The Superhero Leap at HBR

HBR2015Adi Ignatius is not coy when asked about the radical changes to his publication, the Harvard Business Review, as quoted by Olga Nasalskaya in Fipp.

“Harvard Business Review is that rare case when an academic journal becomes a mainstream media brand, beloved by both readers and journalists,” he declares.

Making the change, which started in 2010, from a largely academic journal, full of unrelated scholarly articles, to a popular mainstream magazine means they now have more control over their content.

“For each edition of the new magazine we create a central theme. That’s allowed us to pick topics that we think are really engaging. It also allows us to plan ahead, rather than produce an issue from whatever submissions we happen to have each month. We reach out to the top thinkers in the field, asking them to contribute,” Ignatius explains to Nasalskaya.

Along with the content changes came a magazine redesign to make the publication more reader-friendly.

“We publish very complicated, challenging content, so we decided to help readers get through it by making the design and layout less intimidating and creating points of entry, such as side bars, charts and lists,” he notes.

A website overhaul has also helped them solidify their brand, with blogs having become “a very important part of our DNA.”

“The website reinforces what HBR stands for, which is big ideas about business and helping your career,” he notes.

All of these changes have meant growth, and the highest circulation they’ve ever had (currently close to 300,000 copies).

He’s savvy about content, smart about multi-channel use, and keen on developing other revenue streams to offset the decline in print ad revenue.

“It makes sense because we are a multi-platform publisher. When we acquire ideas and commit to working with authors, there is a strategic plan in developing those ideas. One idea can go from a blog post that gets a huge response, to becoming an article in HBR’s print edition, to becoming a book that we publish,” he explains.

With all of these new channels, he’s solid on one point: print will remain a part of the strategy even as digital readership grows, calling the magazine “an iconic showpiece.”

HBR seems to be a good indicator that publishing in the business space continues to be relevant, lucrative and creative.