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Osekoski not business as usual

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Christine Osekoski gets excited when she talks about her passions, whether it's her successful efforts to boost the ad pages at Fast Company or save cheetahs.

Yes, cheetahs. Osekoski—who years ago was the first girl in New York state to receive the Gold Award, Girl Scouts of the U.S.' equivalent of Eagle Scout—recently spent time in Africa, feeding and exercising cheetahs. She also has helped save turtles in Costa Rica. Later this year, she'll return to Africa to help with cheetah conservation.

Her volunteer efforts are focused on improving the world, and Osekoski, promoted in August from national sales manager to publisher of Fast Company, views her job in much the same way.

"I'm probably the earthiest, crunchiest granola chick that wears a pair of Prada shoes in New York," she said. "This magazine, I feel, is going to change the way business is done and the way people are thinking. That's one of the main reasons I'm here. The magazine empowers people to challenge convention."

A fan of the Fast Company and a subscriber since her early days at DDB Needham in Chicago, Osekoski had stopped reading it several years ago. Then, after Morningstar Inc. CEO Joe Manseuto acquired it, along with Inc., in 2005 she started paying attention to it again.

When Fast Company sought a new national sales director last year, Osekoski eagerly applied for the post. "I said please, 'Sign me up,'" she recalled. "My heart was palpitating in every interview. I wanted this job so badly."

Her first 16 months at the magazine has been a productive one. This year, ad pages through November are estimated to be up 18%, and ad pages in its annual Masters of Design issue in October will be up 60%, she said.

Existing customers are increasing their buys, and new advertisers are coming into the magazine after taking a wait-and-see approach following the change in ownership. Hewlett-Packard Co. is among those that left the book for a year, but now all three of its business units are advertisers. Also new to the book are Citibank, Doubletree Hotels and Hyatt Hotels & Resorts.

At the same time, newsstand sales are up 37% over two years ago, a reflection, Osekoski said, of efforts by Fast Company editors to pick story topics that start conversations, such as recent stories on bottled water.

In her new role, Osekoski continues to oversee advertising but she's also intent on building out the Fast Company franchise in much the same way the Inc. brand has been extended. She has assembled a "transformational dream team" to continue Fast Company's evolution. Events will be added, and the Web site—while not under her purview—will evolve and have more guest bloggers, she said.

"We have been through a lot," she said. "I feel like the momentum has been increasing. Now we're at that juncture where the stars are aligning."

Osekoski added, "I am in publisher nirvana, in magazine nirvana."

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