Content Is King
Tony Joseph
Consulting editor, BusinessWorld
09 May 2003

We put context to business developments, exploring unexplored areas and providing new insights that are useful for practical business decision-making, says Tony Joseph, Consulting Editor, Businessworld summing up the role of the magazine in the business genre.

In his 20-year career in journalism, Tony Joseph has launched and repositioned many media products. As Editor of Businessworld in 1998, he was responsible for turning what was then a fortnightly magazine into a weekly. In an interview with exchange4media's Nikhil Gupta, he talks about the positioning of Businessworld, the "editorial soul" of the magazine, and the changing information needs of the business decision-maker. Before joining Businessworld, Tony was Associate Editor with Business Standard, where he conceived and launched a series of specialised weekly sections including The Strategist, The Smart Investor and BS Weekend. He was also Features Editor with The Economic Times, where he worked between 1988 and 1991, a period that saw the daily newspaper being fundamentally reformulated.

Q. On what New Economy means
We have always said this, that New Economy refers to the fact that today, all economies in the world are in transition, from industrial economies into post-industrial, knowledge-based, service economies. This is the same kind of transformation as that which happened in the earlier centuries, when agricultural economies became industrial economies. This is a very, very long-term trend, something that happens over many decades. Unfortunately, in the popular media, the term New Economy has got associated with dotcoms and technology companies. In fact, there has been a tendency to dub some parts of the economy as "new economy" and other parts as "old economy". This is uninformed pop-analysis, and we have been violently opposed to this. The transition that I talked about is something that affects everyone, irrespective of the sector he or she is in - the knowledge content of all industries is increasing. Therefore, even when we said we are the magazine of the New Economy, we treated all of business as our business, and still do

Q. On the 'Editorial Soul' of the magazine
I dislike the word "content" that is now commonly used as a substitute for editorial matter. Content is soul-less. What Businessworld has is certainly not "content". What it has is an editorial soul. So what is this editorial soul? I would say it is a soul that is at home with change. In fact, it leads change. It is dynamic, it is forward looking, it has confidence in the future of India.

Q. On the target readers of the magazine
At Businessworld, we define our job as "bringing out a magazine that is specially crafted to meet the information needs of business decision-makers." The key phrase is business decision-maker. That is our target audience. We don't define it by age, we don't define it by sex, we don't define it by sector. If you are a business decision-maker, this magazine is for you.

Q. On the vision for the next five years
We believe we are the most relevant and impactful business publication in the country today. That shows up time and again. Harvard Business School has just requested our permission to use our cover story on China (China Fever) as required reading material for their students. Our domain experts are often requested to speak at associations, institutes, and company meetings. This recognition has come because time after time, we have been able to identify growth opportunities and warn about potential trouble spots ahead of time. I will give you an example. In 1998, much before anyone had started using the term BPO, and long before we had heard of the term IT-enabled services, Businessworld did a cover story on it. And we had to invent a term to describe the opportunity we were highlighting! We called it "Teleworking" and said this could be the biggest opportunity before India today. Some businessmen have since then come up and thanked us for that story, because it changed their lives! Our vision for the next five years is to extend this impactful presence into a range of new areas. Events, like the Most Respected Company Awards. Specialised publications like the Marketing Whitebook that will be out in a month or so. Guides like the Mega B-School Guide. Case Study Annuals. There is a range of new things that you will see Businessworld getting into in the coming months and years.

Q. On media and the need for instant gratification
I do not know whether there is a greater need for such gratification now than before, but even if there is, Businessworld is not the place where you will get it! Our job is to put context to business developments, explore unexplored areas and provide new insights so that you can make better business decisions. We will take as few words as possible to put these new ideas across to you, but we require our readers to spend time with us. And I am happy to say, they do!

Q. On changing information needs and competition
There are now multiple points of information dissemination - in fact, thousands of them. And information needs are now far more global than before - what happens in Xinjiang is sometimes as important to you as what happens in Chennai. But the corporate decision-maker is also pressed for time - he needs to rely on a limited number of very, very reliable sources of information that see things from his perspective. This kind of closeness to the Indian corporate decision-maker, and the ability to foresee what developments will affect him the most -- that is our competitive advantage.

Q. On the quality of coverage
First of all, I think we have the best team in the business - in terms of experience and understanding and in terms of domain knowledge. Secondly, we do a lot more teamwork than others. Often, you will see stories in Businessworld with multiple bylines, where we have put people with different knowledge bases to work on a common story, so that we get a richer picture of the reality. We throw a lot of talent into chasing after good stories. Thirdly, we have very rigorous, full-court edit meetings, where every idea is put under scrutiny, and sometimes torn apart. Sometimes, we also bring experts into our offices to dialogue with us on a particular story.

Q. On the criteria of coverage
We have a simple principle: unless you have something new to say, don't say it.

Q. On ethics and values in business reporting
Editorial ethics is woven into the fabric of not just Businessworld, but the ABP Group. We have always believed in the strict delineation of editorial and marketing functions.

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