PSFK suggest that this marks a big retreat from advertising and a failure to get magazines online:

The story could suggest two things: an Adsense-fueled digital era has
made old fashioned print ads irrelevant and therefore broken the
business model for many magazines – and meanwhile those magazines have
failed to realize the potential of migrating their business properly to
the web.

Content Matters highlights the same advertising downturn angle:**

on the conference call, Reed CEO Crispin Davis indicated that the
Company is looking to protect itself from an expected advertising
downfall as we move towards a recession.

And Media Wire Daily is clearly unexcited by the “dump magazines, get risk information” idea:

Reed Elsevier is unloading its Business Information unit in what some
see as a bail out of dealing with an ad recession. The company is
trading up publishing business information titles for ChoicePoint, a
risk management information provider. Yawn!

And now, I’m going home for a stiff drink…