祝贺《财富》英文网站全新上线! / Celebrating Fortune

祝贺《财富》英文网站全新上线!

“五十年前,有人挣了10万美元。三十年前,有人挣了100万美元。现在,有一些人已经、或者即将、或者将要挣到10亿美元。10亿美元已经不再是遥不可及的财富了。”

——《财富》杂志1929年2月,创刊号

1929年,出生于中国的美国人亨利•卢斯和他的合作伙伴布里顿•哈登全然不顾当年华尔街发生的可怕股灾,创办了《财富》杂志。而正是这场股灾引发了大萧条。

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。

有3万人订阅了创刊号,这本杂志有184页之厚。在初创后的头五年里,它的发行量增长了三倍,广告客户滚滚而来。

从设想到发行,在卢斯的心目中,这本杂志就是要与同类刊物截然不同。它拥有出类拔萃的设计、图表、照片、纸张和印刷,还有最出色的撰稿人。

在一份致董事会成员的备忘录中,他引用了莱昂纳多•达芬奇的名言:“与耳朵相比,眼睛能给人类带来更完备的知识。亲眼所见总是比亲耳聆听要更真切。因此,我们的新杂志要成为美国最精美的刊物。”

卢斯实现了这个承诺。《财富》杂志是美国第一本使用彩色照片做文章插图的刊物。在平面设计和插图上精益求精——这个传统是《财富》品牌价值的根基,也是它区别于其他商业刊物的地方。

顶着1929年的暴风骤雨大胆创刊后,《财富》在之后的日子,像它宣称的那样,开创了一段历史。

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。

作为时代华纳公司旗下一度最赚钱的子公司,时代公司与其他杂志社一样,多年来一直面临收入和利润下滑的窘境。同时,与传统出版业的同行类似,公司在新媒体领域的利润回报迄今仍令人失望。就在时代公司在首次公开募股后准备一展宏图之际,这一难题仍然是投资界关注的焦点。

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。

我们正生活在一个充斥着即时回答(至少对浅薄的问题来说是如此)和狭隘历史观的时代。就在大家随时随地都被即时消息和社交媒体更新频频轰炸之际,谁还会花时间去沉思历史的教训呢?

我的职业生涯经历了从电报到电传,从传真到电子邮件,直到最近的微信(尤其在我的中国朋友和同事中间流行)这一不断更新换代的历程。我也用微信和What’s App,但说真的我还是喜欢电子邮件,这就有点像置身传真时代却还抱着电传不放。

今年互联网将迎来25周年诞辰。从更长的历史周期来看,尽管技术发展日新月异,25年却只相当于一个普通人一生中打个喷嚏那么点时间。谁在打喷嚏的时候就能对一个复杂的问题寻根究底呢?我是没这个本事。

大多数重大而复杂的问题没法在这么短时间里获得解答。因此可以理解,由于数字媒体行业尚处于发展阶段,它还有一系列有待解决的问题。在未来五年、十年或二十年中,消费者会怎样选择接受各种信息和娱乐的方式还有待观察。很多人早就下过断言,称印刷品终将灭绝。但我不敢苟同(当然,我明白,我还是个沉迷于电子邮件的落伍分子,但是……)

今天,另外一件清楚的事实是,十年前曾盛行一时、认为全世界的媒体消费模式都将或多或少效仿美国市场的看法是很有问题的。现实并不是这么回事,而再也没有比中国市场更好的例子了。

值得提醒大家的一点是,1455年古腾堡在德国美因茨发明西方活字印刷术后,重大的突破性技术革新又花了整整两代人时间,在此期间,有关这一革命性新技术的大量问题和挑战亟需破解。解决这些问题是要花时间的,事实上大概用了50年。

这场革命中一败涂地的是那些传统的书籍生产者,他们只会用手工抄写手稿并为之绘图。大获全胜的是那些采用新技术的印刷业者,他们在接下来的50年间印制了成千上万本书。更重要的赢家是普罗大众,对他们来说,拜新技术所赐,获得知识的代价跟过去相比变得微乎其微。从此,能读会写的人开始激增,没有这一点,文艺复兴及与之伴生的科学和技术突破就无从谈起。

我仍然坚信,对那些强大的品牌杂志来说,它们将迎来自己的复兴。这些杂志牢牢抓住不断变化的受众及其需求,坚持不懈地顺时应变,在多种品牌平台上发布令人叹服的内容,并能发现盈利丰厚的全新商业模式。

同时,在《财富》杂志85周年诞辰之际,一则有意思的小消息是,作为时代公司的授权刊物之一,《财富》(中文版)正迎来它的第18个年头。

在《财富》杂志的历史上,中国的地位可谓举足轻重。亨利•卢斯作为传教士的子女出生于中国,而且终其一生始终密切关注着中国。

1996年当我们首次推出《财富》(中文版)时,我们是全球范围内第一本也是唯一一本获得《财富》杂志授权的刊物。这表明,《财富》及时代公司高管对中国将在世界经济中日益显现的重要性早有远见。在这方面,他们当时已经走在许多西方商业领袖的前面。

1999年我们推出了财富中文网FortuneChina.com。此后我们对这个网站的内容、设计和功能不断精益求精,同时还在iPad、微博和手机上推出了相关应用。

“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。

因此在某种意义上,《财富》(中文版)进入中国市场这一过程算是有点偶然,甚至是“颇为幸运”,因为它正好赶上了中国经济和公司的飞速改革发展,包括中国“入世”后产生的巨大影响。

至于这本刊物的未来发展,我充满乐观。尤其是对《财富》杂志的传统优势领域,即优秀的长篇深度报道来说,我并不认为屏幕能取代印刷精美、图文并茂的印刷品。当然新闻就另当别论了。

在此我要与读者分享两条名言。

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?”

第二条,迈克尔•沃尔夫在《今日美国》(USA Today)上就时代公司的未来发表的高见是:“印刷刊物属于毫无希望的过去,但一家有着足够现金流的刊物却仍拥有光明的未来。”

沃尔夫所指的就是时代公司的印刷版杂志仍能带来约4亿美元的现金流。这个数字还能通过多种方式进一步提高,比如采取进一步削减成本的措施(如正在计划中的搬离寸土寸金的曼哈顿市中心)。

所以,请静观其变吧。

同时,敬请浏览全新改版的www.Fortune.com

Celebrating Fortune

“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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