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:
- Big magazines–and business titles like Fortune in particular–have been shedding jobs, not creating them. Roth, for instance,was a victim of layoffs at Condé Nast’s Wired magazine last fall–just after he published this excellent and sobering analysis of Demand Media, in which he describes what its ascent says about the future of “content creation.”
- Fortune hasn’t done much with its site for some time. So rehiring Roth, a well-regarded writer and editor at the magazine from 1998 to 2006, signals that it has ambitions to do…something with it.
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 CNNMoney.com 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).
Fortune.com, 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 Fortune.com 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.