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Josh Tyrangiel, Businessweek's Boy Wonder

Does he have the mojo to reinvent the weekly business magazine?

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Josh Tyrangiel

Photo By Thomas Iannaccone

Appeared In
Special Issue
WWDStyle issue 02/09/2011

TYRANGIEL LIVES ON East Seventh Street between Avenues B and C with his architect wife and his daughter, who is turning three soon. He rides the 6 train to work. He likes the new Kanye West album and Wiz Khalifa’s “Black and Yellow,” but he’s been in a country-music stage recently.

He is close to 6 feet tall and has black curly hair that meanders away from his deep-set eyes. He has degrees from Penn and Yale and speaks quickly, avoiding contractions. But his saving grace — what keeps him from being a smug, handsome brat who has climbed too high too fast — is his ability to put people at ease.

“He had an unbelievably good sense of humor, which I think is a form of emotional intelligence that allows you to do well,” said Walter Isaacson, who hired and mentored Tyrangiel at Time in the Nineties. Isaacson has been reading the new Bloomberg Businessweek and said, perhaps not objectively: “It’s smarter than The Economist and better reported.”

 

At Time, Tyrangiel was regarded as a rising star and was talked about by some inside the building as someone who might take over as Rick Stengel’s successor. One of Tyrangiel’s last charges at Time was to transform the weekly’s Web site into something that could be more competitive online. “It needed to be speeded up, it needed a new sensibility, it needed more fun, and I think he had all of the attributes to make that happen,” Stengel said. “One of the things is, frankly, that he tapped into the ability and sensibility and ambition of the people here.”


Several members of Tyrangiel’s staff at Bloomberg describe him as a man who never raises his voice; never berates anybody, even when it’s deserved, and never makes people feel anxious on deadline.

“He was just extremely excited to be in charge,” said New York Times Magazine editor Hugo Lindgren, who Tyrangiel hired as an executive editor when he was relaunching the magazine. “It was hard to imagine he ever had a job where he wasn’t in charge. He was just very comfortable in it.…He’s a full-on good dude.”

Tyrangiel hasn’t just been charged with taking old BusinessWeek, winnowing down the old staff and relaunching it under a new name. His real charge is to create a 21st-century business magazine. “I want all readers. I want every reader. I want every single person who has an interest in global economics, business and commerce to be in these pages,” he said.

“This is something that the business side always hates when I say it, but I am the reader,” he added. “That is my actual job, to be the proxy for the reader.…What I’m trying to figure out is, how can we interest them? It’s this real balance between being comprehensive, making sure we prepare them for everything that’s coming in the week ahead and taking them out of their comfort zone.”

Eric Pooley, a former managing editor at Fortune, came on as Tyrangiel’s deputy to offer the masthead bona-fide business magazine experience. “This magazine didn’t exist a year ago. We invented it last spring,” he said. Pooley left magazines for a few years to work on a book and said he wouldn’t have come back to a business publication unless there was a job he was really excited about. “In a magazine world that increasingly seems to be managing for decline, Bloomberg was investing in growth,” he said.

Writers at the magazine said the cost of reporting a story never enters into their thinking. They can oftentimes travel with their subject and don’t have to think about whether or not their story will pan out before booking a plane ticket out of the country. Any plane trip over four hours must be flown in business class, according to company policy. Even these trips aren’t a waste in the magazine’s role as an ambassador to titans of industry — in other words, corporate executives who don’t read the terminal and have never thought about Bloomberg when they have news to break.

Pooley bragged about the magazine’s nutrient-rich front of the book, the place where perhaps Bloomberg News-style writing appears the most. It’s wonky at times, but the magazine’s art and design — small photos of Angela Merkel and a bear, for example, or bullet points at the end of each item that summarize the main points — have helped.

“I am quite shocked that we make the magazine we make in a funny sort of way,” said the magazine’s creative director Richard Turley, previously an art director for The Guardian of London’s G2 section. Tyrangiel moved Turley, 34, and his wife and young son from London after he did a great job turning Tyrangiel’s original 5,000-word relaunch memo to Bloomberg executives into a couple of mock-ups.

The magazine has been a hit in the design community and is considered competition for the entire weekly class. “Week after week, creative director Richard Turley and his crew are producing stunning covers and features, along with tightly formatted interior pages that rival New York for their texture, density, creativity, and attention to detail,” wrote veteran magazine designer Robert Newman on the Society of Publication Designers’ blog. “This is state-of-the-art magazine design, with highly-original and intelligent photos, graphics, and illustrations.”

Pearlstine couldn’t be happier, and Tyrangiel has managed to not upset Winkler’s very specific sensibilities. “I thought he nailed it from the start, and I think he nails it every week,” said Winkler.

“I’ve worked with a lot of great editors over the years,” Pearlstine said. “I don’t know anyone who has accomplished more in a shorter period of time or has more potential than Josh.”

The magazine’s main fight is with readers and advertisers and it can’t be a hit without moving off the newsstand. At least for now, Tyrangiel’s lackluster numbers do not appear to matter to Pearlstine, or anyone at Bloomberg.

“We want to and expect to be profitable,” he said.

But: “We also see extraordinary benefits to Bloomberg that go beyond the bottom line. I think getting into the corporate suite has certainly helped us get access to news makers, which is very good for the Bloomberg terminal.”

 

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