Looking back at BusinessWeek’s strategy
I am in Pamplona, Spain, this week, teaching business journalism at the University of Navarra, which has one of the top business journalism (periodismo económico) programs in Europe.
The visit has given me a chance to finally see the doctoral dissertation of Manuel Baigorri Ruiz about BusinessWeek, which was completed shortly before the magazine was sold to Bloomberg L.P.
Although the dissertation is in Spanish, Baigorri included English transcripts of his interviews with top BusinessWeek executives and editors in the back of the dissertation. I found many of the comments interesting given what happened with the magazine and what Bloomberg has done with the magazine in the past 15 months.
Here are some of the best:
From an interview with BusinessWeek president Bill Kupper:
“I think BusinessWeek has two competitors. One is The Wall Street Journal because it is global and is out six times in print, and it has a very successful website. The other one is The Economist, because it is a weekly magazine, and wee are a weekly business magazine; we are global, they are global; they have a website, we have a website; they have conferences, we have conferences.”
From an interview with BusinessWeek editor Stephen Adler:
“BusinessWeek looks very different now that it looked a few years ago. In the last year, we have made a lot of changes in our writing style, design, focus…These changes are focused on our philosophy of trying to be intelligent, fair, but the world is changing a lot. And we have to transform our ways of distributing information. We can’t survive without change. People, trends are changing, and so do the media that inform them. If we had done nothing, we would have had an aging readership. But if you bring in new readers, you are improving the magazine for the long term.”
From an interview with executive editor John Byrne:
“We made a mistake strategically in 2000 when the bubble burst. We were unprepared for that and now we are in a rush to be prepared online. But the difficult transition is that magazine writers are magazine writers and online writers are online writers, they write shorter and faster. In 2004, only 5% of the work of magazine writers was exclusively online. In 2005, 33% of the work has been published online without appearing in the magazine.”
From an interview with chief economist Mike Mandel about the differences in coverage under editor Steve Shepard and new editor Stephen Adler:
“Well, one of the biggest differences is that during the nineties Shepard was very interested in productivity and understanding economics. Shepard tried very hard to improve the knowledge of economics in BusinessWeek. Some people come to business journalism without knowing a lot of economics, but from my point of view, the most important thing is to have a difference and interesting story to write about. We are publishing a lot of stories about housing…well I don’t think there is going to be a bust or a recession.”
The interviews were apparently conducted in 2006. Baigorri is now working for Bloomberg News in Madrid.