Peter Kafka

Recent Posts by Peter Kafka

Fortune Tackles Its Web Site Again, With a High-Profile Hire


Here’s what qualifies as a man-bites-dog story these days: A big mainstream business publication hiring an experienced business journalist.

Weird, right? But true: Fortune magazine has hired veteran writer Dan Roth to run and revitalize the title’s Web site. He starts as managing editor next week.

This qualifies as news because:

For the past several years, Time Warner’s (TWX) Time Inc. has allowed Fortune to more or less languish on the Web, while letting its site do the digital heavy lifting for all things business, which it does pretty well, attracting more than 13 million unique monthly visitors, per comScore (SCOR)., meanwhile is minimally staffed and serves primarily as a repository for the magazine’s print stories, the occasional special package and a steady stream of updates on Apple (AAPL) from the prolific Philip Elmer-DeWitt. Put it this way: Roth won’t be displacing anyone by taking the top editorial job at the site, because the site hasn’t had a full-time edit person running it for a couple of years.

But now, though Roth won’t say so out loud, it appears that the Time Inc. braintrust has decided to reinvest in and will give him the ability to make more hires. Here’s his more modest description of his job description:

I think Fortune has the chance to take what it does best–covering the most important companies and business people–and reinterpret that for the Web. The goal is to take the intelligence found in the magazine’s long-form features and make that voice and worldview work in a shorter form and at a faster pace.

Disclosure: I worked with Dan for a few months way back in the late 1990s, and he interviewed me when he wrote about my last employer a couple years ago. It’s a good read.

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I think the NSA has a job to do and we need the NSA. But as (physicist) Robert Oppenheimer said, “When you see something that is technically sweet, you go ahead and do it and argue about what to do about it only after you’ve had your technical success. That is the way it was with the atomic bomb.”

— Phil Zimmerman, PGP inventor and Silent Circle co-founder, in an interview with Om Malik