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Josh Tyrangiel, Editor of the New Bloomberg Businessweek: Make a Great Magazine and You’ve Got a Great Future. The Mr. Magazine™ Interview.

April 26, 2010

Armed with a hefty dose of knowledge about the web and print and the way people use both media (from his days at Time.com), Josh Tyrangiel, Bloomberg Businessweek editor knows the web in and out and knows what the web can and can’t do. So, when he started planning the new ink on paper edition of the reinvented former Business Week magazine and turning in into Blommberg Businessweek, he knew that he needed “to be very conscious of the strengths of each medium.”

“What the web is good at is grazing, “ he told me in a phone interview. “Where magazines have made a mistake in the past couple years was going with really tiny short webby style stories and headlines. When you make a decision to open a magazine, you actually make a decision to shut out the rest of the world. You have a person’s focus in a way that you don’t online. You need to capitalize on that.”

Mr. Tyrangiel wants to create a magazine that can actually prepare people “to compete every week. You read our magazine on the weekend and you go into the office and you’re covered on a diversity of subjects. On top of that, in addition to being comprehensive, it’s a seductive magazine.”

What about the future of print, I asked. Mr. Tyrangiel answer, “I think the future of print is very bright for people who make great magazines and great newspapers, but the bar has been raised.”

What follows, is in typical Mr. Magazine™ Interviews style, my lightly edited interview with Josh Tyrangiel, editor of the new Bloomberg Businessweek:

Samir Husni: Congratulations on a job well done. It feels like you’ve created a monthly on a weekly basis.

Josh Tyrangiel: You know what? It feels like that. It’s a lot of work, but I really appreciate it.

SH: How are you going to follow up with issue two and three and four? Is it going to be that simple to create a monthly on a weekly basis?

JT: I’ll tell you, one thing that I have told the staff since day one about where we were headed is that it was going to be awfully hard work and that it was going to require us to think in ways that were slightly different to the ways magazines have been created before. You have to think not just about stories, but you have to think visually, you have to think about story mix. We have to really pack it full of things. Everybody has responded. We talk much more about story than we ever have before. The integration between the edit and the art department is much better than it’s ever been and that’s the way it has to be. There aren’t multiple ways to make this particular kind of magazine. It’s very difficult and I want to keep everybody focused. If I can do that, then the payoff is that (the magazine) feels like a really rich reading experience.

SH: Can it be done on a weekly basis? From a reader’s prospective, is it too much?

JT: I think it’s just right. Over the past five, ten years, one of the secular challenges we have is that we haven’t invested in our product particularly well. Paper stock got thin, more white space crept into the layout, story count went down and the price of the issue and the subscription went up. To me the value proposition was just off. What we’re trying to say here is, “We’re worth the money.” One of the ways you do that is being genuinely comprehensive so that you know you pick up this magazine, it arrives on your mailbox on a Friday, you read it and you covered for the week ahead. I would love for people to read the magazine front to back, every single word, but you and I both know that’s not necessarily how people interact with the book. But, for those who do, they’re going to be completely covered. For those who pick and choose, we’ll still give them enough coverage about the areas they care about that they feel like the magazine has an indispensability to it.

SH: Your cover reminds me so much of the front pages of The Guardian and The Observer, the UK papers. The cover has the look of a daily. Yet, once you go inside, it has the look of a monthly. What was the intention behind that cover design?

JT: Remember that this is only one issue and that the consistent aspects of the magazine are inside and that this is our first cover. The idea was to convey some urgency. This is a weekly magazine and one of the reasons that people stopped subscribing to weekly magazines is that they get piled up. My goal is to make sure our subscribers, on the walk from the mailbox to the front door, open this magazine. I want them to engage with it right away. No one expects us to tell them the future, but I think they expect us to be on the news. So, I want our covers to convey urgency. I want them to have enough stuff in those rooflines so that people always find something they’re interested in on those 20 steps from the mailbox to the front door.

SH: One of the things that caught my attention is that you are trying to ensure a future for print in a digital age. Whether you are enhancing the print quality, adding pages, using heavier paper weight, etc. But, so many others have done that before and six months later, we’re back to where we were before that. What’s the long term plan? Somebody just remarked to me today, “Are they going to drop “week” from “business”?” Is it going to be “Bloomberg Business” like Nissan did with Datsun? What’s the plan six months from now?

JT: We have the benefit of being privately owned and having tremendous support from our company. The plan six months from now is to keep growing and to keep doing work, week in and week out. Bloomberg has faith in journalism. The company has faith that if you put out a great product, people will come. So, that’s the plan. The plan is to make a great weekly magazine every week.

SH: Fortune just redesigned. Forbes will probably redesign. The three of you have always been looked at as the cornerstones for business journalism in this country. Besides the frequency, what can you tell your readers, “This is what you need Bloomberg Businessweek for, this is what you need Fortune for, and this is what you need Forbes for?”

JT: I can’t do the work of telling them what they need Fortune and Forbes for, but I can tell them, beyond just the frequency and periodicity, we’re packed with stories and packed with information. We can actually prepare for you to compete every week. You read our magazine on the weekend and you go into the office, you’re covered and you’re covered on a diversity of subjects. On top of that, in addition to being comprehensive, it’s a seductive magazine. There’s lots of stuff we’re telling people that they don’t know and taking them on journeys to meet people, to hear new ideas, to discover new companies they can impact their business lives. I think that’s something we can do uniquely and again, I don’t want to offer positioning statements for Forbes or Fortune, I think they’re both good magazine, but I think we’re in a kind of different category just based on what we’re trying to do.

SH: Sometime back, I think as far as the mid 1980s, some folks were saying the news weeklies are dying and that there is no room for weeklies. All of a sudden we are seeing a great emergence of the weeklies and all are trying to reinvent themselves. What are you doing in this digital age to ensure a print future?

JT: I think you have to be very conscious of the strengths of each medium. I’ve worked on both (mediums) for a long time now and what the web is good at is grazing. People use the web peculiarly for news between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. They’re sitting at their desks, they’re eating lunch, the voicemail light is on and they’re looking for just a little bit of a break. Stories have to be pretty short, headlines have to be written a certain way, and the immediacy of those stories is the capital. In a magazine, you’re getting people in a different frame of mind. You need to recognize that. Where magazines have made a mistake in the past couple years was going with really tiny short webby style stories and headlines. When you make a decision to open a magazine, you actually make a decision to shut out the rest of the world. You have a person’s focus in a way that you don’t online. You need to capitalize on that. You need to think through some one in that frame of mind actually wants from their reading experience. I think there are some people who have done it very well and that is something I think about a whole lot when we redesigned and it’s something I think about with every story. What’s the frame of mind of our reader? What do they want from this? How can we deliver on that?

SH: I remember the first time I met you at Time when you told me about that 11 to 2 timeframe for the web.

JT: You’re running into vacant space. That’s the thing. One the weekend, if you’ve got a magazine, you’re running into prime time.

SH: What is the weakest link in this issue? After this issue came out, what was it that made you say, “I wish we did not do that.”

JT: That’s very funny. I’m going to give you a very honest answer. I just wish it wasn’t all so awesome. I’m going to go back, and part of the culture here, is that we do very brutal post-mortems. I want us to be our own toughest critic, but that’s why I’m really really happy with our issue.

SH: That negates my second question, which is what is your most proud moment in this issue?

JT: My most proud moment is how awesome it all was? Same answer? No, I proud of the fact that it feels original. People have been making magazines for a long time and it’s a beloved format, but I think there are things in here that feel genuinely original and I feel proud of that.

SH: Every time one of our weeklies change someone says, “it’s going to be like The Economist, or they are trying to be like The Economist.” Are you?

JT: No! We’re trying to be like Bloomberg Businessweek. The fact is that I certainly think The Economist is good magazine, but I read everything. On my desk right now is The Economist, People magazine, New York Review of Books, Spectator. I read a lot of stuff, but I just feel like our mission is a unique mission. I’m not trying to be like anybody else. That’s why I said I’m proudest of the fact that it feels original. We have a unique mission, we have readers who are unique and they’re asking for us to deliver to them something they haven’t see before and something that’s useful. So, I’m not trying to be like anybody else at all. I want our magazine to feel different.

SH: One final question, how do you see the future of print?

JT: I think the future of print is very bright for people who make great magazines and great newspapers, but the bar has been raised. Part of our problem is that there was way too much competition and not a lot of it was very good. There are many things that failed, that sadly probably should have. The medium itself is still very strong and has tremendous promise, but our reader and our advertisers are demanding great product. So, make a great product and you’ve got a great future. My own personal belief is that great things rarely fail. So, make a great thing and worry about the rest after you’ve done that first.

SH: Thank you.

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6 comments

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Samir Husni, newsstandpromos, Nancy Berendsen, Tammy E. Yu, Jessica Carrier and others. Jessica Carrier said: Josh Tyrangiel, Editor of the New Bloomberg Businessweek: Make a … http://ow.ly/17aURG [...]


  2. As a long-time (since 1964) reader, I am impressed with the new BBW. A lot more content. Almost as much as the Economist.

    A good interview. Thanks.


  3. I’m writing to you as a former correspondent … whose great ideas have been ignored lately.

    And as a longtime subscriber to BusinessWeek … who has just cancelled his subscription.

    The two are connected, but not in the way that you’d think. This is not John Lawless having a hissy moment.

    To find the reason why, turn the pages of the latest issue to hit my desk. And do what I’ve just done: taken a coloured marker pen and highlight the first place-name that features in every story. After a cursory dash around a few places outside the US in two pages of Global Economics, Bloomberg BusinessWeek hops aboard United and Continental for four pages, to head home.

    It’s page 41 before you get to a story that has a whole page to itself that’s not in America.

    Bloomberg BusinessWeek is suffering from the very same US-centricity that has plagued it for the past couple of years. And sent readers (not just me, get a few Bloombergers to take a walk around The City of London and they’ll soon discover) the feeling that it’s all too American parochial.

    It’s as though the rest of the world doesn’t exist, or, at least, matters so little as to come second best.

    Once you get past page 41 … like on page 42 … it’s Wall Street.

    Okay, page 44 has Societe Generale .. but on Page 45 it’s Gerald Ford, and US mortgage defaults. The mainline items on Bid & Ask on page 46 are Priceline pitcher William Shatner (where do these has-beens come from?), and art market record in New York, and Billionaire Ron Burke’s Americold Realty Trust.

    Please note: The previous week’s lead-story was GM and Big Ed Whitacre and the week before that was GE and Jeff Immelt. Where do the Europeans, the Asians, the Latins figure in Bloomberg BusinessWeek?

    Well, if it hadn’t been for the British being to blame for flooding America’s deep south with oil, the Brits would have got a mention on this week’s lead story, either.

    Then it’s masses, again, on Google, before we divert slightly in Silicon Valley to Elevation Partners. And it’s Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Wall Street, Silicon Valley, for page after page.

    And who are all these CEOs who are worth what they’re paid … who cares! They’re all Americans!!! Including the guy from Google!!!!

    At least Churchill and Stalin get an early mention in Etc. But who on earth is Mad Men’s Don Draper? Note: All the stats on smoking are … about America.

    Don’t we exist?

    Never mind, just beyond a jewelry company in Flutter, NYC … Flutter, NYC, for heaven’s sake!!! — we get to a picture of the Eiffel Tower.

    Oh, sorry, that’s not about a French guy. It’s about a Palm Springs and Portland Oregon hotelier. We should have guessed: no European’s discerning tastes are defined by Egg Benedict on a Sunday Morning with … yep, The New York Times.

    Next page begins: ‘Every few months I host a dinner party in …’

    Yep, New York … again.

    Two pages of Singapore and a British Bag, and then it’s Market Watchdogs watching Uncle Same play the market.

    And of course … they’re all … you’ve guessed it.

    Note the arrogance of the paragraph heading their column on page 87: Conspiracy theorists say a government entity has already been buying stocks …’

    Which government, for god’s sake? The assumption is, of course, there’s no other place but America.

    And on the final page, the Hard Choices are faced by … oh, hey, guys, it’s a former Time Warner CEO who became chairman of Citigroup.

    Well, let me ask you something about upcoming issues: Having feature, on page 80 of the previous issue a young nobody who used dad’s money to buy a ‘soccer’ team (nobody else in the world calls football soccer, except Americans) I wouldn’t mind betting that there’s nothing scheduled on the business-game of Football that will be thrust into every other publication’s headlines in June by The World Cup.

    Football is such BIG business, Arabs and a Russian oil oligarch have bought into the top four clubs in the world’s top football league, the UK’s Premiership (spending billions in the process on Manchester City and Chelsea) — whilst American owners in another two top clubs (Manchester United and Liverpool) are being hounded out by the fans, because they are seen as not having enough cash to spend on foreign players.

    It’s spend, spend, spend, whilst clubs who already have spent (without getting success) are going broke, broke, broke.

    It’s a great story. I won’t be reading it in Bloomberg BusinessWeek for two reasons.

    It won’t be covering it. And my subscription just lapsed.

    However, if you’re not having a hissy moment, and want some more great (non-American) ideas (you should read the synopsis of the piece I suggested on Barclays recently, what a bank! British but run by the oddest couple, a Brit and, yes … an American!), just email. Best wishes John Lawless


  4. I kind of agree that there isn’t really a market for news weeklies anymore.. I mean, I read all the daily sources, but this day in age, by the time a week has gone by, a lot has happened!


  5. [...] Quando invece è stato presentato il nuovo numero,a fine aprile, si è capito che la montagna non aveva partorito il classico topolino, ma una testata rifatta da capo, quasi un mensile travestito da settimanale, come spiega in quest’intervista il nuovo direttore Josh Tyrangiel. [...]


  6. I Read a lot of magazines and usualy when they make a change they make it worse. But when Bloomburg took over bussiness week I thought it was brillant. This was the best redo I have ever seen! about the only thing I would like to see is when you show a company’s name in bold print in a article is that you would show the symbol also . I have stopped taking a couple of magazines because yous is so good I don’t need them(re:news week) KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK. Bill Dwyer ( you can use this in letters to the editor)



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