Stephen Baker

The Boost
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BusinessWeek's strategy

November 12, 2009General

It was a strange experience to interview for a job a BusinessWeek, my professional home for the past 22 years. But there I was on Tuesday morning, sitting across from Laurie Hays, a Bloomberg senior editor, and her colleague from human resources. I was a bit disconcerted at first, because they hadn't received the resume and clips I'd sent to the company recruiters. So I had to introduce myself from scratch.

We only had a half hour, but we spent much of it talking about the future of BusinessWeek. And I made a case, which I think goes contrary to the current thinking in the merged enterprise: Forget synergy.

I should say at the outset that when it comes to creating winning business models for business magazines, I'm probably as clueless as everyone else. Still, I've learned as a business reporter that synergy is often a losing proposition, because it focuses efforts on the resources at hand rather than the needs of their customers.

The synergy at Bloomberg BusinessWeek would combine the immense reporting and financial resources of Bloomberg with the global brand and readership of BusinessWeek. It could provide readers with something resembling a comprehensive view of global business. From what we've heard, it would be fatter than today's skinny, ad-starved magazines, and would offer readers twice as many stories. Would readers be interested in that? You tell me.

It seems to me that if readers are going to spring for a paper magazine, it has to be very special, offering them articles that are illuminating and, when possible, fun. How do you create a magazine like that? I would start by convening a diverse group of people and asking them to recall unforgettable business and economic stories they've read, articles (and books) that changed the way they thought. Then go around recruiting the writers and editors who produced them. Nominations?

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