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'Fortune' debuts major redesign

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The redesign Fortune unveiled with its Dec. 10 issue is intended to get the biweekly back on track amid growing competition and declining ad sales.

The redesign includes new typefaces, more white space and color-coded editorial navigation.

Red sets off "First," which includes news, analysis, off-beat items (such as the 2,000 seat auditorium at Google's Silicon Valley's headquarters morphing into a tour stop for musical artists) and financial columnist Allan Sloan. Blue is for "Technology," green is for "Investing" and orange is for "Life at the Top."

The Red, Blue and Green sections run in every issue, while the Orange section runs every other issue. Long-form articles continue to run in the feature well.

"They've cleaned it up in terms of form and organization," said Bruce Delahorne, senior manager of national advertising at CDW Corp., which regularly advertises in Fortune. "But I'm not sure there was a crying problem they needed to solve. I view it more as contemporizing the publication."

Kelly Foster, senior partner and print director for media buying agency MindShare North America, who buys ad space in Fortune on behalf of American Express Corp., Ameriprise Financial and Sprint Nextel Corp., among other clients, said, "It's a lot more navigable, with the same strong content."

Big changes at Time Inc.

Fortune has been at the center of recent changes at parent company Time Inc. that are aimed at reversing ad losses among its business publications:

  • In October, Time restructured the ad sales organization for its portfolio of business properties, which include Fortune, Fortune Small Business, Money and CNNMoney.com, and changed the group's name to the Fortune|Money Group from the Time Inc. Business and Finance Network. The changes were made one week after Time shuttered Business 2.0 and folded its content into Fortune.

  • As part of the reorganization, Hugh Wiley, formerly group associate publisher of the Business and Finance Network, was named publisher of Fortune. The post had been eliminated in April 2006 when Time merged the ad sales teams of Business 2.0, Fortune, Fortune Small Business and Money.

  • In late November, Mary Gallatin, most recently executive director of marketing services at Dow Jones & Co., was named to the newly created position of global marketing director of Fortune.

CDW's Delahorne said that rehiring a dedicated publisher would help Fortune turn things around adwise more than the redesign. "Hugh is going to end up having a larger impact in terms of financials and readership numbers," he said. "It was a worthwhile attempt with the Business and Finance Network, but now things are a lot more organized."

MindShare's Foster agreed. "Every brand needs its own voice, and every magazine needs a publisher to spearhead that publication," she said. "Fortune has good people over there. The previous structure was causing the decline."

Through the first six months of the year, Fortune's paid circulation grew 1.5% to 865,850, from 852, 818 during the same period last year, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations.

Yet Fortune continues to struggle on the ad front. Ad pages fell 18.6% through September compared with the same period in 2006, according to the Publishers Information Bureau. Ad revenue dropped 11.7% during the same period.

Positive signs for 2008

Wiley said there are "positive signs" heading into 2008, with good momentum in core categories and a turnaround expected for automotive advertising.

The new Technology section will provide for more integrated marketing packages, Wiley said. "We have signed an integrated deal with a major telecom for a $5 million annual program that's dialing right into the technology section in print, with online, conference, video and broadcast components," he said, adding that he could not yet name the advertiser. "We want to leverage our technology coverage to the technology sector in interesting ways."

Wiley said he is eager to enhance the Fortune 500 franchise. For the first time ever, next year's issue will be a standalone (May 5) and will be marketed along with the first Fortune 500 Conference, scheduled for December in Washington, D.C. Fortune is also expanding its presence on corporate sibling CNNMoney.com, providing breaking news coverage, online video and increased blog coverage.

Fortune's redesign arrives as the competition for b-to-b ad dollars heats up and the economy begins to cool down. BusinessWeek, published by McGraw-Hill Cos., recently unveiled a comprehensive redesign; and Conde Nast Portfolio switched to a monthly frequency in September. The Fox Business Network debuted on cable Oct. 15, and this month Fox's corporate parent, News Corp., officially takes charge of Dow Jones & Co., publisher of The Wall Street Journal, with dramatic changes expected.

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