OLD Media Moves

The reasons behind BusinessWeek's ails

July 17, 2009

Belinda Luscombe of Time magazine takes a look at the business journalism sector in the wake of the announcement this week that BusinessWeek was for sale.

Luscombe writes, “Moreover, it’s highly likely that McGraw-Hill, unlike Forbes or Time Inc., does not see running a consumer magazine as a core business. What McGraw-Hill does best is provide specialized information: trade magazines, financial-services data, textbooks. The news business is not in its DNA, just as business journalism wasn’t in Conde Nast’s. Business Week was a stepchild tolerated only as it more or less paid its own way and offered prestige. Once it became a burden, it needed to be hustled off the estate.

“All of this is bad news for business magazines. But it doesn’t necessarily mean business journalism is in trouble, says Sylvia Nasar, an economist and former Fortune writer who teaches at Columbia University’s J-school. There’s more demand for it than ever, and more outlets providing it — also part of Business Week‘s problem. ‘This [economic crisis] is a great story,’ she notes. ‘There is — and will be — more great journalism on it.’

“Just before he found out that the folks who paid him were seeking someone else to do it, BusinessWeek.com’s editor in chief John A. Byrne wrote, ‘What newspapers and magazines are going through right now is a business-model problem, not a readership problem.’ For Business Week, actually, it’s a bit of both: the magazine’s total audience declined during the first six months of 2009, according to the latest MRI data, while Fortune‘s and Forbes‘ grew.

“Interestingly, in the same period, its website, with the much touted Business Exchange — a business-news aggregator cum social-networking site — increased its readership, usually drawing a little over 5 million unique visitors a month, according to Compete.com. That’s not a bad showing, but it’s no savior for a weekly magazine that is losing readers and hemorrhaging money.”

Read more here.

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