November 1, 2001, 12:00 AM

Staying the Course

What sustains us is the commitment we have to one another and the complete faith we have in the future of the Internet as a strategic retailing tool.

Recessions are like forest fires. Viewed in the moment, they are frightening and destructive. But just as fire thins an overgrown forest, removes the dead wood, and clears the way for rebirth, recessions reduce overcapacity, eliminate weaker and less committed competitors and set the stage for a recovery driven by the most efficient producers.

The Internet economy has been in a severe recession for more than a year, while the nation’s broader economy is only now entering one. The recession has been particularly severe in Internet publishing, which even prior to recession was burdened with an oversupply of competing magazines, each looking to carve out a leading position in a burgeoning new market. No publisher serving this market has gone through this turmoil unscathed. Last summer, Industry Standard, one of the leading publications serving the Internet economy, succumbed to a sickening dive in its advertising revenue. And last month, Retail Tech, one of our top competitors in the e-retailing segment of the Internet market, announced it would cease publication, despite the fact that it is owned by VNU, a Dutch publishing giant with revenues in the billions.

Internet Retailer is not owned by a wealthy corporate parent that has more money in the bank than commitment in its heart for the markets it serves. Rather, it is owned by five partners who pooled their savings to buy this publication and finance its growth. Now, we are making personal financial sacrifices to survive a recession, which, in our market at least, is the deepest I have experienced in 33 years in the business publishing industry. We have slashed our own salaries rather than incur layoffs that would inevitably affect the quality of our information service.

We have also decided to eliminate two issues of the magazine-one in December and one in February-and resume monthly publication in March. We have taken this action so that we might temporarily focus more of our limited resources on our electronic publishing activities, including our two e-mail newsletters (IR NewsLink and IR NewsLink Focus) and our internetretailer.com web site. These businesses have been growing through the recession, and their growth gives us the financial sustenance to survive.

But what sustains us more is the commitment we have to one another and the complete faith we have in the future of the Internet as a strategic retailing tool. And since September 11, we have an even more powerful motivation to do whatever we must to continue to serve this market. Never has forging ahead with business as usual been more of a patriotic duty. For us, continuing to provide useful information to advance the development of Internet retailing in America has become our patriotic duty. We simply will not be intimidated by those who seek to terrorize us.

More than ever I appreciate the maxim that terror is a strategically flawed weapon simply because it makes your adversary more resolute about staying the course. The attack on America has made us more determined than ever to survive the fire of this recession and be prepared to contribute to the market’s inevitable rebirth.

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