OLD Media Moves

Why BusinessWeek will survive

August 6, 2009


A lot had been written and said in the past two weeks about BusinessWeek, which has been put up for sale by its parent company, McGraw-Hill.

Some have even predicted that the company will be unable to sell the money-losing weekly and will end up closing it.

Here’s five reasons why I think it will not close and will be one of the survivors:

1. The top editors have been proactive in trying new strategies. While some people have criticized editor Stephen Adler, he does recognize that the industry is undergoing a dramatic change and has been reacting to that. Plus, he’s got John Byrne as his right-hand man. Byrne has been one of the most innovative people in online business journalism in the past decade. Yes, Adler has made mistakes. But at least he’s willing to try new things. I look at Forbes and Fortune and see too much that reminds me of the 1990s.

2. The magazine’s Web site doesn’t just replicate what’s in print. Yeah, sure, a lot of business magazines put extra content on their site, but BusinessWeek puts more than anyone else, I’d be willing to bet. Its blogs are outstanding, with tons of insights and analysis about industries. It breaks news online as well.

3. Speaking of industries, despite the fact that BusinessWeek has shrunk in the past five years, the core strengths of the publication remain, and they remain strong. The company, technology and finance coverage — the strength of Businessweek for the past 20 years — still brings more to business news junkies every week than any other magazine. The personal finance section is much better than what I see in Forbes and Fortune too.

4. No one in the magazine business does U.S. economics coverage like BusinessWeek. From the columnists to staffers Michael Mandel and Peter Coy, the coverage is prescient and accessible, unlike U.S. economics reporting in, say, The Economist.

5. The brand name. BusinessWeek means authority to a certain type of business reader. It doesn’t scream “celebrity CEO” like Fortune or “mega-rich” like Forbes. It’s an understanding of how the business world works and what that means to people who care about business.

BusinessWeek’s problems are not unique. To get better financially, I’d like to see it start charging for some of its online content, particularly the exclusive stuff.

DISCLOSURE: I worked at BusinessWeek from March 1993 to November 1994 in its Connecticut bureau and remain in touch with a number of staffers, including Byrne and Coy.

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