Fast Company looks like lifestyle magazine Wallpaper, reads like an online advice column and is described by its founders as ’Harvard Business Review meets Rolling Stone.’ Established only two years ago, it’s certainly a mixed bag - but it stands alone among business titles.
Fast Company looks like lifestyle magazine Wallpaper, reads like an
online advice column and is described by its founders as ’Harvard
Business Review meets Rolling Stone.’ Established only two years ago,
it’s certainly a mixed bag - but it stands alone among business
The monthly magazine was created by two former Harvard Business Review
editors, William Taylor and Alan Webber. They wanted to chart the
changing world of work in a way that none of the existing business
titles - Fortune, Business Week, Forbes - were doing.
Rather than filling the magazine with the usual CEO profiles and
foolproof profit models, they decided to take a more irreverent
approach, designed to appeal to the worker in the cubicle and the home
office. In fact, the kind of title that might be appreciated by the
Scott Adams cartoon character Dilbert. They wanted to show how
individuals were making a difference inside a vast range of
organizations, from schools to police departments to factories.
Fast Company is very much ’how-to’ journalism, a tradition that has
grown up with the Internet. Features have included a piece by management
guru Tom Peters on coming up with a ’wow!’ project, and a guide to
planning effective meetings.
It’s also a fun read. A paragraph on top of the corrections reads: ’We
work fast at Fast Company - sometimes a bit too fast ... Here are the
The column ’Consultants Debunking Unit’ pokes fun at management
philosophies. One target was the 100th monkey theory, which posits that
when you put 100 monkeys together, the first to learn something teaches
the others. When 100 monkeys start behaving differently, others start
replicating the action without being directly taught. Not a difficult
concept to satirize.
Though highfliers are certainly applauded, the magazine also champions
those who maintain a healthy balance between work and leisure.
The magazine, backed by media magnates Mort Zuckerman and Fred Drasner,
captures the spirit of the times. It was named launch of the year by
trade titles Advertising Age and Adweek in 1997. Though there are no
revenue figures available, it claims circulation of 325,000 and has a
growing number of supporters around the world.
This so-called ’Company of Friends’ exchanges ideas on new ways of
working via the Net. There are around 17,000 members in 150 local
’cells’ from Auckland, New Zealand to Washington, DC. Members are
involved in discussions of the socio-cultural effects of work and act as
a problem solving support network.
Managing editor Michael Slind explains its popularity. ’Work, for better
or for worse, is a part of life. The founders sensed a change, with
digital technology and generational changes in attitude. That was their
Readers feel they have a connection with the magazine because of its
personal tone. Most covers feature the word ’you’ very prominently. The
cover of one best-selling issue looked like a box of detergent with the
tag line: ’How to create a brand called ’you.’’ Slind adds: ’In many
cases the business climate is about you. People are working on their
own. We are here to help the individual, that unit of one.’
Slind explains that the magazine looks for ’advice stories and big
ideas.’ People are hungry, he says, for big ideas. The title also has
company profiles, but these are based on innovative business practices
and the availability of good photo opportunities.
One example was a piece on a store called Central Market, which treats
shoppers to on-the-spot cooking lessons and provides a chef school.
Shoppers who order food in the cafe are given pagers to let them know
when their food is ready.
’Do you have a work place that looks exciting and yields new lessons?’
asks Slind. ’We are interested in companies doing things
Central Market’s director of sales and marketing Nona Evans says the
piece came about through the magazine’s knowledge of the store and PR
support material. ’Their reporters are a pleasure to work with and have
a refreshing style of developing stories,’ she comments. ’They focus on
bringing the people to life and have a fresh perspective on the world of
work and the kinds of tools that make it adaptable.’
There are plenty of other opportunities for pitching to Fast
The Network section is the most likely to consider product stories. It
includes short book reviews, details of courses and a leisure
The section, edited by Bill Breen, also includes a section called Power
Tools, which looks at everything from software to gadgets.
Staff writers, freelancers, their subject areas and their e-mail details
are listed at the end of articles. But grasping the essence of Fast
Company requires some reading. Staff writer Lisa Chadderdon always asks
PR pros who pitch her if they have read the magazine.
’You’d be surprised how many say no,’ she says. But she admits that it’s
difficult to explain what the magazine is about, adding: ’It’s just an
instinct you get.’
She says the best method of contact is e-mail, while the worst type of
pitch is via mass circulation fax. The editorial staff don’t give a fax
number for the office. ’Fast Company is very different from most
The best approach is to suggest an idea for a certain column, say why it
might fit and why it should be featured,’ says Chadderdon.
The reporting team is around 20 people and because the title is not news
driven there are few specific beats. The founding editors, Webber and
Taylor, are very hands on, crafting ideas and stories.
There are 10 issues a year, each planned more than three months in
advance, with double issues appearing during the summer months. The team
is about to add a new quarterly tech supplement in September called Net
Perhaps Fast Company’s location may have something to do with its
ability to take a step back from the turbo-charged business environment.
’We are not in New York - we are in Boston - so we’re not involved in
the New York lunching scene,’ says Slind proudly.
Fast Company 77 North Washington Street
Tel: 617 973 0300
PR pitches to: content@
Bill Breen - Network
Polly La Barre - Report from the Future, Unit of One (executive
Gina Imperato - Power Tools, @ Work, Report from the Future
Anna Muoio - In the Loop (letters)
Heath Row - @ Work (advice about work), In Gear.