KEEPING UP WITH THE NEWS: With even wire services and daily newspapers struggling to keep up with the Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch financial crises, what hope is there for weekly and monthly business magazines? Well, the Web, for one thing.
“My weekend sucked,” said portfolio.com editor Dan Colarusso cheerfully. The still-young Web site is adapting to the pace of the news, but doesn’t aim to wholly chase after it. “We’re not a classic financial Web site — we typically don’t cover every twist and turn of the news,” Colarusso said. “A few months ago, we might have waited until this morning to really get to work on this story. In this case, we started plotting the weekend on Friday.” The site posted an article by Jesse Eisinger on Friday night arguing that the government should bail out Lehman Bros. But portfolio.com stopped short of focusing on ground-level reporting. “The Journal and the Times and TV brought so much to bear that it’s a fool’s errand to compete like that,” Colarusso said. “We stepped back and decided the smartest thing we could do is bring a point of view.”
As for the print magazine, the October issue has already shipped. A spokeswoman said the magazine was working on coverage for the November issue.
Even Fortune, which has twice Portfolio’s frequency, is out of luck on the timing: Its new issue, with Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson Jr. on the cover, reaches subscribers on Wednesday and thus doesn’t have the news about Lehman Bros. or Merrill Lynch. Publisher Vivek Shah, president, Fortune Money Group, said the magazine is using cnnmoney.com, fortune.com and its broadband video platform to keep readers informed. “We feel pretty well equipped,” he said, adding that regular coverage of the credit crisis will continue to roll out in each issue of the magazine.
In order to offset weakness in financial advertising (which is traditionally the largest ad category), Fortune has been diversifying into travel, luxury, apparel and retail. “We knew this would all have an impact on financial, but Fortune is actually up 3 percent through August,” he added. Shah said no advertisers have so far asked to be distanced from a piece on, say, Lehman Bros., but the news brings more interest to Fortune and attracts larger audiences, so from that standpoint, advertisers are happy.
And in another case of bad timing, Forbes’ next issue will be devoted to the Forbes 400, its annual special issue “providing a snapshot of American wealth,” hitting newsstands Friday. Said deputy managing editor Stewart Pinkerton: “We are looking at every single department of the magazine to see what we can do to analyze this financial crisis in our pages.” Forbes.com had a package of stories analyzing the crisis, alongside a graphic calling Sept. 15 “Black and Blue Monday.” (Time will tell whether it will stick).
Meanwhile, BusinessWeek has the advantage in the category: It doesn’t close until Wednesday, and has what one editor described as “a huge team” on the stories, about a dozen staffers across nearly all sections of the magazine. Editors worked through the weekend, and by Sunday, the Web site turned around an online package. The cover has yet to be determined. — Irin Carmon, Amy Wicks and Stephanie D. Smith
A FAR CRY FROM TARTS AND TULIPS: Former Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia chief executive officer Susan Lyne has landed another top job, but not at a media company. Instead she will become ceo of Gilt Groupe, a luxury online retailer founded in November by Alexis Maybank, a former eBay executive, and Alexandra Wilkis Wilson, who worked for Bulgari and Louis Vuitton. The business has several investors, including venture capital firm Matrix Partners and former DoubleClick ceo Kevin Ryan, who is now Gilt Groupe’s chairman.
The upstart retailer is a change from Lyne’s past employers — before landing at MSLO, she spent eight years at The Walt Disney Co. heading up development of ABC television shows including “Desperate Housewives” and “Grey’s Anatomy,” and founded entertainment magazine Premiere.
When Lyne left MSLO in July after four years at the helm, she said she was approached by a number of media companies (it was reported that one of the meetings Lyne was to have was with Time Inc. ceo Ann Moore, which led to speculation that Lyne could succeed Moore when she retires). “I had lunches with a lot of people,” Lyne said. “I did talk to more than a few media companies, and some of them were very tempting.”
But Lyne said she was attracted to the opportunity to oversee a growing business from the ground up. “At the end of the day, to be at a company where the hard work hasn’t been done yet, or all been done, or where I was not being brought in to fix legacy problems was very compelling,” she said, adding, “It’s an opportunity to get into a company when it is still young enough that I can be a big part of shaping.”
Lyne believes Gilt Groupe can leverage media to expand its brand. “There’s a lot of room to grow both the categories we’re in and the membership. The awareness of Gilt is still relatively low. I think we can change that very quickly. There are a lot of media partnerships that we can do — a lot we can do to create private sales and special events.” Lyne also added that Gilt is building out blogs and video content on the site. — S.D.S.