尽管当时经济一片惨淡，创刊号（见照片）每本定价1美元。创刊伊始，《财富》杂志的定位就是高端读物。而当时《纽约时报》（New York Times）的周日版仅售5美分，《财富》杂志的姊妹刊物《时代》周刊（TIME）仅售15美分。
就在这个月，随着《财富》杂志的母公司时代公司（Time Inc.）再次独立，不再作为时代华纳公司（Time Warner）的子公司而存在，这段历史将掀开激动人心的新篇章。它将像《时代》杂志一样登陆纽约股票交易所（NYSE），而从6月2日开始，《财富》杂志的网站Fortune.com也将不再附属于CNNMoney.com。
在某种程度上我是个不随大流的投资者，当然也就免不了有些偏见，在我看来，时代公司强大的品牌库前途一片光明，这些杂志包括：《财富》、《体育画报》（Sports Illustrated）、《时代周刊》（Time）、《人物》杂志（People）、《造型》杂志（InStyle）、《日落》杂志（Sunset）、《娱乐周刊》（Entertainment Weekly）及其他刊物。
“财富全球论坛”（Fortune Global Forum）于1999年在上海首度召开。那届论坛不仅大获成功，还正好赶上了中华人民共和国成立50周年的大庆。此后，“财富全球论坛”又在中国举办过3次，分别是在香港（2001年）、北京（2005年）和成都（2013年）。除中国外，财富全球论坛从来没在其它国家落脚超过一次以上。
就在《财富》（中文版）推出一年前，《财富》首次发布了目前这种形式的世界500强榜单（Fortune Global 500）。1995年的榜单上只有3家中国公司，而2013年则有93家中国公司上榜。
第一条，就印刷出版物是否会走向末路，及未来是否会由数字媒体一统天下这一问题，奥格登出版社[Ogden Publications，该社出版《大地母亲新闻》（Mother Earth News）及其他刊物]的出版人兼总编辑布莱恩•韦尔奇是这么回答媒体电子快讯BoSacks的：“每次碰到这个问题我就会说，有这么一本印刷品杂志，它有75万发行量，一英尺半厚，约两磅重，它的名字叫《连线》（Wired）。它的内容就是有关数字媒体的。为什么针对数字媒体还要出这么一本杂志呢？”
“Fifty years ago a man made his hundred thousand. A generation ago he made his million. Now a few of them have made, or are about to make, or are generally said to be about to make, their billion. A billion has become a possible fortune.”
–inaugural issue of Fortune Magazine, February, 1929
Fortune magazine was founded in 1929 by China-born American Henry Luce and his partner Briton Hadden, right in the teeth of the calamitous Wall Street Crash of 1929, which ignited the Great Depression.
Despite the hard economic times, the first issue (see photo) was priced at US$1.00 per copy. From the beginning, Fortune was definitively positioned as a premium publication. At the time, the Sunday edition of the New York Times was priced at 5 US cents. Fortune’s sister magazine TIME cost only 15 cents.
Some 30,000 subscribers signed up for the first edition, which was 184 pages thick. In its first five years, circulation tripled and advertising pages came rolling in.
From concept through launch, Luce envisioned a magazine quite different from its peers. Outstanding design, graphics, photography, paper and printing were complemented by the best writers available .
In a memo to his board of directors, he quoted Leonardo da Vinci: “The eye giveth to man a more perfect knowledge than doth the ear. That which is seen is more authentic than that which is heard. Consequently, the new magazine will be as beautiful a magazine as exists in the United States.”
Luce made good on the promise. Fortune was the first magazine in the U.S. to use color photography to illustrate its articles. This tradition of excellence in graphic design and illustration is a bedrock value of Fortune’s brand identity. It’s also a differentiating point from other business publications.
Since that gutsy launch in the stormy year of 1929, the rest, as they say, is history.
That history enters an exciting new chapter this month, as Fortune’s owner Time Inc. becomes an independent company again, no longer a division of Time Warner. It will trade on the NYSE as TIME, and Fortune’s website, Fortune.com, will no longer be affiliated with CNNMoney.com from June 2nd.
Time Inc., once the most profitable division of Time Warner, has –like other magazine publishers — faced years of declining revenues and profits. Also like other players in traditional print, new media efforts have thus far been disappointing in terms of profits. That challenge remains a focus among the investment community as Time Inc. spreads its post-IPO wings.
I am somewhat of a contrarian, and of course am somewhat biased , but I see a bright future ahead for Time Inc.’s powerful stable of brands, which include Fortune, Sports Illustrated, Time, People, InStyle, Sunset, Entertainment Weekly, and others.
We live in an age of instant answers (at least to shallow questions) and limited historical perspective. Who takes the time to ponder the lessons of history while being constantly bombarded by instant messages and social media updates?
My working career has spanned the transitions from telegram to telex to fax to email, and now, especially among my Chinese friends and associates, Wechat. I use Wechat and What’s App, but I honestly prefer email, which is a bit like clinging to telex in the fax era.
This year, the internet celebrates its 25th birthday. In the greater span of history, despite the rapid pace of technological change, 25 years is roughly equivalent to the duration of a sneeze in the average human’s life span . Have you ever gotten to the bottom of a complex question while sneezing? I haven’t.
The majority of big complex problems cannot be solved within such a short time frame. Not surprisingly, a whole range of questions with regard to digital media as a business remain in developmental stages. It remains to be seen how consumers will choose to access different types of information and entertainment in five, ten or twenty years’ time. Many have long said that print will not be a survivor. I disagree. (OK. I know. I’m still an email-addicted dinosaur, but ….)
The other thing which is clear today is that the prevailing assumption ten years ago that media consumption patterns globally would more or less mimic the US market is seriously flawed. It just ain’t so, and there is no better example of this than China.
It’s a useful reminder that following Gutenberg’s invention of movable type printing in Mainz, Germany, in 1455, there followed two generations of phenomenal, groundbreaking change, during which a whole gamut of questions and challenges involving this radical new technology demanded answers. It took time to develop these answers. Roughly 50 years, as a matter of fact.
The big losers were the traditional producers of books, who copied and illuminated manuscripts by hand. The winners included the printers, who in the following 50 years produced millions of copies of books. Even more important winners were the people, for whom the price of access to knowledge became a fraction of what it had been. There was an explosion of literacy, without which the Renaissance and associated breakthroughs in science and technology would not have been possible.
I remain a firm believer in a renaissance era ahead for strong magazine brands — those which relentlessly focus on adapting to changing consumer and customer needs, deliver compelling content on a variety of branded platforms, and find new business models which deliver good bottom line results .
Meanwhile, as an interesting sidebar to Fortune’s 85-year history, Fortune China is enjoying its 18th year of publication as a licensee of Time Inc.
China figures significantly in Fortune’s history. Henry Luce was born in China of missionary parents and retained a keen interest in China throughout his life.
When we launched Fortune China in 1996, we were the first and only licensee of Fortune on a worldwide basis. This showed the foresight of Fortune and Time Inc. executives with regard to China’s emerging importance in the world economy. At the time, they were ahead of many other business leaders in the West in this respect.
We launched FortuneChina.com in 1999, and have since continuously improved its content, design, and functionality, while adding iPad, Weibo and mobile platform offerings.
The Fortune Global Forum was also first held in China in 1999, in Shanghai. An enormously successful event, it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China. Since that time, the Fortune Global Forum has been held in China 3 more times, in Hong Kong (2001), Beijing (2005) and Chengdu (2013). No other country has hosted the Forum more than once.
Just one year before Fortune China magazine was launched, the Fortune Global 500 list was published for the first time in its present form. That first 1995 list included 3 Chinese companies. The current, 2013 list, has 93 Chinese companies.
So in a sense Fortune China’s entry to the China market was fortuitous, even “fortunate”, in that it coincided with the phenomenal growth and transformation of the Chinese economy and corporate universe, including the enormous impact of China’s entry into the WTO.
As for the future, count me among the optimists. Particularly for Fortune’s traditional strength, which is excellent in-depth, long-form journalism, I don’t see the screen replacing the printed, well-illustrated page. News is another matter altogether.
I will leave the reader with two salient quotes.
First, on the question of whether print is dead and the future will be all-digital, here’s what Bryan Welch, Publisher and Editorial Director of Ogden Publications (which publishes Mother Earth News, among others), told media e-newsletter BoSacks: “Every time this question comes up I just mention that there’s this print magazine that has a 750,000 rate base and is an inch and half thick and weighs about 2lbs and it’s called Wired. And it’s about the digital media. Why is there a magazine about the digital media?”
Second, as Michael Wolff wrote in USA Today on the future of Time Inc.: “Print is the hopeless past, but one with enough cash flow to be somebody’s excellent future.”
Wolff was referencing the fact that Time Inc. magazines still generate some US$400 million in cash flow from print, a figure which could be enhanced in a variety of ways including further cost-cutting measures (e.g. the move from pricey mid-town Manhattan premises, which is planned).
So, let’s watch this space.
Meanwhile, please check out the new, improved www.Fortune.com!
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