Bloomberg Businessweek, one year later
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
It hired Time deputy managing editor Josh Tyrangiel to be the magazine’s new editor and renamed the publication Bloomberg Businessweek. The publication moved from McGraw-Hill’s building near Rockefeller Center to Bloomberg’s offices near Central Park. And the staff underwent a dramatic overhaul, leaving just a handful of staffers from the previous regime.
In April, Tyrangiel unveiled a redesign of the magazine’s interior, focusing its coverage on five subject areas — global economics, companies and industry, politics and policy, technology, and markets and finance.
Since that time, the magazine has undergone some additional tweaks, including a continued shuffle among its staff. And a redesigned Web site is expected to be unveiled in 2011.
Tyrangiel talked Monday by telephone with Talking Biz News about the magazine, one year after its purchase by Bloomberg. What follows is an edited transcript.
What’s been the biggest change in the magazine in the past year?
I think we’ve really gotten back to being a news magazine. We take events as they come, and it’s a minimum 60-page editorial book, which only came about as a result of Bloomberg’s commitment. So there are lots of stories about what’s ahead. In the past five or 10 years, the magazine had shifted to more management coverage, and that’s fine. But the magazine needs to engage in the world and events as they come and find an indispensable place in people’s lives.
What would you still like to see improved?
You can never make a perfect issue. I feel like week in, week out, we are very good. But in order to be great, we have to be incredibly consistent. I would like to have the best story at the best moment. So timing is great. We need to be ready for events as they come. We need to spring into action faster. I like our prose and our writing to continue to improve. We’ve done a lot, and I think the magazine has restored its position in the lives of its readers, but we have tons more to do.
What are you most happiest about in terms of the magazine in the past year?
I will split that into two parts. Internally, we have become an integrated part of the Bloomberg newsroom. Integrations are always tough, but this one went smoothly. We were bringing in staff, and I am new to both cultures. I am happy that has worked out someowhat smoothly.
Externally, I am happiest that we have a good, comprehensive read. You read Bloomberg Businessweek, and you know what’s going on and you can compete in the week ahead. Both of those are strong accomplishments.
Are you beginning to see a turnaround in ad pages for the magazine?
Without being scientific, the books are a lot thicker. I don’t have it off the top of my head, but the magazine is much thicker. Editor’s note: Bloomberg Businessweek reported a 5.2 percent drop in ad revenue to $33 million and a 9.3 percent drop in ad pages to 244.64 in the third quarter, according to Publisher’s Information Bureau, but a magazine spokeswoman says the publication expects to be up in the fourth quarter.
There seems to be more of an edge to the content than a year ago. Do you agree?
I think so. I believe that it’s an extremely competitive landscape, and one of the ways you differentiate yourself is through story selection. Business is everywhere and we’re eager to show that to people, to explain business and why that matters. So that leads us to caste a wider net. We’ve tried to put our foot down on some stories and say we’re going to own this story.
There is no other business weekly. If we stand up and defend the borders of our territory and do stories that are better than anyone else, we’re going to be in pretty good shape. We have to own stories like Ireland. Our group is really eager to do it. By and large, that makes me happy. We’re going to cover it, and we’re going to cover it really well.
One of the biggest fears when Bloomberg bought BusinessWeek was that the content would read like a wire service. But that hasn’t happened, in my opinion.
This is a sophisticated company, and we take first and foremost the user experience. We had to ask who is the user. When you’re reading wire copy, you’re generally sitting in a chair sitting straight up. People read a magazine while they are reclining. The tenets are the same as far as the journalism, but no one told me that it needed to read like wire service.
I hear that the Web site is going to get an overhaul. What’s in store there?
We are deep in discussions about our overall web strategy and how Bloomberg.com and Businessweek.com interact with each other. I don’t want to spill the beans to much about that. But there’s plenty of hard work to get it where we want it to be.
What about expanding the Businessweek brand name into other products, like what Bloomberg is doing with newsletters and other ideas?
You mean like Bloomberg Businessweek Cheerios? I’ve thought about it endlessly. I haven’t thought too much about brand extension right now. I just want to make one great thing. If you make one great thing, everything else will follow.
What can you do to improve the magazine’s performance on the football field? (BGOV, the news service from Bloomberg covering the intersection of business and government, defeated Bloomberg Businessweek 28-21 earlier this month.)
You’re killing me. We have to make sure that Kevin Sheekey follow the rules next time. Sheekey’s interpretation of who works for Bloomberg includes people who work for the city such as off-duty policemen. Without sounding aggrieved, that’s what we’re going to do.