What’s behind the overhaul at Bloomberg Businessweek
Megan Murphy took over as editor of Bloomberg Businessweek in November with a mandate — overhaul the magazine to make it more appealing to readers.
Last month, the redesigned magazine was unveiled. It included sharper storytelling, cleaner and more consistent design, and richer graphics and photography.
Murphy was formerly the Washington bureau chief for Bloomberg. She had also been the Washington bureau chief for the Financial Times.
Murphy has also served as the law courts correspondent, investment banking correspondent and chief media correspondent at the FT. She also was the legal affairs correspondent at Bloomberg News and a securities lawyer at Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati in Palo Alto, California.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Yale University, a master’s degree from Columbia School of Journalism and a juris doctor from Northwestern University School of Law. She is from Chicago.
Murphy spoke by email with Talking Biz News about the magazine and its changes. What follows is an edited transcript.
What attracted you to taking over the magazine?
What wasn’t attractive about taking over the magazine? For years I’ve admired the quality and daring of Businessweek, and in particular its commitment to the kind of in-depth, long-form business journalism that requires investment. Working with the incredibly talented existing staff, I knew we could make the brand even more indispensable for readers as we enter a new era. I believe deeply that great stories matter – that powerful journalism can change the way people think and improve their lives. So to be able to get to help shepherd it every week? Amazing.
How did you start the overhaul process?
It is a very different time now than when Bloomberg acquired Businessweek eight years ago. We began by looking carefully at how we could tweak the brand to better respond both to the tone, urgency and global demands of the current news environment, as well as to readers’ consumption habits. That informed all of our big decisions regarding content, design, consistency, the updated app, newsletter, and more
What were the main goals of remaking the magazine?
Our goal was to revamp Bloomberg Businessweek so that it would have even sharper storytelling; to be more global by better leveraging Bloomberg’s immense worldwide footprint; a cleaner, more consistent design; and meet readers where, when, and how they consume business news by launching new digital products, like our redesigned app and “Daily IQ” newsletter, and digital access to thought leader calls and events. And all of these improvements demanded a new business model, which we also put in place.
Has the content of the magazine changed from the previous version?
We are keeping the hallmark of Bloomberg Businessweek’s award-winning journalism: unique, immersive, ground-up story-telling that takes readers inside the companies, ideas and trends that are disrupting the global economy. We’ll have a sharper focus on business and finance, and we’ll be doubling down on the intersection of business and politics, from evolving stories like the impact of Brexit and China’s continued expansion westward, to how the Trump administration may reinvent the regulatory landscape.
What do you hope will happen by putting the magazine staff in with the Bloomberg newsroom?
We have long felt that by merging Bloomberg Businessweek into the larger Bloomberg newsroom we would be able to better access the best journalism the company produces, and create a true flow of knowledge and ideas between the magazine and the greater news group. Now we can truly leverage Bloomberg’s unmatched reach of over 2,700 journalists and analysts across more than 120 countries to give readers a complete world view.
How was the website redesigned in tandem with the print publication?
We knew it would be critical to have the same team design the print publication, the website, and the app simultaneously to create a more consistent experience between platforms. Our design team, headed by Rob Vargas, did an extraordinary job in creating an identifiable, and identifiably beautiful, look and feel. We want readers to find that wherever they are accessing Businessweek now – in print, on the web, on mobile – it’s a sleeker experience with and easier navigation. It helps our premium journalism shine through.
How was it decided that the magazine would go after a higher-end audience?
Bloomberg Businessweek subscriptions have been historically underpriced, and extensive focus group and market research showed us that readers are willing to pay more for a high quality, intelligent, globally-focused, multi-platform brand that is backed by the credibility of the Bloomberg name. And as the advertising landscape shifts, we believe putting a greater focus on reader revenue is key.
Our new tiered membership model gives readers more substantial benefits for joining the Bloomberg Businessweek community and the ability to select the package of access points that meets their consumption habits best. We are focusing on this core audience of people who are prepared to pay more for what we think is a better and more comprehensive product.
What does the Daily IQ email bring to the new magazine?
Daily IQ is our newsletter delivering analysis and insight from senior Bloomberg Businessweek editors worldwide each afternoon. Its regionalized so readers in the U.S., Europe, and Asia will see different versions with different content. It’s not designed to be a full round up of what happened in business that day, but what you need to know and why. It’s also nice for me to do some writing again!
What was the thinking behind adding content from Bloomberg Pursuits in the back?
Bloomberg Businessweek has always has a lifestyle section at the back of the magazine – it was formally “Etc.” – and we thought Pursuits, with its long-form narratives and beautiful photography, is more consistent with the look and direction of the new Businessweek on the whole. We also believe it will be especially appealing to advertisers, who still matter very much!
Are there any other tweaks that you’d like to make that didn’t make it this time around?
We’ve done a really good job of cracking most of what we set out to do. And full credit goes to the Businessweek team for literally making miracles happen on such a short time frame. We’re so proud of what we have created. I think now it’s about execution, and making those additional tweaks as they present themselves.