April 20, 2024

Media Decoder: Harvard Business Review Reinvention Is Paying Off

Shortly after editors at the Harvard Business Review tore up their magazine in 2009, adding pictures to the cover, reader comments to their signature case studies and colorful illustrations — the horror! — cranky reader comments started coming in.

Ricky Gervais in the April 2011 issue of Harvard Business Review.

“Need to be very careful to balance between ‘dry’ and ‘breezy,’ lest you devalue the brand into a Forbes-style publication,” wrote one disgruntled reader.

But a year and a half later, the magazine’s editors say that worries about alienating its readers have proved unfounded.

“We just heard Bill Clinton give us a shout-out on ‘Closing Bell,’ ” Adi Ignatius, editor of the Harvard Business Review Group, said in a recent interview. “Newsstand is way up, renewals are way up, advertising is way up. And it’s not a situation where a rising tide lifts all boats.”

According to the Review’s figures, unit sales on the newsstand, where copies cost $16.95, are up 19 percent. New blogs and additional content on its Web site have pushed up visits. Page views in April grew to seven million, compared with 600,000 four years ago, the Review said.

Among the features that are drawing attention are very un-Harvard Business Review-like items — especially features like a Q. and A. with the comedian Ricky Gervais, below. Mr. Ignatius proudly pointed to other reader feedback that landed in his in-box recently.

“Just want to compliment you on the quality of HBR. I have never seen it better,” said one e-mail Mr. Ignatius shared that was signed “Jeff,” as in Jeffrey R. Immelt, the chief executive of General Electric.

The magazine has also signed several new advertisers this year, like Cartier, British Airways and Goldman Sachs. Circulation, after falling in 2008 and 2009, was essentially flat in 2010, at 237,000.

Mr. Ignatius said that so far, readers displeased with the redesign were in the minority. He did, however, acknowledge making one mistake in scrapping a beloved feature: executive summaries of articles.

“I thought: ‘Do we really need a whole section toward the back of the magazine where we summarize everything?’ ” he said. “I got this whole barrage of complaints saying, ‘Put this back, you idiot.’ So we did.”

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=fa1b075938043c782d867aca5a9a1ef7

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