‘DBR Media’ Syndicate Reportedly Ceases Operations

By: Dave Astor

DBR Media, a syndicate that targeted weeklies and small dailies, has ended operations.

That’s according to cartoonist Mike Lynch’s blog, which extensively quoted an e-mail DBR sent to its creators. When E&P phoned DBR today, the syndicate’s number wasn’t working. And an e-mail to a DBR executives did not draw an immediate response.

DBR was founded almost exactly eight years ago (in March 2000) by a group that included two former King Features Weekly Service executives. The Florida-based syndicate subsequently grew to the point where its still-visible Web site lists 50-plus features — including comics, columns, games, and more.

But, according to the DBR e-mail posted by Lynch, the syndicate has recently “been experiencing very hard times.”

The e-mail to creators continued: “We have left no stone unturned in trying to keep everything afloat…. Unfortunately, we have no choice at this point but to shut down operations. We are well aware of the many sacrifices everyone has made in addition to our own personal sacrifices. There are no sufficient words to say how grateful and honored we are that you are part of DBR’s family, and that is what we consider you.

“Please know that every effort is going to be made to compensate you. Money is still owed to us from clients. We are hoping to recover that.

“It has been a journey of eight years. Despite the hardships, it’s been a pleasure to work with you. Your talent and dedication are what’s made most of this possible to begin with.”

A long E&P story about DBR’s startup was posted on this site on March 6, 2000. Here is part of that piece:

Two former King Features Weekly Service executives have joined a new syndicate that will, like KFWS, target weekly papers and small dailies.

The initials of DBR Media, which offers its initial weekly package the week of March 13, stand for the first names of:

— Diane Eckert, executive editor of the fledgling firm and former managing editor of KFWS (from 1986 until December 1999).

— Brad Elson, director of operations at DBR and former sales manager of KFWS (where he worked from 1988 until December 1999). B is also the initial of Brad’s brother Bryon, a marketing veteran who’s the owner and president of the privately funded DBR.

— Richard Wilson, who headed KFWS until he died last fall at the age of 40. DBR’s executives wanted to memorialize Wilson, explained Eckert, who helped Wilson start KFWS in 1986.

Is DBR competing against KFWS? “Yes and no,” Eckert replied. She acknowledged that the two companies are in a similar syndication category but added that, with “over 11,000 weekly papers in the U.S., there are more than enough” clients to go around.

KFWS distributes its 75-feature package to 1,200-plus papers, while DBR is in the process of offering potential clients its 40-part package — which includes about 30 text features as well as 10 comics, editorial cartoons, puzzles, and games.

At least three of the 40 DBR creators came from the KFWS package: political columnist Diane Amantea, consumer columnist Marla Armbrust, and “George” cartoonist Mark Szorady.

The Ohio-based Szorady said his nine-year relationship with KFWS was mostly positive, but added that he’s happy to be working with Eckert once again. “She’s a true professional who knows the syndication business,” Szorady said.

Can a new syndicate succeed in this day and age? Eckert said DBR may have had a tough time launching if it focused on daily newspapers — whose numbers are shrinking and which already run plenty of syndicated features. “But the weekly market is still a big market that the big syndicates don’t get into that much,” she observed.

Eckert added that, because many weeklies don’t carry syndicated material, it’s a market with many potential new customers for DBR content.

The new company may also eventually offer individually syndicated features.

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