Journalist Q&A: Josh Tyrangiel, Bloomberg Businessweek

Josh Tyrangiel, editor-in-chief of Bloomberg Businessweek, talks to Emory Sullivan about the importance of knowing your audience and feeding their hunger for quality content.

Name: Josh Tyrangiel
Title: Editor-in-chief
Outlet: Bloomberg Businessweek
Preferred contact:

What did you learn at Time that prepared you to run Bloomberg Businessweek?
I learned everything I needed to know about writing and editing there and about managing people as well. One of the greatest benefits of these jobs is that you're working with some of the smartest people in the world.

You figure out how to help them do their jobs. Sometimes that's motivating them the old-fashioned way or figuring out a curriculum for them where they're pursuing something they really care about.

What is your biggest challenge right now?
Every day we have to produce a lot for the Web, and every week produce a completely perfect magazine and tablet product. It's a great challenge.

Your existence as a media organization is not something you can take for granted. Having lived through a period of terrific consolidation within the news industry, it's a pretty good way to focus. The moment you leave a gap, the bar to entry is lowered, and someone will steal your bacon.

What would you say is your digital philosophy?
When someone is reading on a desktop, they are generally bombarded by other stimulus. On mobile, we know that people are flipping between stories quickly. When someone opens a magazine, they've made a decision to shut out the rest of the attention economy, so you get them for longer, and you can engage with them at a deeper level.

Each medium creates a different story telling technique. There will always be value to analysis and reporting and storytelling, but the more you can tailor your content to the user of a particular platform, the more successful you are going to be.

Who is your audience?
You have to [consider yourself your audience]. Given the amount of work we crank out, if in addition to thinking, "Does this make sense?" I had to say, "How will our younger readers in California receive this?" I couldn't do it. There just isn't enough time in the day. And that leads to a softening of your content. It makes your stories safer, perhaps.

But people don't want a sanitized version of the news cleaned up for as many people as possible.

A complete redesign of the magazine added a must-read element, especially the features.

What are the most important changes you've made in style and content?
We changed everything. I knew we were going to do a total redesign of the magazine because when you looked at an issue, it didn't have that urgency, that curiosity that great magazines do. Many times, people think about words first, but the medium provides great opportunity for art.

Regarding content, this is a news magazine. They were doing some nice feature stories, but feature stories that didn't argue for why they needed to be read this very week. We have people who are hungry for information, and it's our job to prepare them to compete in the week ahead.

People want to be told stories; they want to be surprised. So our features are often chosen for those purposes. They are designed to invite you to know something and dive all the way in.

What's the role of a weekly news source?
The frequency is only part of the battle, and everyone has to interpret that for themselves. On a weekly basis, you can add comprehensiveness, deeper analytics, and better prose.

There's a market out there of people who want that, who don't want to have to engage with the news for multiple hours a day. But once a week they'll carve out a lot of time to make themselves better citizens and better prepared.

What changes have been the most effective?
This is perhaps a clinical way to look at it, but I'm proud of the value proposition. You know for your subscription price exactly what you're going to get. Most people would say we are a very good value.

Every week we're running 64 editorial pages and anywhere from 40,000 to 50,000 words of original reporting and content. The price we charge for that is laughable.

I want people to feel like they are ripping us off. Subscribers may not love or even read all of it, but no one can argue we aren't giving them their money's worth.

What is the best way to pitch you?
Carefully. Mutual self-interest is always the name of the game. If you can't make a case for why you'd want to read this in my magazine, don't pitch me about it.

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