Fox looks to build ‘BusinessWeek’s’ momentum

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Keith Fox was named president of BusinessWeek in April following a three-year stint as president of McGraw-Hill Professional. He took charge at a critical time, as work was under way on a major redesign of the publication. The redesign, rolled out in mid-October, turned out to be a significant departure from its predecessor.

Some of the editorial changes reflect the influence of the Web, such as the new "BTW" feature in the news section and the Web 2.0-inspired "Links," which aggregate content from other news outlets.

The front section has been expanded to include more global business news, while there is less space devoted to lifestyle coverage. Opinion pieces are neatly packaged in the back of the book.

Fox recently spoke with BtoB about the redesign and how he intends to get BusinessWeek's ad pages back on track.

BtoB: BusinessWeek recently unveiled a comprehensive redesign that has a Web-like feel. What was the strategy behind this?

Fox: The strategy was to make it easier for our readers to get our insights and be able to benefit more than ever from BusinessWeek. People have more media choices than ever before, and you can't ignore the fact that the Web plays a very important role in how people consume media. You also can't ignore the fact that print still plays a vital role in how people make decisions about their career and business.

We wanted to make sure that BusinessWeek was positioned to take advantage of the best of what's happening in the world of business but also reflect the times and the way in which people are consuming media.

BtoB: What has been the initial reaction among advertisers to the redesign?

Fox: It's been overwhelmingly positive. They understand that the flow is different and support the fact that the navigation is clearer. They understand that it was created to increase our engagement with our readers, and they view strong readership and strong usage as a better vehicle for them to advertise [in].

Do I believe that now that we have clearer points of entry and clearer places that people will go, advertisers will want to be positioned against them? The answer is yes, and we're starting to see that.

BtoB: BusinessWeek's circulation through the first half of the year fell 1.2%, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations, while ad pages were off 16.4% through September, according to Publishers Information Bureau. What is your strategy to turn those numbers around?

Fox: The circ number is something you manage. You can grow or decrease. The question is getting it right in terms of targeting business professionals. Our newsstand has been growing pretty substantially. [Newsstand sales for BusinessWeek for the six months ended June 30 increased 25.3% to 31,313, from 24,992 in the year-earlier period, according to ABC.]

From a circ perspective, we want to manage to our natural circulation, a level in which we can reach a large audience, and people are willing to pay for the print issue. MRI [Mediamark Research Inc.] numbers are pretty consistently up and are at the highest level they've been in a decade.

Our performance in syndicated research is incredibly strong. From an advertising perspective, to the extent that you believe PIB, we've had some challenges, but we also have some categories that have performed well.

If we continue to serve our readers and create new [venues for] advertisers, we'll be able to grow our business, and that's what we're doing now. Momentum feels very good for next year.

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