Reinventing FastCompany

FastCompany, the magazine, has been sold.  That is a good thing.

Greg Lindsay posts his recommendations for what should be done in an article over at MediaBistro-

Super Service: How to Revive The Business Publication You Just Bought for ~$35 Million.

John Byrne, Editor-in-Chief, comments at the FCNow blog:

Our job, our very personal and creative job, is to help our readers lead more meaningful and productive work lives by giving them the ideas, the tools, and the inspiration to do their absolute best. And in an increasingly competitive world where the people with the best ideas and skills win, Fast Company is more relevant than ever.

I agree with him.  What worked in the mid-90's when FastCompany started has changed.  They were a fresh voice in amidst ancient voices.  Now, the world has taken FC's ideas to heart, and many businesses are emblematic of FastCompany's original mantra:  "Work Is Personal. Computing Is Social. Knowledge Is Power. Break The Rules.”

What is the value of FastCompany a decade ago that is now a core value like those that Jim Collins identifies in his book, Good to Great and Built To Last

There is one simple thing that has held my attention for ten years.

It is that unlike most business magazines that merely describe what is happening.  FastCompany is about action, so that there is an emphasis on the practical application of ideas.  Where in many of these magazines the writers are either journalists or academics, many of the articles are written by people who are actually doing what they recommend.

How does FC build upon this tradition?

First, it needs to utilize the Company of Friends readers network to ask that question.  If FC learned anything during the past decade it is that community building is a key strategy for success.  And those of us who are members of a COF cell need to fulfill our role as the grassroots volunteers of a campaign for the new FC.

Second, it has to utilize all its assets in building its ad base. As Lindsay points out, increasing the sales staff is important, but not the only consideration.  They have to invest in creating "remarkable" features to the magazine that distinguish it from the rank-in-file of business magazines.

Third, it has to be more than a magazine. It has to become a movement, a movement that has a vision, a focus, a clearly defined impact.  It has to have leadership that will not just manage the magazine, but lead the movement.

What is that movement now?  It certainly has changed in ten years.

In order to understand this, FC and its scattered community of readers, subscribers and networkers need to ask some simple questions.

1.  What should be the impact of a business magazine, and of FastCompany in particular? By impact, what should change for the better becasue of its existence?  Or, the question could be, "What do I need FastCompany's impact to be for me?"

2.  Who should be impacted by FastCompany? Is it just readers?  Or, is it rather the whole context that surrounds a business? 

My impression of much of journalism, whether business or other, is that it is primarily reactive and regressive.  It reacts in counter-distinction to whatever is happening, and is regressive in that it looks to some past moment as the golden mean that should be re-reached.

Instead of this conservative approach, FC has the opportunity to influence how business develops.  It did in the 90s, in can today.  For this to happen, it requires a clear vision not only of the impact it wishes to have, but also who is to be impacted.

3.  If FastCompany were to reinvent itself and achieve a level of impact that it once experienced, what would be the new opportunities that it could have?  What new avenues, vehicles, audiences, etc could it develop because it had become FC2?

FastCompany is more than a magazine. It is a movement.  It captured better than any other journalistic entity the personal and social experience of the new economy. Movements are inherently about change and power.  So opportunities to exert power or influence would come to FC if it were to successfully make it through this transition period?

4.  If FC were successful in this regard, what problems will it create? There is a downsize to growth, to change and the transformation of the context of a business.  The success and opportunities have to balanced with the problems that would inevitibly come.  I'm not talking about challenges, the scale of work etc.  Rather I'm talking about those problems that challenge the very core values that made FastCompany successful.

At this point no one really know any of this.  Survival and change are inherently short-term focused. However, if FC is to successfully reinvent itself, then it will be because they have come to understand the answers to these questions, and have implemented a plan that effectively addresses them.

I for one will not wait for this happen, but will happily continue to subscribe, and share what I learn from FC with friends and clients.