This morning, Time Inc. announced that Alan Murray, president of the Pew Research Center in D.C. and former Wall Street Journal deputy managing editor and online executive editor, would be taking over as editor of Fortune, replacing former editor Andy Serwer. Murray was brought into the Time Inc. fold by evp Todd Larsen and chief content officer Norman Pearlstine, both WSJ alums with whom Murray worked while at the newspaper. (Larsen had been president of Dow Jones and COO if its Consumer Media Group, while Pearlstine had been managing editor and executive editor of the WSJ and later launched Dow Jones’ SmartMoney.) Murray spoke to Adweek about his decision to leave Pew for Time Inc. and his plans for the 84-year-old financial magazine.
You left the WSJ to go to Pew in 2012. Why return to publishing?
I never really felt like I left publishing or journalism. The Pew Research Center is an interesting hybrid of journalism or social science. That’s what makes it unique. And of course we have a whole line of research in journalism as well. So I never really felt like I had left it. But Fortune is one of the great iconic journalism brands in America. I’ve been a fan of it since I was very young. When I graduated from graduate school I applied to two places, the Wall Street Journal and Fortune magazine, so I’ve watched it change over time and I have great affection for it. It’s also in this somewhat peculiar position where it never had the opportunity to develop an effective digital presence because of the relationship with CNNMoney.com, so you have a situation where you have a great brand that needs help on the digital front and that’s an exciting challenge for me. The other thing is I love the conferences. I built the conference business at The Wall Street Journal.
You’re starting your new role on Aug. 25. What will be your first goals?
The first thing to do is for me to get in and understand what’s there and get to know the people there better. I believe that great brands cannot only survive but thrive in the new media world, but you have to build on your strengths. You have to know what value you can bring to people that they aren’t getting from someplace else. It’ll take me some time to figure out what will make Fortune valuable in a very crowded media landscape.
As you mentioned, Fortune.com launched last month. Where do you see opportunities for more digital growth?
First of all, we know that both social and mobile are where an awful lot of the reading is done today, so making sure that we’re taking full advantage of those platforms is very important, and that focus is important. Content focus is where I’ll be spending most of my time in the early days.
Were Todd and Norm directly responsible for recruiting you to come to Fortune?
In some ways, I know Todd more currently than Norm because Todd and I worked very closely on the digital strategy at The Wall Street Journal. It was really both of them. Part of [why I took this job] was Norm and Todd. Norm Pearlstein is one of the great talents of American journalism. My first job at The Wall Street Journal was when he had become managing editor, and I think that Todd Larsen is a business visionary. This is a bet on those guys.
Will you be moving back from D.C. full time?
I never sold my house in Connecticut, so it’s pretty easy. Just a different commute.