Tag Archives: Fortune
by Chris Roush
Robert Safian, who became editor of Fast Company magazine earlier this year, is on a hot streak. The magazine, which has been sold twice in the past decade, is trying to recapture its past glory.
Safian, who also oversees the business side of the magazine, has seen the magazine garner a Gerald Loeb Award as well as recent Deadline Club and EPpy wins.To be sure, the journalism that produced those awards occurred before Safian took over. But ad sales, newsstand sales, and Web traffic are all up strongly this year.
FastCompany.com reported an average 925,073 unique visitors per month to date for 2007, a 15 percent increase from 2006 as measured by Omnitureâ€™s SiteCatalyst Web Analystics package.
According to Publishers Information Bureau, ad pages for Fast Company increased 8 percent so far this year through June, while competitors lost ground. Forbes is down 4 percent, Fortune is down 17 percent, BusinessWeek is down 11 percent, and Business 2.0 is down 33 pecent.
Fast Company is the only sign of growth in the business magazine category with nine of the past 10 issues showing ad page gains. New advertisers that chose Fast Company during the first half of 2007 include RIM/Blackberry, Hewlett-Packard, Volkswagen, Harley Davidson, BMW, Dow, and Dyson.
Safian, who was managing editor of Money and executive editor at Fortune before leading Fast Company, talked to Talking Biz News about the magazine. What follows is an edited transcript.
First, why leave Time Inc. to go to a smaller business magazine? What was the attraction?
Part of the attraction was the way Joe Mansueto, the owner of Mansueto Ventures, talks about print magazines and the potential that he sees that print has relative to digital media in a way that I wasnâ€™t hearing at Time Inc., recognizing that paper as a medium has advantages if you choose to invest in them. While other companies have cut back on print size and paper quality, he felt like investing in making paper a distinctive investment for the reader. He wanted to make Fast Company a lush and memorable experience. And part of it was the excitement and the ability to build a different kind of business magazine from what the traditional business magazines provide.
What are some of the changes that youâ€™ve made at Fast Company?
Some of this is continuing what Fast Company has always tried to do and has often done well, and the goal is to extend it. We think there is a particularly good opportunity right now, and business is moving in the direction that Fast Company has always advocated and talked about, which is making as much money as you can this quarter should not be the ultimate goal of every business. It can often distort a long-term positioning and viability of a business and a business career.
Iâ€™ve heard you say that the magazine has to be fun. How do you make it more fun?
Business is fun. It should be fun. Itâ€™s at the center of so many things in our culture. There are more established ways that the other business magazines approach the way that they do that is effective for them, but I think leaves room open for another player, for another perspective.
Some of it is more of recognizing that we can not cover news. Coming out once a month, news is not our game. News is done online. You can try to do news if youâ€™re BusinessWeek and come out every week or if youâ€™re Fortune and come out every other week. In many ways, that is liberating. It allows use to identify stories that many might be overlooking.
I will give you an example. The first cover that I was a part of was about Mark Zuckerberg and the Facebook web site. What we felt was the traditional business press had written about and embraced MySpace and YouTube in part because they had been purchased by large corporate entities that conferred on them a legitimacy. By turning down an offer by Yahoo, Facebook was being juvenile and foolish because if you can be part of a big company, why wouldnâ€™t you want to?
That left the door open for us to write about a company that hadnâ€™t been written about and find out that maybe it wasnâ€™t so foolish to turn down that offer and that the vision of the company is different than simply maximizing cash flow today or selling out for top dollar as soon as you can. This is a story that the other business magazines could do, but they didnâ€™t. Thatâ€™s where the opportunity for us it.
The cover we have out now is about Al Gore as a businessman. Al Gore is being written about everywhere. What we talked about was how startling his renovation as a brand has been over really just the last three years when he endorsed Howard Dean and his campaign imploded, Gore looked like a joke. You could imagine a situation where the almost president trotting around the country showing a slide show and doing a documentary film would be a joke. Too bad, thatâ€™s all heâ€™s got.
How is it that rather than that, those things are a tremendous success for him and heâ€™s a rock star? How did that brand turnaround happen? Our reporting turned to his success as a businessman that allowed and encouraged and accelerated all of that.
What are the biggest issues facing the magazine today?
The challenge with a monthly magazine is that it is always made from scratch. We are like a chef at a restaurant whose menu is determined by whatâ€™s fresh at the market. And we have to make something compelling out of what comes in. Thatâ€™s the fun part. I donâ€™t know what weâ€™re going to do six months from now. There are some projects that weâ€™re starting, but we donâ€™t know how much thatâ€™s all going to come together. I am not focused on the challenges. I am focused on the opportunities. There are great characters, and great stories and great lessons all over, and the hardest part is figuring out the great stories to tell because you only have so many opportunities.
by Chris Roush
Keith Kelly of The New York Post reports Friday that Time Inc. will be making a change in the person who leads its business publications, which include Fortune, Business 2.0Â – which Kelly says is in danger of being folded into another magazine — and Money.
Kelly wrote, “Chris Poleway, president of the group known as the Time Inc. Business and Financial Network, is out in a shake-up that could be announced as early as today, sources said. Vivek Shah will take over Poleway’s old job, said informed sources.
“Shah is currently the business and financial network unit’s president of digital publishing, and is expected to unleash sweeping changes in the group in the months ahead.
“Last year, Fortune and Money, which have seen ad pages plunge in recent years, combined their separate sales staffs to sell ads for both titles. No one inside was happy with the arrangement.
“Shah, 33 years old, is seen as a fast-rising star for the digital future outlined by Time Inc. CEO Ann Moore and Editor-in-Chief John Huey.”
Read more here.Â
by Chris Roush
Keith Kelly of The New York Post writes Wednesday that New York Times media writer Richard Siklos, who has been covering the News Corp./Dow Jones & Co. negotiations, is leaving the paper to work for Fortune magazine.
Kelly wrote, “Siklos, who has been at the Times for two years, writes the Media Frenzy column for the Sunday business section of the Times and has been chronicling the Conrad Black fraud trial in Chicago.
“The Canadian-born Siklos is one of the only people who can boast not one, but two biographies of Black under his belt. The last revision, ‘Shades of Black: Conrad Black – His Rise and Fall,’ was out from the McCelland & Stewart imprint of Random House in Canada in 2004.
“Siklos was the editor-in-chief of the short-lived Inside magazine for Powerful Media, the Kurt Andersen-led media reporting enterprise that burst along with the Internet bubble.”
Read more here. Kelly also reports that BusinessWeek’s Jessi Hempel and TheStreet.com’s Peter Eavis are also joining Fortune.
by Chris Roush
Sam Schulman, publishing director of the new business magazine The American, took a swipe Monday at one of the established competitors, Fortune, and the cover story of its latest issue.
Schulman wrote, “Fortune, for example, has been hiring editors and writers with a strong anti-business and anti-free-market bias.
“The cover story on Hilary Clinton is only the latest illustration of what is happening in American business journalism.
“By contrast, the upcoming issue of The American carries articles on the resurgence of Japan, which has used American businessÂ and economic ideas to make a stunning comeback; on what businessÂ can do to help fix education (stop backing a system that doesnâ€™t work, smash the regulations, and support entrepreneurs will will shake things up); on how Microsoft is trying to woo college students away from investment banking and toward computer science. and on a young African-American economist at Harvard who is courageous enough to tackle subjects that frighten off his colleagues.
“Yes, we write about politicians â€“ our piece back in November on Mitt Romney showed how he will use his venture-capital experience if heâ€™s elected. We werenâ€™t shy about listing the 10 most economically literate members of Congress: six Republicans and four Democrats.
“But NEVER will you find us touting a presidential candidate on our cover.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
TheDeal.com executive editor Yvette Kantrow believes that the personal finance publications have officially run out of ideas after she read Money magazine’s article about how to marry a billionaire.
Kantrow wrote, “Yes, we know. Money probably produced this little primer with its tongue planted firmly in its cheek. But Spy magazine it ain’t. And we simply don’t need seven pages (yes, seven) of cutesy bits of dating advice â€” Wear Christian Leboutin [sic] pumps! Scan the obits for prominent names and heirs! â€” from a publication usually concerned with picking the 10 stocks to buy NOW.
“But this is what it’s come to. You can only trot out that stock, bond, mutual fund, fill-in-the-product-here story so many times, especially when investing is no longer seen as an activity for the masses, but something more fit for the Schwarzmans and hedge funders of the world. Indeed, the matrimony story is part of Money’s ‘Getting Rich in America’ issue, which implores people to throw off their 9-to-5 shackles â€” with their botched pensions, long hours and countless indignities â€” and become entrepreneurs. Sure it’s risky, Money admits. But, hey, ‘it may be more realistic than you think, once you get real about what it takes.’ And besides, it’s one of the only ways to make ‘real wealth’ these days, Money tells us, aside from marrying rich. So the dirty little secret is out. All those savings and investment tips the magazine and its rivals have spewed out all these years â€” all those skipped lattes! â€” aren’t going to cut it unless you stop working for The Man. Or marry him.
“The latest issue of Money’s Time Inc. sibling, Fortune, is also concerned with getting rich. It’s the annual ‘special investors issue’ and, just as it did last year, the cover features a perfect couple sitting at a perfect beach under a perfect sky and a headline imploring us to ‘Retire Rich.’ OK, already. So how much does it take, exactly, to make that happen? ‘We think $5 million has a nice ring to it,’ Fortune tells us in the issue’s opening. ‘And with the advice we offer in this issue, it’s not an impossible dream.’
“Are they kidding?”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Since becoming the new managing editor of Fortune magazine in late 2006, Andy Serwer hasÂ changed the Time Inc. glossy in a number of ways. He’s launched a redesign of the magazine, slated to appear by the end of 2007, and hired back some business journalists who left the magazine under prior management, most notably Betsy Morris.
As editor-at-large at Fortune since 1998, Serwer wrote the â€œStreet Lifeâ€? column as well as stories about the personalities and behind-the-scenes action on Wall Street. His work has ranged from his provocative column in every issue to major cover stories on everything from the young Michael Dell to Michael Price (â€œThe Toughest S.O.B. on Wall Streetâ€?) to the business of the Rolling Stones to the first look inside the financial and philanthropic workings of Americaâ€™s richest family, the Waltons.
In addition to his magazine work, Andy became one of the industryâ€™s first internet stars nine years ago with his daily market round-up on Fortune.com, also called “Street Life,” that has more than 50,000 e-mail subscribers. He has also been the very successful business anchor of CNNâ€™s American Morning news show. He will continue to have an on-air presence on CNN.
Serwer recently talked by e-mail to Talking Biz News about his plans for the magazine, and the amount of input he’s getting from former Fortune ME John Huey, Time’s editor in chief. What follows is an edited transcript.
What was so appealing about taking on the top spot at Fortune?
That I was able to lead this insanely great organization, which I have loved for over two decades.
What have been your goals for the magazine in your first year in that role?
To make sure the magazine was part of the business conversation. To do journalism that people just had to read.
Why redesign the magazine?
Because itâ€™s coming up on a decade now since it was last done, and because the magazine now reflects the vision of four managing editors (three previous plus me.) Itâ€™s become a bit of a hodgepodge.
Youâ€™ve hired back Betsy Morris from Portfolio. What does she bring to the magazine? Any specific staffing areas where youâ€™d like to beef up the magazine?
She is a writer with a capital W. Sheâ€™s a terrific story-teller, and sheâ€™s very well sourced. She really understands business and what makes companies work. Nuff said! As for other areas: Wall Street. Media. Info tech.
What does Fortune have to do to stand out in the business magazine crowd?
We already do! We are the magazine thatâ€™s deeper, that brings more intelligence. Look at the stories we do. Look at the writers and reporters who work here, itâ€™s an awesome line-up.
What do you think you bring to the table that former MEs at the magazine didnâ€™t?
Well for one thing, Iâ€™ve done extensive work in broadcast (TV), and as an online journalist. So thatâ€™s different. And also Iâ€™m me. I have my own personalityâ€”love it or hate itâ€”and the magazineâ€™s going to reflect that.
Whatâ€™s the one area where the magazine needs to improve the most?
We need to be more fully integrated with our website. We already have a dynamic, highly trafficked site, but weâ€™re all about beefing that up. This is just the beginning.
Where does the magazineâ€™s web site fit in with the print strategy?
Oops, I didnâ€™t see this was the next question, and I sort of already answered it above. To continue, the web allows us to compete with anyone, the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Slate, Yahoo Finance, CNET, and increasingly we are. We break news and provide content online that no one else can touch.
Youâ€™ve done work for CNN. Will Fortune try to do more video and multimedia?
Yes sir. This is the beauty of being part of Time Warner. There are all sorts of folks here who understand how this process works, and we are ramping this as well.
Where would you like the magazine to be in five years?
Leading the pack. We have in incredibly valuable brand, and itâ€™s my job to enhance that brand and make it even more valuable than it was the day I started.
How much input are you getting from John Huey?
Who will retire from Fortune first — you or Carol Loomis?
I’m sure me. No one has more passion for Fortune than Carol.
by Chris Roush
Nicholas Vardy writes on the Seeking Alpha web site about the research that shows how being on the cover of a business magazine is a contrarian indicator when it comes to investing. The latest example, he says, is AppleÂ Inc. on the cover of The Economist.
Vardy wrote, “The more important question for us is how the stock prices performed after the cover stories appeared. Here, the research supported the use of magazine cover stories as a contrarian indicator. The most negatively portrayed companies managed to beat the market by an average of 12.4%, whereas the outperformance of the media darlings fell to just 4.2%. The conclusion? Positive stories generally indicate that the stock’s price performance has topped out. Negative stories often come right at the time of a turnaround.
“The study confirms that it is better to bet against journalists than alongside them. It would be easy to jump to the self-congratulatory conclusion that journalists are incompetent. But that conclusion misses the point. Journalists aren’t writing cover stories to make investors money. They are writing cover stories to sell magazines. And ‘hot topics’ sell. But it also means that when a company or financial trend is featured on a magazine cover, the chances are that the trend is already widely known, and universally accepted.
“If investors misappropriate magazine cover stories as an investment strategy — well, that’s their fault. Behavioral psychologists call this ‘recency bias’ — the tendency to be excessively affected by the pattern of recent data. ‘Availability bias’ is a close cousin. Behavioral psychologists can trace back all financial manias — whether the Internet in 1999 or China in 2007 — to our own, intrinsic, inevitable cognitive distortions.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Sramana Mitra writes on the Seeking Alpha web site that News Corp. CEO Rupert Murdoch will need to overhaul the Wall Street Journal’s web operations to make it the No. 1 business news site if he is successful in acquiring Dow Jones & Co., its parent.
Mitra wrote, “Even though, they own the The Wall Street Journal, Americaâ€™s most important business newspaper and website, they have not been able to capitalize on the brand enough amidst upheavals due to the Internet. Murdoch sees the opportunity to build a global Business & Finance brand, and there is clearly no other brand as powerful in the category as WSJ.
“CNNMoney, Time Warnerâ€™s Business and Finance site, for example, is #1 in the category in terms of Unique Visitors (8.2 M vs 3.4 M for WSJ.com), Page Views (145 M vs 51 M for WSJ.com) and Gross Usage Minutes (140 M vs 56 M for WSJ.com). Other sites like Forbes.com and McGraw Hill’s Businessweek.com also do better than WSJ.com in terms of Unique Visitors. Forbes even has better Page View statistics. Marketwatch, however, is also a Dow Jones property and does quite well, appearing at #3 in all 3 categories. In fact, the combination of WSJ.com and Marketwatch gets quite close in numbers to CNNMoney, which itself is a combination of all of Time Inc.â€™s Business & Finance imprints (Fortune, Business 2.0, Fortune Small Business, CNNMoney, etc.).
“A simple yet profoundly impactful strategy would be to blend Marketwatch into the WSJ brand and present it as a unified media property. Other things that Murdoch would obviously do is leverage his experience in television and make it a multi-channel, multi-media outlet. These are obvious next steps.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Michael Calderone of the New York Observer interviews Fortune managing editor Andy Serwer about his first six months on the job and notes that he’s trying to bring back some staff members who left in recent years.
Betsy Morris, who left Fortune last year for Conde Nast Portfolio, recently returned to the Time Inc. glossy.
Calderone wrote, “Mr. Serwer said that he still considers BusinessWeek and The New York Times to be his primary competition, not the upstart glossy.
“‘I think theyâ€™re going to be competing more against Vanity Fair than us’ he said. ‘Isn’t that the same company?’
“Competition or not, Portfolio has dug deep into Newhouse coffers to successfully raid magazine mastheads.
“But Mr. Serwer is apparently ready to answer back, and has extended offers to staffers who fled during Eric Pooleyâ€™s tumultuous 18-month tenure as managing editor, according to a Fortune staffer.
“Although there is not a ‘blanket offer,’ said another staffer, Mr. Serwer has not been shy about making overtures.
“And Ms. Morris was not the only Fortune-turned-Portfolio staffer heâ€™s tried to bring back in the ranks.
“Mr. Serwer reached out to Portfolio senior writer Dan Roth, and the two met up last fall, according to a source. But Mr. Roth didnâ€™t budge from 4 Times Square.”
Read more here.
by Chris Roush
Tom Anderson, associate editor of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance, writes howÂ a Chinese company that recently began trading in the U.S. markets is using ads in business magazines to pump up its stock price.
Anderson wrote, “Full-page advertisements that appeared in BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune make Guangzhou Global Telecom (symbol GZGT, quoted on the OTC Bulletin Board) sound like a major player in the world’s most populous country. They say that Guangzhou has partnered with China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom, and that its ‘major carrier partnerships account for nearly $50 billion in revenues.’ Readers are encouraged to buy Guangzhou’s stock because it will ‘fuel your portfolio for explosive growth.’
“Expect to see a lot more Guangzhou Global Telecom ads. Its advertising firm says similar ads are scheduled to run in upcoming issues of The Economist, Institutional Investor, Money and SmartMoney magazines, as well as other issues of BusinessWeek, Forbes and Fortune. We turned down insertion orders to run the ad in Kiplinger’s Personal Finance and on Kiplinger.com because the claims made in the ad could not be substantiated and because our inquiries raised more questions than they answered. In fact, the more we looked at this new stock, the more our eyes burned.
“How to hype a stock: As the promoter, you first order up the advertisements. In the ads, you refer people to a so-called third party to attest to the company’s virtues. To be that neutral party, you create an online newsletter. As its editor, you install someone whose existence as an actual person cannot be verified. Then you begin trading the stock, accompanied by almost daily press releases that create a drumbeat of optimism.”
Read more here.