Chicago owners merge Radio-Info with talk radio publication
Diana and Rick Fleming
The Chicago couple who generously financed and operated Radio-Info.com as a tribute to their late son are turning over the independent radio industry website to a competitor.
Diana and Rick Fleming, principals of In3media Inc., have agreed to merge Radio-Info.com with Talkers, the talk radio trade publication owned by Talk Media Inc., based in Springfield, Massachusetts. “Rick and I have been looking for a succession plan for some time,” Diana Fleming said in an interview Thursday. “We finally landed with a plan that we think works very well.”
Terms of the agreement were not disclosed, but the new corporate entity, Radio Info Inc., will begin operating out of Talk Media Inc. headquarters, as of August 19. Michael Harrison, who founded Talkers in 1990 and has been its only publisher, will double as publisher of Radio-Info.com. A joint statement released Thursday said the two publications will maintain "independent brands, identities and websites."
It’s not clear what will happen to the staff of 30 who worked under Diana Fleming as she headed day-to-day operations of Radio-Info.com from offices at 65 East Wacker Place. At least some employees will be needed to oversee the many online discussion boards that In3media will continue to operate.
The original message boards were founded in 1999 by the Flemings’ son, Doug, an investment banker who’d been a passionate fan of radio since his youth. After his tragic death in the Black Rock Desert of Nevada at age 28 in 2005, his parents expanded the online community as a way to honor their son’s legacy. To create original content for Radio-Info.com, the Flemings hired some of the top trade journalists in the country, including such respected writers as Tom Taylor, Sean Ross, Dana Hall and Phyllis Stark.
Taylor, the executive news editor whose Taylor on Radio-Info is a must-read throughout the industry, continues his daily newsletter into next week. But all of the website's format and sales newsletters — including Stark Country, Urban First, NewsTalk Edge, connected and Taz's Tips on Sales & Marketing — are gone as of Friday. Ross told readers Thursday that he’s taking a month-long break and that his Ross On Radio newsletter “will be back in September at a new home.”
The timing of the merger coincides with Rick Fleming’s retirement as executive vice president and chief financial officer of USG Corporation. Among other civic and philanthropic activities, he also is vice president and treasurer of the Museum of Broadcast Communications.
Although Diana Fleming declined to be specific about the couple’s plans, she hinted that they might involve media: “I’m extraordinarily passionate about news and the integrity of news. And if there were anything I was going to do to get involved, it would be to poke the news industry in the backside. . . . There’s too much emphasis on ratings when I think you should focus on the product and make it the best you can.”
Calling the move a “mixed blessing,” she acknowledged that it won’t be easy stepping down from a job she loved. “This has been my baby, but I have to be businesslike and sensible. Finding a good home was paramount or I wouldn’t be able to retire with a clear conscience. I think Michael Harrison will take very good care of it," she said.
“You never heal from the loss [of a child], but this experience helped put it in perspective. That’s what this business did, and I’m very grateful for that. I care very deeply about the industry, and I will continue to watch it.”
On his website, Harrison described Talkers as “a multi-platform, full-service trade organization" consisting of "an expanding website, a daily headlines news service, an extensive industry database and a dynamic planner of special events.”
Harrison declined to comment on the deal Thursday, but said in an email: "The Flemings are wonderful people and I am deeply committed to carrying forward the touching radio legacy of Doug Fleming."