What Fortune’s new editor sees in its future
Fortune magazine needs to reach its readers by telling the same story across multiple platforms and by chronicling how business is affecting society, said its new editor in an interview Wednesday.
Clifton Leaf, who had been deputy editor since 2014, also said that the Time Inc. business magazine will be expanding its conference offerings in the future.
“I have this gleeful sense of optimism about journalism, which may be a little rare these days,” said Leaf. “But I believe in the power to do good. I don’t think there’s been a time where there’s more interest in the story of business. There are some groups that want to challenge business more, and some that want to celebrate business. Both of those readers are coming to Fortune.”
Leaf replaces Alan Murray, who was named chief content officer of Time last year but has continued to hold the editor title at Fortune. Leaf said his role in replacing Murray means more evolution for the publication.
“The things that Fortune does really well, which is telling great stories and offering extraordinary access to corporate leaders, and pushing the envelope on what the challenges are for business and for society at large, we will continue to do those things,” said Leaf. “My challenge is how to do the kind of storytelling we do in different ways and across different platforms. We know that everybody doesn’t read print. We know that some readers come to us on digital. We know that some people come to us at events and hear stories on stage and in hallways.”
Leaf is the founding co-chair of the Fortune Brainstorm Health conference, which launched in November. Leaf said another one would be held in May. He also mentioned that the 2016 Global Forum held in Rome in December was a huge success and that the magazine was interested in other events and coverage that focused on how business shapes society.
“As a journalist, you don’t often find yourself in that position,” said Leaf. “But at Fortune, we’re not only able to hold the business leaders feet to the fire and challenge sometimes companies in a good way, but we also can convene business leaders to work together for positive change. That is amazing.”
On the editorial side, Leaf said to expect more video content from Fortune. The number of monthly video streams on its website is now more than 3 million, according to comScore, compared to less than 1 million a year ago.
“Fundamentally, we are the story teller, the information source and the inside counsel,” said Leaf. “We advise, we offer guidance, and we tell great stories. The challenge is how do you keep finding those stories and telling those stories and doing that in platforms where the preferences are always changing. People read differently on their phones than they do on their desks. They read differently on a plane than when they are getting ready in the morning.”
Leaf was previously executive editor of Smart Money magazine and he worked at Fortune from 2000 to 2007 before returning in 2013. He was also a guest editor for the New York Times op-ed page and Sunday Review.