My beloved Business Week magazine, my professional home for decades, is for sale and people are asking me, as an insider, what new owners should do to keep the brand alive and prosperous.
Here’s my answer. There are two journalism/business models that could possibly succeed in the future for Business Week. Since mainstream media is in meltdown mode at the moment, in transition to a different model or extinction, I don’t know really what can work. But these two models have a shot.
Model One, a hybrid subsriber/advertiser web-based brand that is based on a series of engagements or conversations around key business
issues that are curated by smart editors or smart participants. Every serious business person I know craves key information and insight and most (certainly senior people) are willing to pay for it. The best conversations today about innovation, management, green technology, government policy and finance are talking place in a small number of online global social media networks.
I would also explore customized curation as a business model. I know many top executives who would pay big money to have someone who really knew them and their businesses to curate the online and print media and select the news and insights important just to them. Yes, they could do it for themselves using RSS feeds--but they don't. They want outside, fresh eyes to be the curator.
There are many insightful conversations going on at BusinessWeek online. Subscribing to enter those online conversations and advertising around them--a hybrid--can be the base of a new Business Week brand. Migrating stories and conversations to a print platform off the digital platform would augment the brand and produce a magazine at low cost (much as we migrated stories off the I&D site to the Inside Innovation supplement in print).
Model Two is the elite subscriber print magazine. The Economist and the revamped Harvard Business Review both charge high subscriber fees for the delivery of deep insight into management, a global perspective and, increasingly knowledge about innovation and Design Thinking. Neither has a decent web site but both have business readers at the senior level who don't use the web all that much. It works for them and they pay big money to have the HBR and the Economist curate the important news for them.
Other models may also work for new owners of Business Week or for McGraw-Hill, if it decides to keep the magazine. Business Week was launched in 1929, in the midst of a global financial crisis and the start of the Great Depression to explain a turbulent economic world to readers. I can only hope it can be relaunched again, 80 years later, in parallel economic circumstances, to join with its audience in understanding an equally turbulent period of time.