Felix Salmon linked to my story on Josh Tyrangiel and BusinessWeek. His worry is that Tyrangiel will turn BW.com into another version of Time.com, a massive pageview machine but one that is dependent upon huge traffic flow from its corporate cousins like CNN.com.
But that’s selective reading. Tyrangiel may have made his career at Time but he’s leaving because of the constraints surrounding the magazine’s legacy and corporate genealogy. Here’s how I put it:
Time’s great limitation was its cultural baggage as a weekly magazine. No matter how much Time.com changed the organization’s metabolism, it would always be thought of by readers as a weekly. BusinessWeek, on the other hand, gets a new lease on life if it can fuse Bloomberg’s reputation as an instant-information service with BusinessWeek’s reputation as a trend-watching guide.
To paraphrase the old candy bar commercial, they’re going to take two great tastes and make them taste great together—like peanut butter and chocolate.
In the past, Tyrangiel has used the phrase “medium recognition” to describe the guiding editorial principle behind working with more than one distribution mode. For Time, medium recognition meant training writers to create content that worked well on the web for the web while still creating magazine content that was tailored to a magazine.
This is the valuable talent Tyrangiel was hired for–not tricks for generating pageviews. Bloomberg’s main problem in reviving BusinessWeek and integrating it with Bloomberg is medium recognition. To put it bluntly, BW’s content no longer drives either the magazine or the website. It needs new content, appropriate to each medium, that can grow the franchise. My own opinion is that there is a model for creating a magazine/web hybrid in New York Magazine that is true to both formats. That’s a better fit for:
the combined talents of the former Time team, among whom packaging, graphics, and fluid, timely writing have always been the foot forward. Magazines are better for graphics—charts and photo spreads and charticles—and writing that holds the reader’s attention as it unfolds an A-to-B-to-C story or lays out a complex argument or analysis. The Web works better for trial balloons, opinions, and flat-out news.
And Tyrangiel doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel here. There’s at least one successful model out there that the Bloombergers can retool for business news: New York magazine. When you think about it, the model ports over very well. New York magazine has deep-pocketed ownership willing to invest in a great product. It takes a wise, witty, and knowing voice and applies that to some crucial constituencies. New York uses the Web to stay in constant contact with those subgroups and takes the most successful items from there and adapts them to print.
Bloomberg gives BusinessWeek news credibility. Now it’s Tyrangiel’s job to give it a voice and some franchises (as well as revive some of its older franchises) that will bring non-market focused readers into the Bloomberg fold.
BusinessWeek’s Mr. Outside
November 23, 2009; The Big Money