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‘BusinessWeek’ redesign ushers in new era

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Keith Fox, president of McGraw-Hill Cos.’ BusinessWeek, is betting that readers will want to spend more time with the newly redesigned magazine and that advertisers will follow suit.

“The benefit of having a more engaged reader makes for better business,” said Fox, who was named to his current position in April following a three-year stint as president of McGraw-Hill Professional. The extensive redesign, unveiled last week, is “a way to re-energize the brand, and take into account the way people go to multiple sources to get their news and how people are using media differently. It’s much more of a conversation.”

Some of the editorial changes are decidedly Web-like, such as the new “BTW” feature in the news section and the Web 2.0-inspired “Links,” which aggregates content from other news outlets.

The redesign, the first in four years, is a significant departure from its predecessor. Foremost among the changes is a new logo and the elimination of the blue rule under BusinessWeek. The front section has been expanded to include more global business news, while there is less space devoted to lifestyle coverage. Opinion pieces are neatly packaged in the back of the book. Both “Feedback” and Maria Bartiromo’s “Face Time” have switched to weekly frequency.

“It’s a major face-lift,” said Jon Schaaf, VP-media director at ad agency HSR Business to Business. “They want to engage the reader rather than [marketing] a property strictly catering to advertisers.”

He added that reinventing the magazine with the Web in mind was the right call. “I want to put my clients in front of users who are more interactive,” he said. “It’s an interesting format and may help engage readers more effectively than in the past.”

BusinessWeek’s advertising could use a boost. Through September, ad pages fell 16.4% compared with the same period last year, according to Publishers Information Bureau. Ad revenue fell 11.3%.

Total circulation was down 1% to 919,343 copies in the first half of the year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. However, newsstand circulation was up 25%. The magazine guarantees advertisers a rate base of 900,000.

Fox said he expects the fourth quarter to be relatively flat adwise, but said he sees “good momentum” for early 2008. “Print is still an important part of how people consume media,” he said.

BusinessWeek is not alone in undergoing a major redesign this year. In March, Time rolled out its most sweeping redesign in 15 years, and Newsweek this week introduced a redesign of both its print product and Web site. Rumors continue to fly that Fortune is readying a redesign.

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