I started a mini-firestorm on Facebook last Friday when I made a post about some sad news I had gotten while on my annual non-bowling weekend vacation in Las Vegas.
I was told by an industry insider and then confirmed with another source that Bowling This Month magazine was going out of business.
I contacted BTM publisher Alayne Merenstein and she got back to me later Friday declining an interview and I elected to let her have a couple of days to break the news, mostly because I was on vacation and had a full schedule of fun with the boys on tap, but also in part because I was hoping there’d be an 11th hour miracle to save it, and in part out of what I guess you would call professional courtesy.
As a journalist by profession and a professional bowler, I mourn the passing of BTM, and absolutely was hoping for that miracle. (Since I work for myself with 11thFrame.com, I could be less aggressive than an editor or publisher probably would demand I be. Criticize me for that if you wish, but it will fall on deaf ears.)
So I took down the Facebook post — it was taking up too much of my time and not worth the hassle while on vacation – and waited to write a blog until I got home.
On Monday as I was flying home, Merenstein posted this on BTM’s Facebook page: “Bowling This Month regrets that due to the economic downturn that we have all experienced, we are having to cease operations, effective immediately. We sincerely regret any inconvenience this may have caused you. Be assured that we have investigated all avenues for avoiding having to take this action.”
This is a huge loss for serious bowlers as there simply isn't another publication like BTM. Bowlers Journal is great for news and features and has some instruction but nothing of the depth of instruction and analysis BTM provides on a monthly basis. Not every article is for every bowler, but in the range of topics and the in-depth ball reviews, there always seemed to be at least one thing for every bowler in every month’s BTM.
Here is how BTM presents itself under the headline “What we mean to our readers and to our advertisers”
“Somewhere between 1913 and the present, as bowling magazines have come and changed, someone must have decreed that those bowlers who are the most involved and interested in the sport of bowling should not have a voice that speaks to and for them. Bowling This Month was created to remedy this oversight and give those bowlers who want in-depth technical information exactly what they need. There are some great bowling publications around today. There are those that focus on the business of bowling. Some provide information sculptured for pro shops and bowling centers. Some include industry news and cover tournaments and the pro tour. All, of course have some articles for the bowler. Of the major magazines, Bowling This Month remains the only one specifically designed for serious bowlers, pro shops, proprietors and bowling coaches, readers who are dedicated to this sport. At BTM, bowlers are not a sideline or a secondary audience. At BTM, helping bowlers bowl better is our business. It has to be…over 55 percent of our readers average over 200, 65 percent bowl in scratch tournaments, 35 percent bowl 3 or more leagues per year, 40 percent take private lessons, 20 percent attend camps and clinics, and 36 percent continue to buy instructional books and tapes.”
The one question many have asked is whether they will get refunds for the time left on their subscriptions. The message on BTM's phone line states that subscription checks received on or after Oct. 2 will be returned, but says nothing about payments received before that. Merenstein said in an email Tuesday that she has no information on refunds for subscriptions already paid.
I’d also still like to do an interview with her on how BTM ended up in this place. Many have speculated that last year’s decline in BTM and 1-2-3 tournament entries — and the subscriptions that stem from them — played a part.
Those entries didn't figure to go up in 2014 with the Bowlers Journal tournament again inside the National Bowling Stadium during the USBC Open Championships.
But it sounds like the BTM and 1-2-3 tourneys, or some version of them, may continue.
Rick Ramsey, who ran the tourneys, sent me a message on Monday saying he wanted to talk about what he and his wife Gayle “are trying to do that will allow us to continue the relationship and friendships we have made while running these events for Alayne and other events before starting The BTM in 2003.”
Once I talk with Rick, I will update this blog — or write a separate one.