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Bloomberg is wasting no time in getting to work on BusinessWeek, which it agreed to acquire last month. Although the deal is not expected to close until next month, Bloomberg is already plotting out the future for the weekly business magazine.

According to MediaWeek, Bloomberg's initial plans are to make BusinessWeek "bigger, glossier and more international". Talking Biz News, whose sources were at a meeting conducted by Bloomberg exec and future BusinessWeek chairman Norm Pearlstine, is reporting that the overhaul would "focus on making it more competitive with The Economist and less like Fortune and Forbes".

It's not a surprising move. While many business magazines flounder, The Economist has been quite successful, thanks in large part to its international scope and analytical focus.

Setting out to become more like The Economist, however, is an easy goal. It's probably much harder to accomplish. But if anyone can do it, it just might be Bloomberg. One of Talking Biz News' sources who watched Pearlstine's meeting details how Bloomberg may integrate BusinessWeek into its operations:

"The terminal is the reason we all have jobs and we know we have to 'feed the beast,' he said," according to one Bloomberg reporter who watched the presentation remotely by internal TV. "He used this example if a Bizweek person was doing an interview with Michael Dell and discovered breaking news, then that news would have to go to terminal first. But if there was some broad change in corporate strategy, we might wait until BizWeek came out. He seemed to acknowledge that there would have to be a lot of collaboration as to what info goes where and when."

When it comes to the web, Bloomberg is reportedly looking at ways it can take what BusinessWeek has done with BusinessWeek.com and put them to use on Bloomberg.com, which "is being repositioned to attract more of an upper management readership". And while Bloomberg plans to keep most of BusinessWeek.com free, consideration is also being given to paid content. Mediaweek reports that Bloomberg might develop "deep, vertical content areas" that would cost subscribers around $100/year to access.

Clearly, Bloomberg sees a lot of potential in its new acquisition and is going to give BusinessWeek a major overhaul. But a few questions will need to be answered:

  • Will Bloomberg pick the right makeover? As mentioned, moving in the direction of The Economist is appealing. But is it the right move? Will the new BusinessWeek have any more luck competing with The Economist than it had competing with Fortune and Forbes? In my opinion, the need for key differentiators is still present in any market, and "bigger, glossier and more international" alone may not be enough.
  • Can Bloomberg successfully integrate BusinessWeek into its operations? Bloomberg's treasure trove of data sources could be a boon to BusinessWeek, but the inherent desire to protect the company's cash cow -- the Bloomberg Terminal -- could present some conflict when it comes to what content gets saved for BusinessWeek. Will BusinessWeek get enough meat or just the scraps?
  • Will Bloomberg move too quickly with paid content on the web? Taking advantage of BusinessWeek's social media prowess might be a good start for Bloomberg on the web. Jumping right into paid content? Personally, I think it's a bit aggressive. Bloomberg might want to consider that paid content has a better chance of succeeding after it has reinvented the BusinessWeek brand and built up consumer trust.

BusinessWeek's overhaul will be interesting to watch. I still believe Bloomberg and BusinessWeek could be a good fit. As Bloomberg's strategy comes into greater focus and it begins executing against it, we may learn a lot about the opportunities other struggling magazines have to turn things around.

Photo credit: centralasian via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 4 November, 2009 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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