up to more than 40 full-time editorial staffers. That doesn’t include people dedicated to the digital side. To put that in perspective, less than three years ago, TxMo had about half that number of staffers, and the magazine was scaling back its print output, filling some months entirely with “special collector’s issues” that contained nothing but reprints of old articles.

Then, in June 2019, Randa Duncan Williams bought the magazine. The Houston oillionaire made it clear that she has an appetite for expansion.

I’ll tell you a story. This has to be classified as gossip. As far as crude gossip goes, though, it’s Class A. (Williams got the reference there to oil, I assure you.) When Williams bought the magazine, she went to Austin to address the editorial staff. She talked about how she was a huge fan of the magazine and had read it for many years. She talked about how she was committed to producing great journalism. And then she ended her remarks by telling everyone to get back to work and to try not to lose more than $5 million a year.

The folks at TxMo apparently know how to follow instructions.

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