Case Study 2: Fast Company Magazine

History and Competitors/Differentiation

Fast Company Magazine is a print and web publication owned by Mansueto Ventures, a company run by Joe Mansueto. It was purchased in 2005 from Gruner + Jahr, who had previously bought the company from its founders in 2000. The magazine was founded in 1995 by former editors of the Harvard Business Review. Joe Mansueto seems to be a bit more rooted in Chicago than New York, as an alum of the University of Chicago who also lives in the city and is a limited partner in Time Out Chicago. This makes his choice of New York as the hub for both Fast Company and Inc. an interesting one, which I can only suspect was made since New York is a publishing powerhouse and would put the magazines in close proximity with other big Business publications such as Bloomberg Businessweek, Barron’s, Forbes, and SmartMoney. Notably, Entrepreneur, which I personally think is the most similar to Fast Company, is based in Irvine, California–far from the East Coast Media Industry but right next to Hollywood. Fast Company has evolved in recent years under the helm of Mansueto. In 2008 and 2009, the old guard was replaced by the new, with Bob Safian taking over as Editor and Christine Osekiski taking the reigns as Publisher.

MANSUETO VENTURES is a publishing company dedicated to serving the business leaders who are shaping the future of today’s economy. We publish Inc. and Fast Company, brands with different audiences, but similar challenges and goals. The company was founded in 2005 when Joe Mansueto bought Inc. and Fast Company.

The passionate communities that have become engaged with these brands are now the focal point of all of our efforts at MV. Our customers are important and influential folks. And we currently have more than two million of them. Through a full complement of print, online, events, custom publishing and integrated marketing solutions, Mansueto Ventures offers the world’s leading advertisers the unique ability to build their brands and move their products within the fast-growing business sector.

New NYC Office

Mansueto Ventures has their offices at 7 World Trade Center in the new buildings that surround Ground Zero. The company hoped to revive the images in the two publications that it owns, Fast Company and Inc., while they brought their workspace into a part of New York that similarly hopes to give birth to new innovation as it continues to remember its past. According to the New York Times article about Fast Company’s move, written in spring of 2007,

The new space, according to Mr. Koten, fits in perfectly with the message the company sends its 1.44 million subscribers, the majority of them high-earning male managers and entrepreneurs. “We are taking the advice we give to our readers, to be ahead of the trend, be pioneering and go where other people are afraid to go,” he said.

This is interesting for a few reasons. While they are trying to be pioneering, clearly their readership is largely made of up of the types people you would expect to read a magazine about business (male, managers and entrepreneurs, high income). Perhaps this is why their most recent issue is about Extraordinary Women. Fast Company seems to recognize that the world of Entrepreneurship is changing, and people who may not have previously been inclined or able to start their own “fast companies” now have the opportunities and resources to do so–women, people of color, and young people. Judging from the fact that they have upwards of 92,000 Facebook fans, and their recent issue with a cover story on “Generation Flux“, they recognize this shift and are ready to fully embrace it. Fast Company prides itself on innovation, and as a publication that not only keeps track of innovation in other companies but also tries to be creative in itself, they have some exciting and unique branches of their media brand that other magazines lack. In keeping with the values that drive their blog Co.Exist (more about this later), they made sure they were housed in an environmentally-friendly building.

Seven World Trade Center is the first New York City office tower to receive a gold rating for environmental sustainability from the United States Green Building Council.

There is also an emphasis on open space that facilitates collaboration and informal gatherings, a trend that can also be seen in the most progressive schools and many tech companies (such as Google). In the increasingly intertwined worlds of technology and business, Fast Company is placing itself firmly in the middle as a unique and forward-thinking publication that is looking towards the future of business in a world that is driven by technological advances.

Creative | Progressive | Innovative

Mission: Fast Company is the chronicle of how business can change the world.

Fast Company was founded on a single premise: A global revolution was changing business, and business was changing the world. Today, the business world continues to change, and Fast Company continues to evolve as well.

Fast Company sets the agenda, charting the evolution of business through a unique focus on the most creative individuals sparking change in the marketplace. By uncovering best and “next” practices, the magazine helps a new breed of leader work smarter and more effectively.

Entering the Digital Realm

With the formation of Mansueto Digital in 2007, the company began its expansion into more unique web and mobile content for its two magazines. An early redesign happened in 2008. Fast Company in subsequent years continued to add more digital media, and another renovation came later on,in the beginning of 2012 for the Co.Design website and in 2010 for the magazine. Some interesting projects that came out of their foray into tech include the Influence Project from 2010 (perhaps influenced by the launch of Klout in 2009?) and their iPad app launched earlier this year. The iPad app, although it came out later than the apps created by many other magazines, it includes exciting interactive elements that put it in the league of tech-centric magazines like Wired that have taken full advantage of the touch screen medium.

Fast Company has a great cross-platform media presence, including channels from their website, Twitter, Facebook, Stumble Upon (which also has channels for Co.Design and Co.Exist), LinkedIn, and Google+. The best thing about these channels? They don’t just blast out the same article to each one and hope it sticks. Of course, some pieces get repeat postings, but looking through all of the social media sites simultaneously does not paint a picture of the same magazine on six different websites. Fast Company is utilizing the unique dynamic created in each social media platform and figures out how to best utilize all the features each one offers. For example, on their Facebook page, Fast Company has Photo Albums for stories that are heavy on visuals, some of the Videos that go on its site also find their way on Facebook, and an Events page that lists previous events held in New York and elsewhere around the country. Although it isn’t listed on their Facebook page, the website for the Innovation Uncensored conference in Spring 2013 is already up and running.

Fast Company’s prominent blogs are Co.Design, Co.Exist, Co.Create, and Co.Lead. The first three have separate websites and logos with their own robust and frequently updated content that is written in the same style as the magazine, but is not included in the print publication. They each also include newsletters that you can subscribe through separately, and some have their own websites on the social media channels listed above. Co.Design covers “business + innovation + design” and that also holds its own special competitions like the Innovation by Design AwardsCo.Exist was launched in 2011 as a website covering “WORLD CHANGING IDEAS AND INNOVATION”, in the categories of “environment, energy, technology, food, health, transportation, urbanism, and poverty”. Co.Create is about “creativity in the converging worlds of branding, entertainment, and tech”, with the motto “CREATIVITY \ CULTURE \ COMMERCE”. Each of the three is run by a different editor, so even with the same site design the three blogs end up having different personalities and perspectives. Co.Lead is a part of the normal Fast Company website and is about management, also containing the 30-second MBA advice video collection.

New York and the Magazine

Fast Company Magazine is not city-centric, but it does derive some things from its home base in New York City. A search of the Fast Company website for “New York” results in over 66,000 pages and articles, while the results for Chicago are only about 4,500, Los Angeles 4,600,  Boston 3,200, and San Francisco + Silicon Valley are 5,400 and 3,500, respectively (around 9,000 total). This is an informal way to gather that even though Fast Company is rooted in analysis of trends and topics in Business as a whole, there are definitely more pieces of content rooted in New York culture (or perhaps there’s just such a high concentration of businesses that this bias is inevitable!). I think Fast Company is constantly reviving its image in the hopes that it will survive the tech revolution that is reverberating through all types of businesses, and with Silicon Alley and plans for Roosevelt Island, clearly New York is doing the same. With these goals of rebirth and growth in mind, Fast Company is inextricably tied to its home in New York City!


One thought on “Case Study 2: Fast Company Magazine

  1. Eileen Sutton says:

    In the very first portion of her sector analysis, she makes it clear that she was going to make very good use of the blogging format and hyperlinking. She started by creating a neat map of magazines, listed under their respective media corporation, just to get a feel of how much magazine production takes place in New York City. It was interesting to see tons of magazines that are widely distributed in the US, housed in New York City.
    In her sector analysis, she compared the three magazines giants of New York and wrote, “I am focusing on these three because they have a lot of power and are unlikely to completely ‘go under’, no matter what technological shifts bring to our cultural landscape.” I found this sentence very interesting, because these enormous magazine publishers do seem invincible, as a whole, but many of the titles may come and go due to decreased readership. It is certainly a very optimistic view to say that every magazine title listed is “here to stay.” Anyway, I love print and I hope it is here to stay as well!
    I certainly agree that free digital content poses a challenge to printed magazines, as one is costlier than the other. Faced with this challenge, I feel that magazines can go in either direction (and that is for each individual publication to decide). They can make sure to keep current, but write with an edge, providing in-depth research not supplied by a Huffington Post article (kind of like what Mark Lotto said). The other direction would be to make interactive iPad versions, in which the benefits of app magazines outweigh the disadvantages. I strongly agree with your statement about the New York app, if an app wants to be successful and seem “worth it,” it must make use of the perks of paperless, if not, then it is kind of just a lose-lose.
    The relationship between magazines, technology, and New York was discussed. Tons of magazines are produced in New York, but it may be interesting to think about why that is. I got a little confused in the shift from the big three to New York Magazine and then to blogging, but all points were very interesting and well thought out.
    In the first case study, you start off “The Rise of Blogs” with a very big sentence, “Blogging has had an undeniable influence on magazine publishing.” It led me to ask myself some questions about that relationship. Are the same people reading blogs, those who are purchasing magazines? Are some people reading blogs for free instead of buying magazines? I love that you chose a magazine that isn’t only produced in New York, but is actually about New York too.
    I thought it was so interesting how you discussed the motivation for making Grub Street national. It is an excellent example of the idea that great things start in New York and act as an influence on other cities. In addition, the blog, in its entirety, is visually pleasing.

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