Conde Nast employees looking for guidance about what McKinsey & Co might tell Conde should probably ask some old BusinessWeek folks about what happened when the consultants were brought in to evaluate the magazine in the 1990s.
It’s always been a bit of a mystery about what happened. McGraw-Hill, the publishers of BusinessWeek, brought in McKinsey. It was a surprise to most employees, particularly because the magazine then was nowhere near as troubled as it is these days. It seemed to a lot of people that the consultants were being brought in to fix a problem that didn’t exist.
According to Gary Weiss, a BusinessWeek vet, the rumour was that McKinsey’s big recommendation was that the magazine eliminate department editors, the line editors who were specialists in their subject areas. They would be replaced by a centralized copy desk, consisting largely of part time personnel.
That’s the kind of thing that horrifies journalists of the old school, who place great value on editorial experience. But it definitely would have made BusinessWeek leaner and more suited to the thinly staffed models that most websites use these days.
In any case, the McKinsey report was placed on a shelf and “quickly forgotten,” Weiss writes.
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