Media: Fortune’s new spin-off: in the Company of E - Fortune magazine’s latest spin-off, eCompany Now, looks at how the Web is changing corporate America. Claire Atkinson sees what’s clicking

It’s hard to see a gap in the market for another Internet-business title, but Fortune spin-off eCompany Now, a magazine and Web site, promises to be different.

It’s hard to see a gap in the market for another Internet-business title, but Fortune spin-off eCompany Now, a magazine and Web site, promises to be different.

It’s hard to see a gap in the market for another Internet-business

title, but Fortune spin-off eCompany Now, a magazine and Web site,

promises to be different.



President and editor Ned Desmond, 41, has been outlining the title’s

mission to the media and advertisers ahead of the May 8 debut. He is

also interviewing candidates for a PR executive post to help get the

word out about the new monthly.



’A lot of attention has gone to the dot-com companies with new ideas,

but in the past year all kinds of big and little companies have been

finding new ways of doing business,’ says Desmond, explaining the spirit

of eCompany Now. ’Every aspect of business life has a Web alternative:

customer support, accounting and printing photos. All these things are

mainstays of US business now.’ How firms are coping with that change is

what the magazine hopes to document.



The title will carry profiles, gadget and book reviews and a handful of

grand narratives about how existing businesses have transformed

themselves.



Desmond is, however, keeping mum about specific sections, refusing to

name potential cover candidates or even an ideal poster boy or girl for

eCompany Now. The only clue is that he is looking for someone sitting at

the crossroads of big business and the Internet - AOL Time Warner’s

Gerald Levin or Steve Case perhaps? We’ll have to wait and see.





Competition on and offline



Unlike many of his peers, Desmond has actually worked for an Internet

firm. He was vice president of content at Infoseek. Prior to that,

Desmond was a senior writer at Fortune, covering what’s now known as

’Sili Valley.’ He was also a Time bureau chief in New Delhi, India and

Tokyo.



The stint in cyberspace has clearly affected Desmond, infusing him with

revolutionary zeal. He says eCompany Now will not be bound by any of the

’legacies and limitations’ of established business books. The title is

going to be fun and edgy. There is little to say about the accompanying

Web site, except that Desmond wants a joint staff: ’I don’t want any A

and B teams.’



ECompany Now will be up against tough competition both on and

offline.



Rivals include Fast Company, The Industry Standard, Red Herring,

Business 2.0 and Wired, to name but a few. And it appears those

competitors are already on the defensive. SF Gate (Web site of San

Francisco dailies the Chronicle and the Examiner) cited unnamed rivals

in reporting that eCompany Now is being accused of driving up salaries

in the region - rumor has it that the Time Inc.-backed title is paying a

number of its journalists six-figure sums. But Desmond says he is not to

blame for the high costs.



He even cites his own salary as ’less than dollars 200,000.’



Key editorial hires include former Wall Street Journal San Francisco

bureau chief Greg Hill as features editor and Wired’s Amy Johns, who

joins as assistant managing editor. Fortune is also providing some of

the talent in Jim Aley, Eric Nee and Tim Carvell. They’ll be working

alongside Josh McHugh and Caroline Walker, who both quit Forbes to write

for the start-up. Desmond will be borrowing other Fortune writers, but

the aim is to be entirely stand-alone.



The editor says his budget is not lavish, but admits that he’ll be

hiring top-name photographers to ensure the book is attractive. He’s

hired three art staff from Outside, the adventure magazine (which should

tell you something about the look of the new book): editor-at-large

Susan Casey joins along with colleagues Susan Smith, who becomes

photography director, and Susan Scandrett, now deputy art director.



ECompany Now is the second Fortune spin-off; the first was Fortune Small

Business (FSB), which was originally called Your Company. One West Coast

PR pro, Lou Hoffman, wonders whether eCompany Now will reflect Fortune’s

high standards or go the way of FSB, a joint venture with American

Express Publishing. ’If the management chooses to provide the same

quality that goes into Fortune, it will be terrific,’ says Hoffman,

president of San Jose, CA-based The Hoffman Agency. ’If they take the

mentality of FSB it is going to be an utter disaster. FSB really talks

down to its reader.’



Hoffman, who represents firms such as Furnitureonline, believes there is

room for more Internet business magazines, as long as they are telling

new stories.





Making the pitch



If you’re planning to pitch to eCompany Now, Desmond’s advice is

simple.



He is looking for dramatic stories about how the Web has changed

business and prefers to receive ideas via a brief e-mail.



Asked if the magazine is likely to look at failures as well as the

successes, Desmond says: ’We love the mess ups - they are more

interesting and the most graphic. People are not wild about telling

these stories.’



The economy - and possibly politicians - will also play a part in its

coverage. ’There are no limitations. We are just interested in great

stories,’ Desmond says.



ECompany Now’s initial print run is 200,000, a figure it hopes to retain

in paid subscribers by year’s end. Meanwhile The Industry Standard has

already stepped up its publishing schedule and is now almost a

weekly.



The first issue of eCompany Now will carry 100 pages of editorial and a

broad base of topics. But given the monthly time frame and the speed at

which the Web is changing businesses, won’t it look dated? ’It would be

difficult if we were trying to be a news magazine,’ Desmond says. ’The

way we do stories can’t be driven by what is in the news.’





CONTACT LIST



eCompany Now



1 California Street



29th Floor



San Francisco, CA 94111



Tel: (415) 293 4800



Fax: (415) 293 5900



E-mail: No standard but try james_aley@ecompany.com



Web: www.ecompany.com



President and editor: Ned Desmond



Managing editor: Jim Aley



Editor-at-large: Susan Casey



Features editor: Greg Hill



Executive editor: Eric Nee



Assistant managing editor: Amy Johns



Senior editor: Tim Carvell



Senior writer: Josh McHugh



Writer/editor: Caroline Waxler



Staff writer: Owen Thomas



Staff writer: Stacy Perman.



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