Ad Age's Magazine A-List: Josh Tyrangiel Is Editor of the Year

Bloomberg Businessweek Leader Revives Flatliner With Provocative Covers, Smart Packaging and Irreverent Storytelling

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When Bloomberg LP bought Businessweek from McGraw-Hill in a late-2009 fire sale and renamed it Bloomberg Businessweek, many an industry observer scratched his head. Other potential buyers had passed; the consensus was that the franchise was hopeless. Did Bloomberg really think it could turn it around?

Amazingly, yes. To lead a new editorial vision, the company soon named Josh Tyrangiel the magazine's editor. Mr. Tyrangiel had been the respected deputy managing editor at Time , which made him a reasonably obvious candidate; on the other hand, he doubled as the magazine's music critic and his resume included stints at Vibe, Rolling Stone and MTV . Was he really the man to breathe new life into a business weekly, of all things?

Josh Tyrangiel says his fearless editorial team deserves credit for bringing Businessweek back from the brink.
Josh Tyrangiel says his fearless editorial team deserves credit for bringing Businessweek back from the brink. Credit: David Yellen
Once again, yes. Mr. Tyrangiel and his team have managed to make Bloomberg Businessweek a must-read with provocative cover stories, smartly packaged departments and briefings, and a marked irreverence about the subject matter at hand.

A January cover on the Continental-United merger titled "Let's Get It On," for instance, showed one airplane mounting another like a barnyard animal in heat and promised "an inside look at the complexity and absurdity of making the world's largest airline." It's worth noting that Mr. Tyrangiel and his partner in crime, Creative Director Richard Turley, who emerged as a magazine-design rock star after joining Businessweek from The Guardian, sit opposite each other in the magazine's open-office plan (more on that in a bit).

Bloomberg Businessweek doesn't appear on the Magazine A-List proper, as it's still on its way back into the black. But we're naming Mr. Tyrangiel Editor of the Year for helping to bring the brand back from the brink with talked-about content that makes the most of Bloomberg's investment in good old-fashioned editorial excellence.

Ad Age spoke to Mr. Tyrangiel on Oct. 9.

On Bloomberg Businessweek's buzzy covers: "I'm glad that our covers have captured a lot of attention and that some people call them controversial, but that 's really only because the stories themselves are controversial. I think part of it is that we have a group of people here who are not afraid to handle really hot subjects. I like that we have journalists who really want to do stories that ask very difficult questions that are sometimes in conflict with the people that we cover."

On merging edit and art: "I have always believed that the old magazine-manufacturing assembly plant, where you get some words, you send them over to the art department and they send it over to photo, just didn't make any sense. So I made a conscious decision that editors, photo editors, writers and designers should all get mixed together -- and particularly editors and designers should sit next to each other -- because they influence each other's thinking."

On survival: "When I started in this business, a magazine was one product with two revenue streams: advertising and circulation. Now, the number of revenue streams you need to thrive just keeps growing, and I happen to think we're in a very good position to do that because I sit in a building where 10 feet over my head is an HD television studio, down the hall is a shop full of mobile developers who do really, really great work and within my sightline are all the folks working on the web. So I feel like this is a good spot to cope with the reality of modern journalism. We can do all of those things, we can extend Businessweek into all of those different areas and we don't have major capital expenses to make that possible."

On Bloomberg Businessweek office culture: "We put out about 50,000 words a week in the magazine. It's an immense amount of work, and so we hire for talent and for temperament. If you don't have the right temperament, we don't really want you, because we know how close the quarters are, we know how much the demands are to be open in your criticism and then to receive criticism, too. So we really haven't had any huge fights -- other than that gang war we had with The Economist a couple years back. But I'm sure you saw all the coverage of that ."

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