‘Fortune’ Expands Editorial Franchise

New features include focus on advice, small business

Fortune magazine plans to double down on editorial franchises in 2012 as it tries to build on the popularity of its Fortune 500 list to appeal to readers and advertisers.

It’s the latest example of how magazines, business titles in particular, are trying to stay relevant in an online world. Bloomberg LP, parent of Bloomberg Businessweek and Bloomberg Markets, for one, is trying to get in on the popularity of rankings with a list of the world’s most influential people and plans to identify the world’s richest people.

Starting in 2012, Fortune will have editorial features for all 18 of its issues. The new ones will include “The Shape of the Future” that will name the people, companies, and ideas that will most influence the world in the years ahead. “How It Works” will explore the secret sauce of products and concepts. There also will be “Best Advice I Ever Got” and “Venture Special,” a look at small businesses.

“The big franchise issues score the highest when it comes to reader opinion,” said Jed Hartman, publisher of Fortune. “They also perform great for advertisers, and they also have that third ingredient: They’re picked up by the press or they’re influential in the community.”

Publishers also like franchises because they can easily be extended to other platforms, widening their advertiser appeal. This year, for example, Fortune launched Executive Dream Team editorial feature and got BMW to sponsor a complementary event.

Andy Serwer, the managing editor of Fortune, said the franchise calendar carries another bonus. Because advertisers like franchise issues so much, Fortune can devote more editorial space to long-form journalism. “That means they’re fat issues, and then we can do all this other stuff,” he said.

One risk of so many editorial lists and franchises is that they will become indistinguishable to readers. Hartman said that Fortune wouldn’t be limited by that concern.

“The field is crowded with offerings regardless, and whoever gives the best value proposition will win,” he said.

Fortune has been looking for other ways to grow outside its print business as ad pages have dropped off across the industry. In 2010, it reduced its frequency to 18 issues per year from 25. Fortune also redesigned the magazine and added pages to each issue.