When in Disgrace with Fortune and Men’s Eyes — Or, less poetically, some serious changes to Fortune Magazine


Ok, perhaps Shakespeare is not relevant, as in the quote from Sonnet 29, but there’s still something rotten in the state of the publishing world.

Fortune Magazine will cut its publishing frequency from 25 issues — basically every two weeks — to 18 issues, which means some months Fortune will publish only once a month.

Although it recently remodeled the look and feel of the prestigious business magazine, Fortune is expected to remodel the magazine again, this time focusing on longer articles on fewer topics. If Forbes is about investing, and BusinessWeek about news, Fortune will continue its emphasis on managing (which had gotten less emphasis over the past decade) by adding new columns “to help business professionals do their jobs more effectively. It will have a cleaner, less cluttered look and an upgraded Web site,” according to the Wall St. Journal.

In other words, the new Fortune will be more like Entrepreneur or Inc. or even its kid sister publication, Fortune Small Business (FSB) — all good magazines, but all really focused on service journalism. That’s not exactly what Fortune, which has columns on investing and executive lifestyles, was known for.

What’s interesting, I think, is that service journalism — basically articles offering advice and how-to’s — has become more important because the media world is evolving so rapidly that few people truly have a secure grasp of things. I think that’s why how-to articles in the blogosphere are often so much more widely read than analysis articles (such as this one). People are looking for advice to help them make sense and respond to the changes.

Well, it looks like Fortune is giving people what they want.

Oh, and unfortunately, there will be layoffs, too.

Here are some of the proposed changes, according to the Journal:

  • The magazine itself will become more of a lush-looking premium product. Fortune plans to increase the minimum number of editorial pages in each issue.
  • They will stop (or reduce the number) of “CEO-as-god magazine covers that have been a staple of the magazine, whether with Jack Welch or Warren Buffett.” Replacing the “CEO-as-god” stories will be more conceptual stories, such as one about the White House’s relationship with Google.
  • The emphasis on large companies will continue, including on its website. Fortune.com will be “recast to focus on key companies. Executives point to Fortune.com’s blog about Apple Inc. and said there are more high-profile companies that will be treated similarly.”
  • I would expect certain special issues to continue, including the Fortune 500 issue, among others. In fact, we can expect more online-only content about the Fortune 500, “which the magazine hopes to turn into more of a brand that lives online all year.”
  • Fortune is beefing up service journalism (as noted above), “adding features about career advice and business how-tos. One might feature a person who gives hundreds of public speeches a year, and her advice on how to give more effective presentations. Another column might explain how to manage your online profile. Reflecting the growing influence of the federal government in corporate affairs, Fortune is adding a one-page column called ‘Washington Watch.'”

But is it enough for Fortune to succeed? I don’t think so. I think Fortune looses some prestige by dropping its publishing frequency, and perhaps some of its relevance. I also think they’re making at least one mistake: “Executives decided it was more important for Fortune to be more visible on the Web, where the magazine may add staffers.”

Yet the web-based version of Fortune is free — the magazine generates no subscription revenue there, just some ad buys. But online advertising buys typically generate less money than print ads.

Meanwhile, on the personnel front, there are going to be layoffs, probably in the next week or so. It also means that whatever stories reporters were working on may be shelved. It means turmoil for the editorial staff and those of us pitching them.

Tagged: , , , , , , , , ,

Related Posts