Businessweek (Re)Blooms

When Bloomberg LLP purchased hoary old Business Week magazine from McGraw-Hill you could be forgiven for wondering what they were thinking. The multimillion dollar price tag may have been mere pocket change to the maker of ubiquitous and highly lucrative financial data machines. But still, why bother?

After all, Washington Post Co. is jettisoning Newsweek after nearly 50 years of ownership and a recent complete redesign, because it can’t make the property pay.

Now called Bloomberg Businessweek, both the print and electronic versions of the specialty publication have undergone less of a redesign than a re-imagining. And therein lies the promise of its success.

From it’s very name, it’s clear that the reborn media property is part of a new family and new strategy — the new owner  is the brand, and businessweek is its extension.

It’s a larger and more complicated media property now, packed with information packaged all sorts of ways, serving distinct groups from traders to cultural zeitgeistists. There are short, snappy pieces along with narrative features (Meg Whitman on the campaign trail, municipalities deep-sixed by sophisticated financial trades, etc.), investigative pieces (former Lehman CEO Dick Fuld’s perjury, for-profit college scams), and continuation of special areas of expertise (for instance, the importance of design to productivity).

There are lots of moving parts to manage, so Bloomberg’s strength in low-key, by-the-book management will come in handy. In contrast, other recent attempts to reinvent the business magazine such as Conde Nast’s Portfolio failed, in part because of editorial/managerial temperament.

Bloomberg’s challenge (as with whoever ends up owning Newsweek) is less to make print relevant in the electronic age than to revitalize a trusted (and therefore valuable) brand so that it nimbly adopts new technologies to reach varied audiences in varied ways.

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