First-day news stories about
McGraw Hill’s sale of Business Week magazine to Bloomberg focus on the sale and expected changes in the magazine.
So far, I haven’t seen any comment about the deal as a statement by McGraw Hill about how quickly the U.S. economy will
emerge from the current recession and about the future of print advertising. McGraw Hill seems to be saying the economic
recovery will be weak and that print advertising will remain chronically ill.
I also haven’t seen much if any focus
on McGraw Hill and the remainder of its publications empire. With the shedding of BW, can the rest of the publications
be far behind? Perhaps some second-day stories will focus on the health and wealth of McGraw Hill.
The disposition of BW, which began as System,
was acquired by McGraw-Hill in 1929 and renamed The Business Week, leads me down memory lane. I can remember my father,
a merchandise manager for Lansburgh’s department store in Washington D.C., reading it in the 1950s. I recall that
in the 1970s, Ted Merrill, the computer editor at the magazine, suggested that the Computer Industry Association (CIA) obtain
and distribute IBM’s internal documents that had become available in U.S. v IBM and Telex v IBM. The suggestion
stimulated the launch of a document retrieval service that I managed for CIA. It also resulted in a cover BW story
by Merrill about IBM’s executive committee minutes, which CIA had begun selling.
In the late 1970s I spent Thursdays at BW drafting
news releases based on galleys of the stories that would appear in the forthcoming issue. Deciding which stories to
turn into releases and analyzing their content and structure gave me insight into the BW approach to story-telling (among
other things, end by focusing on the future). The releases were sent to other media with the objective of stimulating
stories that would credit BW and boost newsstand sales. I recall that one release—about a BW story on convicted
Italian financier Michele Sindona –was picked up by The New York Times.
The sale of BW also leads me to recall some of the weekly
and monthly vertical market trade magazines that McGraw Hill used to own, many of them leaders in their fields. Among
them were Modern Plastics and Medical World News; Electrical World and Power; Chemical Week and Chemical Engineering; National
Petroleum News, covering petroleum retailing; Electronics, and more. As advertising dried up and as McGraw Hill moved to focus
on electronic publishing and newsletters, some were closed; others, sold.
But back to BW: There’s probably
a good history, based on interviews with old-timers, to be written about the publishing and editing of BW during its McGraw
Hill days, if it hasn’t already been. Like the prototypical BW story, it would end by focusing on the future.