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Tough times for big three business titles

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Bloomberg L.P. announced last month that it has named Josh Tyrangiel editor of BusinessWeek, which the company was to officially acquire from McGraw-Hill Cos. on Dec. 1. The selection of Tyrangiel, who was managing editor of Time.com, offers a further glimpse into Bloomberg's strategy for BusinessWeek as the magazine and its two chief competitors, Forbes and Fortune, face an uncertain future. Management at these magazines understands that unlocking the value of the Internet audience will be one of the keys to thriving, if not just surviving. Bloomberg, for instance, hired Tyrangiel in part for his efforts in helping build Time.com from 400 million page views in 2006 to an estimated 1.8 billion this year. “I think you're going to see a host of changes as these three try to get the formula right,” said Reed Phillips, managing partner at media investment bank DeSilva & Phillips. “The formula has been right for a long time, but, all of a sudden, the magazines aren't doing as well in this severe advertising recession. I know that the marketers will still need to reach those audiences, but we're going to see a remaking of the business model.” “Their business model is in a serious kind of disarray,” said Audrey Siegel, exec VP-director of client services at media agency TargetCast. Ironically, the circulation of these print publications remains strong. Forbes' circulation stands at 933,000, according to fall 2009 Mediamark Research & Intelligence figures. BusinessWeek's circulation is 879,000, and Fortune's is 862,000. Nonetheless, all are struggling to attract advertisers, at least in print. “When the economy is down and marketing budgets are tight, the ability to track and measure ROI is crucial,” said Ted Kohnen, VP-interactive marketing at advertising agency Stein Rogan + Partners. “Print is one of those vehicles where it's very difficult to measure. Dollars can be used more efficiently elsewhere.” BusinessWeek's ad pages declined 34.7% in the first three quarters of this year compared with the year-earlier period, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures. Published reports said that almost one third of BusinessWeek employees lost their jobs in November. Forbes' ad pages fell 30.8% through the first three quarters. The magazine has laid off scores of employees in several waves over the past year, but it has also launched Forbes India and embarked on other initiatives. Fortune's ad pages declined 34.9%. The brand has cut staff, scaled back its print frequency and closed Fortune Small Business, a custom publication it produced for American Express. Despite their troubles, each of these publications has a strong online presence. BusinessWeek (6.1 million unique visitors in October, according to Compete.com) has bolstered its Web site with, among other initiatives, user-generated content and bloggers. Fortune (9.1 million uniques) generates traffic as a part of CNN.com. Forbes.com (10.7 million uniques) pioneered aggregating business content online. M
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