The two individuals named Advertising Age's 1996 Editors of the Year--Money Managing Editor Frank Lalli and Fortune Managing Editor John Huey--share Time Inc. as an employer.
But that's where the distinctions end.
Mr. Lalli, president of the American Society of Magazine Editors, is seen as a well-connected publishing insider. He worked at New West, New York Daily News and Forbesbefore arriving at Time Inc. 15 years ago. Last year, his seventh in the top spot at Money, he broke all the monthly's single-copy sales records.
Despite nine years at Time Inc., Mr. Huey enjoys portraying himself as an outsider, equally proud of his Southern roots and his work in Europe, where he helped launch that continent's edition of The Wall Street Journal.
In two years at Fortune, Mr. Huey has managed to reinvigorate an editorial staff, unveil a major redesign, revive circulation and get advertisers enthused.
A DUAL BUZZ
In 1996, both titles pulled off a difficult feat in magazine publishing: establishing a buzz for a mature title.
"It's always a challenge for the old established player to be seen as hot," says Martin Walker, chairman of magazine consultancy Walker Communications, who says both titles seem to have accomplished the trick.
Messrs. Lalli and Huey last year faced sharply different challenges.
While the ad-page king in its category, with pages up 3.7% to 1,303.1, Money has had to fight off a slew of competitors. Fortune, despite some soundly profitable years, had to shake off the idea that it was the No. 3 player against Business Week and Forbes.
SHAKING OFF NO. 3 TAG
Third among the trio in ad pages last year with 3,336.6, Fortune's 4.8% gain was better than its two main rivals. In the first half of '96, Fortune's circulation jumped 7% and moved past Forbes to the No. 2 slot, 804,754 to 783,456.
"Did we have problems at Fortune in the recent past?" asks Mr. Huey rhetorically. "Yes. Have we solved most of them? Yes."
From the day Mr. Huey took the helm, he began broadening the magazine's scope beyond its traditional roots as a magazine for managers.
"Our definition of business journalism is broader than just a guidebook for managers or as chroniclers of business," he says. "We see business journalism driven by events, ideas and personalities."
Perhaps the most telling example was the story on Steve Forbes, CEO and editor in chief of Forbes, who ran for president last year.
Some media pundits criticized Mr. Huey because he was going after a direct competitor. The story's subhead asked: "Is he really trying to be president or is he just trying to sell magazines?"
"I expected to be criticized for it," says Mr. Huey, "but we believed in putting Steve Forbes under the same kind of scrutiny as any other presidential candidate. It was an obvious story that someone needed to write and we figured, why not us?"
The company also spent a lot of money to move up the newsstand delivery date to Mondays in 20 key cities following a Friday close. It's a move Mr. Huey thinks will help boost retail sales and create more breaking news.
"We think business can be treated a little more like sports and a little less like religion," says Mr. Huey. "Business is a sport, and it's a contact sport."
By 1996, his efforts had moved into high gear and, in September, he unveiled a sweeping redesign that has has been well received by Madison Avenue.
"The product has improved continuously and the way they are working with placement and merchandising makes it very attractive," said Richard Keiler, president of Keiler & Co., Farmington, Conn. Last year, he selected Fortune over its two main rivals to run two eight-page inserts for DeLoitte & Touche. This year, DeLoitte & Touche is upping its page commitment to Fortune.
ATTACKED NEWSSTAND PROBLEM
Unlike Mr. Huey, Mr. Lalli didn't have to tamper with Money's editorial formula--helping people amass wealth--but he did have to jump-start the magazine's newsstand efforts.
"Newsstand is a measure of how compelling you're making your magazine each month," he says.
In the first half of 1996, paid circulation surged 8.8% to 2,081,724. Newsstand sales were up 24.5%, despite a price $1 higher than rivals SmartMoney and Worth.
Caroline Donnelley, executive editor at Money, said Mr. Lalli "was one of the first editors at Time Inc. to take a strong interest in the business and circulation side of a magazine. I'm sure at the time, many of his [editorial] colleagues thought he had gone off the rails."
Now, she says, that strategic decision-making process has been replicated through the company.
Dan Capell, editor of newsletter Capell's Circulation Report, estimates the title had a 53.6% sell-through in the first half of '96. "Money is doing things right in a lot of directions," says Mr. Capell.
Copyright February 1997, Crain Communications Inc.