Nostalgia fails to reanimate Philly publishing

In 2011, medical publisher John Elduff of Berwyn bought the former Collier's Magazine title at auction and then boldly re-launched the old middlebrow-culture and investigative-reporting publication as a doctors' office monthly. A few long, glossy print issues featuring a mix of vintage pieces, politics, first-person and medical reporting, though Elduff never did get around to posting anything investigative. I haven't seen updated issues lately, and the Collier's website doesn't seem to have been updated since Obama's reelection.

The next year, the Indiana-based publishers of the SerVaas family's Saturday Evening Post, which had been based across Independence Square from the seminal N.W. Ayers ad agency and ran a sprawling publishing plant at Curtis Park in Delaware County and a paper mill in Newark, Del., back in the days when it was the biggest magazine in mid-1900s America, said they were going to move their editorial operation back to Philadelphia and expand beyond its recent Geritol-type coverage to add new fiction and reporting. Several literary readers called, eager to learn where they could apply.

But while Post boss Steve Slon, formerly of Rodale Press in Lancaster County, did indeed enrich the Post's story mix a bit after a New York literary-party relaunch, "we never did open the office in Philadelphia," staffer Erica Rath acknowledged when I called for an update in the fall of 2013. I've asked Collier's Elduff his future plans, but he's kept quiet; last I heard from him was after my Post column ran, when he asked me if I thought the Post people might be interested in joining forces. Tough business, he said.

See also the attempts to revive The Evening Bulletin, once Philadelphia's most popular newspaper. The most recent effort, a conservative-leaning daily set up in the 2000s by past Vanguard Group investment banker Tom Rice, did manage to bring print daily papers backed by auto-dealer and private-school ads to the Main Line and Center City for a few years, but Rice had a tough time selling ads in the late recession, nd not even the Web site remains.