Fast Company... "Is Probably Gone for Good."

So says David Carr in a New York Times column yesterday. My first reaction to Carr's opinion piece was to think of the John Lennon line: "I read the news today, oh boy!" But then Carr is stating his opinion, not fact, and also manages to warp a good number of facts along the way.

He writes, for example, that Fast Company and Inc., both being sold by Gruner & Jahr, "now have a value of zero." That's silly and completely inaccurate. The writer jumps to this conclusion merely because Meredith Corp., which agreed to buy both business magazines if they can't be sold by G&J by the end of June, said such a sale would not be material to the overall purchase price. The reason it's not material is because Meredith intends to make as much or more selling us than it has agreed to pay G&J for Fast Company and Inc. These are two very valuable national magazine brands being sold at the worst time for G&J but the best time for any smart buyer. Smart investors, after all, buy low and sell high.

Then, Carr somehow disconnects the success of online advertising with print. Fact is, the future of journalism is hardly a debate about print and online. It's all about content. The content produced by the magazine staffs of Fast Company and Inc. are the basis of two successful websites that have been growing by leaps and bounds. Separating the two to make a point about the decline of all the business magazines competely misses the truth that it's not about print magazines; it's about brands and content.

Carr also makes the following odd statement: "Fast Company may be imprisoned by a rehetorical set that cannot be used without inviting derision—spare change agents, anyone?—but the big three business magazines employ some of the best journalists in business: it was Fortune that first revealed the Enron house of mirrors."

Well, actually, Carr, you're dead wrong. It was The Wall Street Journal whose investigative reporting revealed Enron to be a shell game. Fortune merely wrote a fairly unrevealing story whose point was that Enron's stock may be too high.

As for our magazine being "imprisoned by a rehetorical set," he clearly hasn't read this magazine in a very long time. Fast Company has just been named a final for the Loeb Awards, the most prestigious honor in all of business journalism. This is the third time in the past four years our magazine has achieved such distinction.

And Fast Company has won eight important journalism and design awards for its past 16 issues through last year, including Folio's Award as the best business/consumer magazine in the country, the New York Press Club's award for the best business story in a magazine, and the Conference Board's award for doing the best coverage of work/life balance issues.

Not too bad for a magazine that Carr says "is more prone to slogans that look good in needlepoint, quaint artifacts of a by-gone era."

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27 Comments

  • jt

    I use to work at G&J for about 4 yrs. During my stay there, employees use to come and go out the door like flies. We always knew that Fast Company had one foot on a banana peel and the other in the grave.

  • Carleton Friedberg

    Lou,

    Don't deny we haven't talked before. I do recall a person with your tone of voice meeting with me about a position at Whores, Inc. Your skills matched quite well with our opening. You turned us down because you had already sold your soul to someone else. Perhaps you don't remember because you were going by the name Louise at the time.

    Cheers,

    Carleton

  • Alex

    Mr. Walker - Any words of moral outrage or professional admonitions for "Carleton," aka Mr. Porn Central? Let's hear it for good old fashion righteous indignation over a pornographer and his advertising at FC's expense/approval. Here's a suggestion. If I were you, I'd save my lectures for phantom sewer dwellers the likes of Mr. Friedberg. Clearly, he's far more of a threat and insult to your sensibilities than anyone else posting here.

  • Lou

    If a person were interested in working for your company, how would one possibly get in touch with you when you give no contact information that is credible? A real name/address/phone # would be helpful to all those hopefuls out there.
    Even though you inhabit the underworld, there's no reason to be ashamed. A guy's got to do what a guy's got to do...I'd no idea "Fast Company" attracted porn producers - No wonder they're having difficulty with others evaluating their worth; claiming they are valueless.
    It would appear that you were trolling in the right venue to begin with nonetheless. With a name like, Fast Company, you can't possibly go wrong. Don't take an outsider's word for it. Others here who've met it's editor up close and personal claim to have heard the term "whore" and "Byrne" lumped in the same sentence before. That's generally a good enough recommendation. Regardless, there's sure to be a few new job seekers here soon enough. Should be ripe for the picking.
    From the looks of it, the woman you're seeking to lure already makes too much in the legit world to answer your call. Shame.

  • Carleton Friedberg

    As CEO of Whores, Inc. I would like it to be known that we are very upset that Mr. Byrne was lumped into the same class of people that we employ here at Whores, Inc. He is not the type of person we typically employ. He has too much character for our line of work. On the other hand, Ms. Bertuccini is exactly the type of person we are looking for. I have viewed on your online photo layout and look forward to talking to you more about your future at Whores, Inc.

    Carleton Friedberg
    CEO Whores, Inc.

  • dave hochman

    so anyway....

    I hate it when people defend themselves by citing awards!!!

    >>>
    Fast Company has just been named a final for the Loeb Awards, the most prestigious honor in all of business journalism. This is the third time in the past four years our magazine has achieved such distinction.

    And Fast Company has won eight important journalism and design awards for its past 16 issues through last year, including Folio's Award as the best business/consumer magazine in the country, the New York Press Club's award for the best business story in a magazine, and the Conference Board's award for doing the best coverage of work/life balance issues.
    >>>>

    That and $4.50 buys a cup of ice decaf soy latte for the average reader. How about

  • Edith

    Yawn. This is what happens on every discussion board I've ever seen; the conversation on a topic eventually devolves into a conversation about the conversation.

    I worked at BusinessWeek when John and Jennifer Reingold were there [Hi John, Jen] although I didn't work directly for or with either. John is a perfectly lovely individual. But he could still be a "media whore" -- it's a charge I've heard levied against him before.

    I know nothing of Ms. Donna Bertaccini, but
    I believe that some of those who levy such charges feel that, for example, his Jack Welch book was a little.....how shall we say....puffy. Too gentle on Jack. Obviously that's a matter of opinion, and I don't have one on the matter--didn't read the book. But I think that's where the JB-is-a-whore school of thought comes from, so to speak.

    Then again, none of this has anything to do with the survival of FC. Haven't seen it in a while but it was a great magazine last I checked, and it seems like 750K readers, give or take, should be enough to justify advertising.

  • James Kirkland

    (howling of wolves; barking of dogs; a string breaks in the distance....

  • Thea Rosen

    Gosh how odd! Being in Public Relations I just finished reading FC’s posting June 1st on an Offensive Defense. Weird to then happen upon all of the above - Unfortunately, this would appear to be yet another example where it might have been best to have dealt with the press from the outset, tough though that can be at times.
    Given the circumstances, you've got to give credit to the above notion of Ms. Turner's: "turnaround is more than fair play." That's a lesson I learned long ago.

  • Steven Walker

    Mr. Molesworth, you forgot to mention pets. Do Ms. Bertaccini's pets look at her adoringly while she trashes other people without apparent provocation, context or explanation? I'll make you a deal: I'll check my facts when she provides some. If, as she writes, the facts about John Byrne speak for themselves, why not share them so we can all hear them speak to us?

    And, as far as I am concerned, being paid is only one aspect of being professional. To me, professionalism is a mindset that shapes the way you think and act. I and others who have posted here regard personal attacks to be wholly unprofessional and definitely unnecessary.

    Ms. Turner, if someone called you, your Mom, your sister or your best friend a whore in a public venue, you would mind. If you didn't, I would wonder about you. The fact that you and Mr. Molesworth have sought to defend Ms. Bertaccini's indefensible actions makes you both very loyal, which is admirable, but also very misguided. What your friend and colleague did was wrong, plain and simple.

  • Jane N-B

    I hadn't heard the news that both Fast Company and Inc. were for sale - I hope they both live long and prosper. I used to subscribe to both. In fact, somewhere in the depths of my basement may be a box with the inaugural issue of Fast Company. I actually remember reading that first issue and being excited about both the content and the way in which it was written. I subscribed for years.

    So what happened? The writing style of both Inc and Fast Company stayed strong...I just got tired of the ideological shift of Fast Company in particular. I couldn't figure out why the magazine took a consistently liberal tone when it was ostensibly a business magazine.

    I don't expect a business magazine to take a consistently conservative tone...just some balance. Perhaps others feel the same way.

  • Ava Turner

    Jeff - let me ask you this very pointed question. If you were a filmmaker, (since one would have no way of knowing what you do or who you are, based on your e-mail address/website, jeff@jeff.com,) but hypothetically, say you/your company were in the business of making documentaries, and say you were involved in the making of a project that deals with a subject matter a complete stranger were asking you to lay out on the line for you on his schedule, at his behest. Then say you also had any number of business/financial obligations to others involved in that project. Would you then choose to respond to such a request in a blog format? Honestly? Think about it. Under those circumstances, I seriously doubt it. There's a case to be made it's not altogether different than someone unwilling to sit for an interview, now wouldn't you say? To my way of thinking, turn around is more than fair play. What I find so interesting is your preoccupation with the use of the word whore. It's not a four letter word. Harsh perhaps, but I've heard a lot worse in business. I see nothing wrong with it's utilization. From the casual name calling I hear these days, and what's bantered around on the air waves - in the press - on television, in the blogging world, it's tame to my way of thinking. Where have you been? Lastly, what I find rather interesting is the inconsistency with the time frames posted on this blog site of Fast Company's with the actual times several were, in fact posted. Someone at Fast Company is manipulating them. Why? For what purpose? To what end?
    By the way, what do you do?

  • Jeff

    Well, Ava - to be honest, if I were posting to a blog and calling someone a "whore," I would certainly explain myself. Especially if I - and some of my coworkers, apparently - were going to jump in on the conversation leaving a trail of breadcrumbs back to my employer/company.

    I don't know about your standards, but *personally* I think name-calling in a public forum, blog or otherwise, does little more than make the name-caller look bad.

    Now, I appreciate your testimonial, but my question - my request for a "backstory" still stands. What's their bone with Mr. Byrne? Until I get that, I *am* going to assume that what I see here is representative of their company as a whole - unprofessional, obnoxious, unsubstantiated.

    I have asked - politely - to be proven wrong; all you've done is reinforce my perceptions, which may or may not be accurate.

  • Ava Turner

    I've worked with Molesworth Enterprises, Inc. and their team producing countless documentaries for both domestic and international broadcast for well over twenty years now. I've found them to be only the very best at their work, top tier; nothing short of first rate professionals. Their longstanding New York based business, along with it's extensive list of successes, awards, recognitions, etc. and countless clients, not to mention their personnel and their many talents, are testimony to that fact.
    This is a blog no? People are free to say what they want right? Are blogs now meant to rise to the level of "professional commentary" only? Since when? I read a fair share of blogs and generally anything goes - People shoot the breeze in any fashion - It's dangerous to confuse a person's less than five minute e-mail on a blog with the professsional work or knowledge that potentially has gone behind it, or not, admittedly. I have no doubt that whatever was behind Ms. Bertaccini's comments, there's history. She did say that they'd repeatedly asked for an interview with Mr. Byrne. In my professional experience, that more than suggests back story.

  • Jeff

    Just wondering what Molesworth Enterprise's Inc.'s history with Fast Company/Mr. Byrne really is.

    This whole thread reads like a personal pissing contest and, frankly, makes Mark, Marlene, Donna, and the company that two of three have email accounts at look extremely petty and unprofessional.

    Not taking sides (I don't know any of these people), just making an observation. Whenever I see the owners/stakeholders of a company perform a hatchet job on someone without good reason (or in this case, *any* stated reason), it makes me think less - not more - of them and their product.

  • Dan Seidman

    FC has GREAT writing, GREAT writing. Very few publications compete on that level.

    FC has plenty of advertisers.

    FC has a long, strong future ahead of it. Simply put, the writing and the cash inflow are the key factors to survival. And this isn't a survival issue, it's a success story.

    In a world where hundreds of magazines die out a year, FC has exploded onto the business buyer's scene and captured a fantastic permanent fan base.

    This is a silly argument, basing the future on personalities and buyouts.

    In previous times, buyouts might mean a company wanted to just strip out assets (printing equipment, for example) and sell them off, killing the company. That's not the case here.

    At best/worst the only danger is in job security for individuals.

    It's silly to make derogatory comments about others in this post, it only damages the reputation of the writer.

    Furthermore, if the writer is a professional writer, they could find a way to get their meaning across without the school kid attitude and a "challenge to print this."

    Come on, Donna. You're great at what you do. You can find a way to speak your truth and continue to earn fans.

    For all the readers curious about her...
    http://molesworth.com/donna.ht...

  • Marlene Hays

    Mr. Flanagan if you are truly interested in knowing even the slightest bit about who Donna Bertaccini is, it would help to first spell her name correctly. It's surprising how far that'll take someone in their quest. (Then you'll really know a hot property!)
    Secondly, Ms. Reingold, sorry to burst your bubble, but clearly you know nothing of what Ms. Bertaccini does, or does not know from personal experience.
    I myself do have a question for you - You say this blog is supposed to be about the future of Fast Company. Are you confident there is a future at Fast Company? We're taking bets on for how long and we'd love an insider's wager.

  • William G. Flanagan

    Who is Donna Bertuccini to call John Byrne "one of the biggest business journalist whores going" (forget the bad grammar)? The statement is as preposterous as it is insulting.
    I worked with John for several years at Forbes, where he was an outstanding writer. He went on to write over 40 cover stories for Business Week and has written several top selling books (he coauthored Jack Welch's best-seller, and also a brilliant portrait of Chainsaw Al Dunlop) etc., etc., etc.
    Whoever acquires Fast Company will get a brilliant editor, a fine man and a hot property.

  • Robert Ellis

    If Fast Company has a -0- market value, it sounds like a good time to buy it instead of arguing with the appraiser.

    Let's face it, if the buyer was forced to acquire Fast Company in order to get the targets he was after, there is a problem with the value. Why take the risk of letting a fine magazine disappear? Raise the money and buy it yourselves.