Fortune vs Forbes vs BusinessWeek vs that new Condé Nast publication (TechVogue?) “Getcha Popcorn Ready” 1

Portfolio vs Fortune vs Forbes vs BusinessWeek “Getcha Popcorn Ready” 

By Kyle Austin

After indulging in a week long serving of Humble Pie I’m back and apparently so is the battle for the title of “Best Business Pub in the Land.”

Matthew Karnitschnig had an excellent feature on the rejuvenated rivalry in Friday’s Wall Street Journal (Sorry they’re still doing that paid subscription thing over there). 

Karnitschnig does a good job in pointing to some of the new redesigns that the print editions of Fortune and BusinessWeek are undertaking while also taking a detailed look at the battle for winning Big Ad buyers – Something that has gotten increasingly difficult with the troubles in auto maker and real estate land. 

The best part of the story -Those interviewed for the piece don’t mince words.  James S. Berrien, president of the Forbes magazine group may have given the best bulletin board material.

  • In the story Karnitschnig references a Publishers Information Bureau report that notes financial advertising pages across the board fell 7.3% in the first half of this year, while technology dropped 12.8%, and autos fell 4.5%.
  • According to the study Forbes was the least affected by the fallout – down only 1.1% in ad pages.  BusinessWeek and Fortune each saw ad pages drop by 20%, but they attributed Forbes marginal fallout to ad supported supplements and special sections that they did not include.
  • This prompting Berrien to say “They ought to spend more time making ad calls than slinging mud.”

Conde Nast’s entrance into the market with Portfolio (Not TechVogue) has only half the circulation of the other books but as Karnitschnig notes it does have deep pockets and pre-established relationships with high-end advertisers.

David Carey, Portfolio publisher and group president with Condé Nast Business Media went on the record with Mediaweek for the first time in May when he gave some insight into the strategy for gaining market share from the incumbents.  

At the time he sent some shockwaves through the industry by announcing that Porfolio’s first issue in April would be more then 300 pages – 150 of those pages being ads.  The September (Monthly from here on out) and October issues were roughly the same size.  Compare that with the most recent issue of Fortune (Probably the most similar in appearance) – 202 pages.  

However, as I’m sure you’ve has heard by now. The early editorial reviews on the book have not been pretty. See Here.   Former deputy editor Jim Impoco, who has since been fired by Portfolio editor Joanne Lipman, was instrumental (although I’m sure Conde Nast’s deep pockets had something to do with it) in bringing together an extremely talented group of writers including Kevin Maney of USA Today fame. 

However, with Impoco no longer in the picture there seems to be growing dissent among the ranks. Case in point – Senior writer Katrina Brooker who was woo’d to Portfolio from Fortune last year; only to jump back to Fortune last month 

With all that said; the biggest uphill battle facing Portfolio will be in the online realm.  Even if you’re covering business news at a “monthly” it has become a “daily” in terms of the internet.  

When I sat down to lunch with David Kirkpatrick of Fortune last month the redesign of Fortune’s print edition didn’t come up once.  What he was interested in was getting feedback on was how to better improve Fortune’s online destination. Specifically, he was looking for thoughts on how to make Fortune’s online columns more readily available and easier to register for.  

As Karnitschnig notes in his piece – Fortune, which has bundled its online offering with (It will soon be re-branding had 8.0 million unique visitors through September in year-to-date average while drew 7.5 million and BusinessWeek Online drew 2.8 million visitors.  Karnitschnig and topped them all with 8.1 million unique visitors in year-to-date average through September. (Source: Nielsen/Net Ratings for “Top Online Financial News and Information Destinations.”)

Online IS the new forum for influencing through business journalism and you’d be hard pressed to find business writers at the monthlies that are willing to be left out of daily business drama.  Business writers like David still enjoy writing the in-depth features for the print publication but they’ve become borderline obsessed with writing the daily exclusives to move markets. 

With Portfolio clearly focusing on building the print publication rather then its online offering one wonders how long writers like Maney will stay content. He has started his “Tech Observer” blog on but the number of online visitors likely won’t compare to what he was getting on his former blog.

Without support from the top to get audience numbers up online it will be tough for him and other online contributors on to stay relevant in moving markets. did not draw enough online visitors through September (It was in beta mode up to August 23rd and only went live online in April)  to register in the Top 15 of those Nielsen/Net Ratings for “Top Online Financial News and Information Destinations.” 

This rejuvenation of the monthly/daily business battle between the three incumbents and the new player isn’t going away anytime soon and if this article is any early indication it will be fun to watch. 

 As TO would say “Getcha Popcorn Ready.”   


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