Three years after being acquired by David Steward II, founder of the pop culture media company Polarity, ownership of the comics and pop culture news blog The Beat will return to its founder and editor-in-chief Heidi MacDonald in 2020.
In a surprise statement released on January 24, Steward said “our partnership with Heidi and The Beat was intended to empower the site to reach new heights and grow the audience for inclusive comics coverage. Over these past few years, we have worked together to ensure she succeeded in that goal, and the site’s reputation as the authoritative voice of our industry, presenting insider knowledge in a format that is welcoming to a broad audience. We wish Heidi continued success and prominence in the years to come.”
In the release Polarity said, “The Beat continues operations as normal under the vision of Heidi MacDonald, with daily coverage of the comic book and entertainment industry as a whole.”
The return of The Beat’s ownership to MacDonald caps off a tumultuous year for Steward and Lion Forge, his original comics publishing entity. In a May 2019 merger/acquisition, Oni Press, a longtime independent graphic novel publisher, essentially absorbed the Lion Forge publishing program under the majority ownership of Polarity, a new holding company founded by Steward to oversee a variety of media and publishing assets. The merger/acquisition led to a number of layoffs.
Among Polarity’s assets was Syndicated Comics, a holding company launched to hold the assets of The Beat, and Magnetic Press, a publisher of European comics in translation, in addition to animation, gaming and music properties.
Under Steward’s ownership and financial investment The Beat’s coverage expanded into a wide variety of pop culture content, in addition to adding podcasts and video content. The reversion of ownership raises questions about the future of The Beat’s coverage as well as its financial condition going forward. The Beat marked its 15th anniversary in 2019 with a gala celebration at the San Diego Comic-Con International in July.
MacDonald, who is a cohost of PW’s graphic novel podcast More to Come, discussed the change in ownership on the most recent podcast. On the podcast, she said that many details of the transfer are still to be worked out. And in a story on the change in ownership posted on The Beat, MacDonald said there will be "changes and adjustments, of course. And going indie means we'll be looking for new financial partners and models, including crowdfunding." In addition, according to her Twitter account, managing editor Samantha Puc, who joined The Beat in October 2018, is leaving the site February 1 because of the change.
MacDonald is currently traveling to Europe to attend the annual Angoulême International Comics Festival, held January 30 to February 2 in France, and was unavailable for comment.
In a prepared statement, MacDonald thanked Steward and Polarity, “for their partnership these last two years.” She said that under the partnership “The Beat was able to reach new heights and expand to cover the incredible diversity of the comics medium and the culture it inspires. Now I'm incredibly excited to take The Beat back and build on what we accomplished to become even more essential to readers and the industry.”
Update: details from The Beat's story about the change in ownership have been added to this story.