3: Fun times on business front

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or a guy voted one of the best 100 business journalists of the 20th century, Fortune Group Editor John W. Huey Jr. can sound like a producer pitching a new reality show concept to CBS: "It's about conflict! It's about competition!

It's about cupidity! It's about avarice! It's about insecurity! It's about success!"

It's also about another kind of survivor-Fortune magazine. In a year when new economy magazines grew fat on the largesse of dot-coms and related businesses, senior citizen Fortune held its own. Now that the gold rush is over, Fortune is expected to remain solid as younger titles get skinny.


Mr. Huey, a one-time crime reporter who until last month had worn the managing editor crown at Fortune for six years, likes to describe in fangs-and-claws language how the venerable financial publication stalks the business jungle.

"We write from the gut about business," Mr. Huey explains. "And when you read a copy of Fortune, you can tell what century you're in."

It's also easy to tell the financial condition of the AOL Time Warner publication. For the second half of 2000, Fortune's North American circulation rose 4.2% over the same period in 1999, to 853,267, according to the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Newsstand sales for the 24-times-a-year publication reached 104,709, up 2.3%.

"That's an amazing feat," says Dan Capell, editor of Capell's Circulation Report, "because between 1999 and 2000, the overall number of copies of magazines sold on newsstands fell off about 10%. It was one of the worst periods I've seen-but not for Fortune."

The magazine posted a stunning year in 2000 ad income. Last year, 1,021 companies placed ads in the magazine, a 38% surge over 1999, according to in-house statistics. Figures from Publishers Information Bureau show that with the high-orbit circulation came revenue at a space-shuttle altitude: revenue rocketed 46.6% to $476.8 million, while ad pages shot up 37.5% to 6,258.53.


It was survival not just of the fittest-but of the buffest. Yet it wasn't always so.

When Mr. Huey moved into the managing editor position in 1995, "We had frozen into a bland institutional voice," he says. It was as tasteful-and as zzzz-inducing-as a basic blue blazer.

"We weren't addressing what business felt like and how technology had turned business inside out," agrees Jack Haire, president of Time Inc.'s Fortune Group, which also publishes eCompany Now and Fortune Small Business. Mike Federle is the Fortune publisher.

A veteran of The Wall Street Journal and the Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Mr. Huey "got it"-business is as much a personal lifestyle issue as sex or politics. During his six-year stint, he Maxim-ized Fortune-aiming it more toward the boomer demographic with an MTV attention span.


The publication was chopped into a front section of tabloid-funny tidbits, such as "I Pay More in Income Taxes Than Cisco Does" and "Unsolicited Career Advice for an Unemployed Sock Puppet," as well as quick-jab columns such as Stewart Alsop's on information technology. In the back, the "Fortune Advisor" acts as a personal consigliere for your job, your money and your gadgets.

During Mr. Huey's tenure, Fortune Small Business and eCompany Now were launched to further capture their markets and combat rivals like Fast Company, The Industry Standard and Red Herring (though eCompany is still an unproven entity in a category roiled by dot-com fallout). Meanwhile, Fortune's Web site ( moved the magazine to a digital forum.


"When someone says, `Your magazine's become just like People,' " new Managing Editor Rik Kirkland explains, "I say, `Yeah, what's your point?' Like People, like Vanity Fair, we're a great mix of the frivolous and the serious."

That mix resulted in editorial pages jumping from 2,700 in 1999 to an information-dense 3,650 in 2000.

At the same time, the publication that, as Mr. Haire says, "invented the corporate profile as an art form" plainly reveres its institutional memory. Mr. Kirkland has spent more than 20 years with Fortune, which was founded 71 years ago, the same year construction started on the Empire State Building. Renowned business reporter Joseph Nocera was promoted to executive editor.

The magazine that once featured articles by Ernest Hemingway, photographs by Margaret Bourke-White and covers by Diego Rivera now brings in writers such as Peter Lewis. The magazine lavishly illustrates its articles and runs cover stories on the Holocaust and "The 50 Most Powerful Women in American Business." It also profiles the likes of the World Wrestling Federation's Vince McMahon even as classic photos from Fortune grace its back page.

Advertisers responded to this everything-old-is-new-again Fortune: From 1995-2000, yearly ad pages have almost doubled and revenue has grown by about 165%.

"Fortune brings us both the young decisionmakers and the senior executives, the dot-coms and the bricks-and-mortar companies. Cachet creates the bridge between the two," says Anita Baker, corporate advertising manager for Cisco Systems.


Fortune is "superb at capturing our psychographic," says Jim McDowell, VP-marketing for BMW of North America. "A 30-to-40-year-old person who works hard, plays hard. We hold [Fortune] accountable with Roper Starch Worldwide scores, which are outstanding."

Phil Sawyer, director of advertising research for marketing intelligence company Roper Starch, explains: "In our Read Most scores-which measure how many readers read half or more of the ad copy-Fortune readers score 16% vs. 13% for newsweeklies on two-page spreads, for example. Fortune brings you a quality customer."

Even with the dot-coms going down the dot-commode, Mr. Haire thinks he can read Fortune's fortune. "We're a helluva lot more fun now than we used to be," he promises, "and we'll stay that way."

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