40 Years of Stereophile: What Happened When Page 6

1998: December 1, 1997 is a portentous date in Stereophile's history, because on that day the magazine's website emerges from the darkness. The result of months of work by webmaster Jon Iverson, www.stereophile.com begins with weekly news updates, a poll and a " Soapbox," and in 1998 adds a links database and begins making Stereophile's archive of reviews and articles available online.

But 1998 is a year to remember because, on June 1, ownership of Stereophile, Stereophile Guide to Home Theater, and the HI-FI Show passes from Stereophile, Inc., the corporation jointly owned by Larry Archibald and John Atkinson, to Petersen Publishing. (The deal was suggested and negotiated by Steve Watkinson, who tragically, was to pass away later in the year.)

Larry, John, Tom Norton, and Laura LoVecchio stay on with the fulltime staff, but, as is always the case with acquisitions, many staff members and writers leave in the following months, including Ken Nelson, Gretchen Grogan, Wes Phillips, Stephen Stone, Don Scott, and Muse Kastanovich. On the bright side, Chip Stern and Brian Damkroger begin contributing equipment reviews, and Jonathan Scull initiates his popular "Fine Tunes" column, on cheap ways to get the best sound from your system.

1999-2002: Organizational and ownership changes continue, as in January 1999 the Petersen Company is acquired by the English media conglomerate EMAP, which in turn divests itself of its US properties to Stereophile's current owner, Primedia, in August 2001. (Primedia had expressed interest in acquiring Stereophile as early as 1997's San Francisco Show.) And at the end of June 2000 we depart New Mexico after 22 years, Stereophile's editorial office relocating to Manhattan and the Guide's to Los Angeles.

But these years are difficult for hi-fi publications: Audio magazine closes in January 2000, Stereo Review abandons its half-century-old mission by morphing into the general-interest Sound & Vision, and, as well as High Fidelity and Audio, the overall list of print-publishing casualties in the US over the past decade includes Sounds Like..., Hi-Fi Heretic, Fi, Audio Adventure, Ultimate Audio, Listener, The Tracking Angle, High Performance Review, Glass Audio, Speaker Builder (footnote 2), Sound Practices, and Positive Feedback (footnote 3). R.I.P.

In 2002, Stereophile remains true to its 40-year-old mission, which is perhaps why it survives and, despite its necessarily smaller issues in these recessionary days, even thrives. However, after a long period during which he wants to write primarily about home-theater and surround-sound components, in summer 1999 J. Gordon Holt finally leaves the magazine he founded 37 years before. Larry Archibald also departs for ventures new in 1999, his final article appearing in the November 1999 issue (Vol.22 No.11). And in 2000 Tom Norton fully severs his relationship with Stereophile (though not its publisher) by becoming editor of Stereophile Guide to Home Theater.

There are other changes: after serving three years on the full-time staff, Jonathan Scull leaves in March 2002, ending up at one of the companies that started the audio High End, Monster Cable. Both George Reisch and Lisa Astor decide for personal reasons that they cannot continue with their popular columns. But first John Marks, then David Lander, Paul Bolin, and now Art Dudley join Stereophile's writing team, bringing new voices, new sensibilities, and new viewpoints. And John Gourlay, the magazine's publisher since October '98, and Jackie Augustine, its executive publisher since the Petersen buyout, demonstrate each month their commitment to Stereophile's editorial ethos.

HI-FI '99 visits Chicago in May 1999. While there is no Y2K event, the Show continues to demonstrate the joys of listening to music on a high-end audio system—the 2001 and 2002 Home Entertainment Shows, held at the Manhattan Hilton, are two of the most successful ever. The magazine continues to release CDs, and is investigating the hi-rez SACD and DVD-Audio media, launched in 1999 and 2000, respectively. Our website, celebrating its own 5th anniversary at the end of this month and still managed by the supremely talented Jon Iverson, goes from strength to strength.

Our thanks to everyone who has contributed to our past 40 years of success, especially to Natalie Brown Baca who has had responsibility for the magazine's appearance for most of the issues we have published since the fall of 1995. We all look forward to celebrating Stereophile's Golden Anniversary in 2012! We'll see you there.

Footnote 2: Glass Audio and Speaker Builder have been absorbed into AudioXpress.—John Atkinson

Footnote 3: Positive Feedback continues as a webzine.—John Atkinson