President, Asia Pacific & CEO, Professional Search
Fortune magazine succeeded despite less-than-fortunate timing: Publishing legend Henry Luce envisioned the iconic business magazine a month after the 1929 stock market crash and published its first issue in early 1930. Flash-forward 86 years: Fortune, with an aging reader demographic and only a one-page web presence, has launched a major digital transformation.
Mike Distefano, president of the Korn Ferry Institute, talked with Fortune editor Alan Murray (formerly with The Wall Street Journal and Pew Research Center) about leveraging a venerable brand in the digital world.
What was your vision?
Alan Murray: I have learned that great brands can win even if they’re slow to the starting line. Fortune has that brand strength. The question was how to make our mark in the digital world, having only about 1/20th of the reporting resources of The Wall Street Journal, Reuters or Bloomberg.
How are you deploying those resources?
AM: We can’t be “one-stop-shopping” for general business news. We had to figure out where to build engaged communities. Technology has been the biggest. Fortune 500 CEOs [surveyed in March 2015] told us their number one challenge was the rapid pace of change in technology. [After that] we basically doubled our technology reporting staff. We also have the “most powerful women in business” franchise. In retail, we’re making real progress with that vertical community. And, we have just announced a venture-capital vertical.
These channels grew out of Fortune’s conferences. Tell us more.
AM: Fortune is a three-legged stool—the magazine, conferences and digital. Digital and conferences align so nicely because it’s all about building communities.
What has been the hardest challenge?
AM: Culture change. A magazine reporter could spend two or three months or even six months digging into a story. Now, a lot of reporters write two, three or four stories a day.
What is the impact of multimedia?
AM: It’s critical. In the mobile and social media world, you have to find readers wherever they are. That also requires you to think about vertical audiences.
Looking ahead, what defines success for you?
AM: I want Fortune to be a growing business ... based on content [as the connection with traditional advertising continues to change]. By the time I leave this business, I’d like to know we have created a model that continues to support great journalism.