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'Fast Company' gathers speed under Mansueto

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Fast Company was on the ropes when Mansueto Ventures acquired it in 2005, along with Inc., from the now-defunct Gruner+Jahr USA. Mansueto proceeded to pump up both brands with investments that have recently started to pay off.

Indeed, as many business titles struggle with the downward slide in print advertising, Fast Company is bucking the trend. Ad revenue grew 26.3% in 2007, and ad pages increased 20.6%, according to Publishers Information Bureau.

By comparison, ad revenue for BusinessWeek fell 12.9% last year, while ad pages dropped 18.2%. Ad revenue for Fortune was down 10.5%, and ad pages slid 17.3%.

Christine Osekoski, publisher of Fast Company, said the monthly publication brought in 41 new advertisers in 2007, including Canon USA, Brother International Corp. and Dell. And AT&T and Hewlett-Packard Co., which had both taken a hiatus from the publication, came back to the fold.

"We're going in to advertisers and showing them an environment that speaks to early adopters and entrepreneurial thinking," Osekoski said, adding that the February and March issues will be up 30% in ad revenue over last year.

For the six months ended June 30, Fast Company had a total paid circulation of 746,161, down from 758,562 a year earlier, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. However, newsstand sales rose 35% through the first six months of 2007 compared with the year-earlier period, according to ABC.

"We want to keep pushing and evolving," said Bob Safian, who became editor of Fast Company in February 2007. "I can't overstate the investment Mansueto has made in paper, personnel, photography and finding terrific sponsors to build up a franchise that was in serious trouble."

Safian, who was executive editor of Fortune before joining Fast Company, said part of the reason for the magazine's recent surge has been a commitment to more in-depth stories. For example, rather than do a story on why Detroit can't create more fuel-efficient cars, the November cover story focused on Johnathan Goodwin, who rejiggers American cars to get up to quadruple their normal mileage.

"Fast Company is selling a unique audience," said Bill Hebel, media director of b-to-b ad agency Slack Barshinger. "While all business publications reach decision-makers, Fast Company has staked out the territory to reach successful business people and has done an excellent job of editorial consistency."

Hebel added, though, that in the "total scope of business advertising pages, it still has a small portion of market share."

Ad revenue for Inc. grew 9.6% in 2007, and ad pages rose 6.4%. For the six months ended June 30, Inc. had a total paid circulation of 696,421, down from 703,088 a year earlier.

Both Fast Company and Inc. continue to expand their online offerings. In October Mansueto Digital, the online unit of Mansueto Ventures, debuted IncBizNet (www.incbiznet.com), an online business network and user-generated database for private companies. FastCompany.TV, an online video network, kicks off in March.

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