Stillwater News Press

Our World

August 26, 2013

Horse-obsessed town in Virginia bristles as an outsider buys magazine

(Continued)

MIDDLEBURG,Va. — Bellissimo wants to focus on making the magazine profitable, luring advertisers that already sponsor his Florida horse show and others, too; promoting the print edition more; and revamping the Web site, which is expected to reach 4 million annual unique visitors by the end of 2013. He also wants to live-stream horse show events, including his own, on the magazine's Web site.

Punkin Lee, who owns Journey Saddlers, said many people around Middleburg are mourning the loss of the Chronicle's local ownership. "It's the idea that the magazine was something everyone around the world read, and it came from here, and everyone who worked there lived here, and the people who owned it lived here," said Lee, whose mother was the magazine's first managing editor.

That sense of melancholy doesn't extend to the Chronicle's newsroom, which is buzzing with optimism.

Earlier this month, Bellissimo flew in for his first company-wide meeting since he took ownership. He was joined by Chronicle correspondents from Chicago, Knoxville, Tenn., and Richmond, and the ad sales director from New Hampshire. The staff brainstormed business ideas and talked about the magazine's values.

No one brought up story ideas in front of the boss or concerns about a conflict of interest, said Beth Rasin, the Chronicle's editor and president.

"That issue," she said, "is already behind us."

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