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.