A 4.29 Ad Age story about the firing of Entertainment Weekly publisher Scott Donaton — the mag’s fifth publisher in five years at the time of his hiring in late ’07 — reports that parent company Time Inc. is saying that “the magazine will continue to publish, contradicting persistent rumors to the contrary, and that a successor [to Donaton] will be named shortly.”

What is the blockage over there? The dwindling ad income at EW isn’t enough to support the massive staffing and overhead costs….hello? At best revenues are going to drop even more and then, if things work out, they may stabilize down the road. But the salad days are over. That means you abandon the big offices, have most of the staffers work from home, and…whatever, bump up Jess Cagle‘s salary in exchange for a new title as publisher/managing editor. Don’t hire a new publisher at $250,000 a year — take the money and snag three or four new writers in order to add snappy content.

A friend says he began hearing a couple of years ago that EW might eventually be folded into People magazine. What a comedown if that happens! What a terrible environment to have to adapt to. I worked for People from ’96 to ’98, and it was a miserable environment even back then. I was happy to be getting paid and have a kind of berth to call home, but it was hellish all the same.

I used to work for EW in the early to mid ’90s. Loved what it was, loved the work. News ‘n’ Notes craziness! Working late on Tuesday nights, faxes back and forth, etc. Those were the days.

“Previously the editor-turned-publisher of Advertising Age, Donaton became EW’s fifth publisher in five years when he accepted the vacant job post 17 months ago,” Nat Ives writes. “He and Rick Tetzeli, then the managing editor, set about a redesign and re-articulation of the mission designed, among other things, to set EW apart from celebrity magazines. He also oversaw an overhaul of EW’s website, boosting the number of blogs, videos and the range of community tools. In January, EW named Jess Cagle to succeed Mr. Tetzeli as managing editor.

“But, unsurprisingly given a recession that has caused dramatic drop in many consumer magazines’ ad revenue, ad-page declines continued after the redesign. EW’s first-quarter ad pages this year came in 38% below their mark in the first quarter last year, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. They fell 20% in 2008, Mr. Donaton’s first year on the job, after falling 13% in 2007 and 8% in 2006. Paid and verified circulation in the second half of 2008 averaged 1.7 million copies, 1% lower than a year earlier, as paid subscriptions dipped almost 3%, EW reported to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

“There were some signs of progress under Donaton and Cagle. Newsstand sales increased almost 7% to 50,437, on the back of the redesign and editorial retooling. And traffic to EW.com appears to have been increasing too, with Alexa recording a 45% increase in visitors in the past three months.”