I invested $4.98 to buy the August issue of FAST COMPANY, which was just purchased at a fire-sale price by Joe Mansueto. What was obvious from the current tone and content is that Mansueto has plenty to do to save this magazine.
First the tone: A hybrid of 1960s counterculture/1990s dotcom optimism, the magazine's personality is about as dated as Madonna's. Who doesn't know now that success is not guaranteed ever; that it can't come from reading some bullet points about flow; and that it will probably take more time and tries than expected.
Next, the content: Highly opinionated, little analysis of supposed great success tools, and fairly dated (yeah, we all know PowerPoint is overdone and that innovation is a good thing to have in business).
What's to be done?
- Drop the breathless enthusiasm. Nothing is that good, or will be for too long. Present the merits of, say, stimulating more flow in the workplace along with the downside (we don't want the security force to be in such deep concentration that they didn't notice miscreants entering the building).
- Introduce a seasoned voice, one which has seen its share of fads and trends.
- Develop a network of sources who can ferret out really breakthrough stuff, not as in this issue, the same-olds about generating buzz marketing (page 85). Perhaps those sources should be contacts in think tanks and among university researchers.
- Outgrow the adolescent self-absorption that most publications launched during the '90s boom had/has. The readers and advertisers pay the bills.
What models should Mansueto check out?
DETAILS. Fresh but solidly presented material, grown-up in tone.
WSJ.COM. Balanced analysis of trends, yet engaging read.
FINANCIAL TIMES. Has something for every intelligent businessperson, including first-rate columnists who look at issues with depth and wit.
So, can FAST COMPANY be saved? The odds are 50-50.