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Bust goes bust

BY NINA WILLDORF

In an ironic turn of events, Bust magazine, an eight-year-old women’s mag geared toward young third-wave feminists, had its plug pulled by a testosterone-addled crew who bought the magazine over a year ago. Just last month, Bust’s entire staff was laid off by its owner, Razorfish Studios, run by CEO Jeff Daschis. However, the magazine’s founders, Debbie Stoller and Laurie Henzel, are reportedly trying to buy back their baby for an undisclosed amount.

Stoller, 39, and Henzel, 37, started Bust as more of a ’zine than a mag in 1993. They worked on it in their free time during evenings and weekends. But Bust quickly attracted droves of readers similar to those of the once faddishly popular Sassy magazine. It was smart, irreverent, chatty, and, well, whatever young women wanted it to be, dammit! The magazine’s tagline was "For women with something to get off their chests," and a typical issue would combine crafting tips worthy of Martha Stewart Living with in-depth investigations more like those found in Ms. "We tried to be the antidote to women’s magazines," explains Stoller, speaking by phone from her apartment in New York. "Whereas many other women’s magazines can make readers feel bad, we always tried to make our readers feel good, just by being honest, just by giving them the truth in all its funny, embarrassing, strong, raw glory."

The sad truth, however, was that the women ran out of money and had to find a buyer. In August 2000, the quarterly was purchased by Razorfish Studios, a division of Razorfish — once a beacon of the New Economy, and now a money-hemorrhaging Web-development company in the process of canning much of its bloated staff. "They decided they wanted us to relaunch as a 10-times-a-year magazine starting in January," explains Stoller. "Everything stopped as we worked on a redesign and reformatting." Come September 10, the soon-to-relaunch mag had a big story in the New York Times and a raucous pre-launch party. The phone rang off the hook with inquiries. And then came September 11. Later that week, Stoller recalls, "we were told not to bring in the additional staff" to help put out the new, more frequently published magazine.

While the magazine’s future remains, at best, in doubt, its bulletin board (www.bust.com/discus) is hopping like never before; some women have even set up an alternative location (http://clubs.yahoo.com/clubs/bustbusted), just in case Razorfish Studios kills off their beloved site without warning. As they learned the news of the mag’s demise and organized their possible escape route, posters’ emotions ran from weepy to angry, disappointed to driven.

One "bustee," "Neisha," offered her services to Stoller and Henzel last Monday: "To the busties, if you need anything, support for a new project, angry letters to razorfish etc, please say the word," she wrote, before adding, "Hell hath no fury like feminists scorned!"

Um, better watch out, Daschis.

Issue Date: November 15 - 22, 2001

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