Everything’s up for change at the biz mags this week, it seems. Fortune is launching a new tech site this morning, called BrainstormTech (screenshot here), complementing its eight-year-old Brainstorm conference. The site will be a sub-section on Fortune.com, and brings together an all-star team of reporters on a Wordpress-driven blog. Besides contributions from its journalists, it will have guest columns from tech execs, including at launch, from Jeremy Allaire, CEO of Brightcove, John Chen, CEO of Sybase, and Iqbal Quadir, founder of Grameen Phone. And of course, video from its Green and Tech Brainstorm conferences.
Since there are lots of threads to this, I will give it the bullet-point treatment for ease of grokking:
—When I first heard of it this morning, my first reaction was, why? But then, why not? Yes, they’re the last ones into the party, but they do have a great team of senior tech journalists, including Stephanie Mehta, Adam Lashinsky, Michael Copeland, Jessi Hempel, Philip Elmer-DeWitt and others (where’s our friend Richard Siklos?). Most of them I grew up admiring. They all came together after Business 2.0 closed two years ago and Time Inc merged the tech journalists with Fortune.
—But nothing much has happened since then, despite some individual blogs, with low traffic, infrequent updates and no coherent strategy.
—The Fortune.com web presence has been a joke over the years: if CNN.com and CNNMoney didn’t throw traffic at it, it would have faded into further oblivion a long time ago.
—The mag’s tech coverage, which Time Inc CEO Ann Moore promised to be the best in the industry when they folded Business 2.0 journalists in, has been sub-par as well (sorry, a Marc Andreessen cover story in the latest issue, when he’s out speaking to everyone about his new fund, doesn’t count). Which again is a pity, considering the talent.
—If this new site launch only helps in raising the metabolism of their otherwise low-productivity but excellent journalists, all the more power to them.
—They didn’t want me to call the new site a “blog”. Whatever. It runs on Wordpress, and the official URL is http://brainstormtech.blogs.fortune.cnn.com/. Deal with it.
—I can’t give you my take on the quality of the site, because they wouldn’t provide a login before it launched, and one screenshot doesn’t help. They wouldn’t give me anything more.
—David Kirkpatrick, senior editor at Fortune and the most visible of the lot, is not officially a part of this effort, as he is on an extended leave to write his book on Facebook. He may contribute to it down the line.
—The Brainstorm Tech conference is here in Pasadena next week, with some big-name speakers including Barry Diller, Bob Iger, Tim Armstrong, Jeffrey Katzenberg, Jon Miller and others. The site’s launch coincides with it.
—Now to the more political part: there are obvious parallels to the AllThingsD website and D conference by the WSJ. That there is no love lost between the two teams is no secret. Brainstorm the conferece started in 2001, by Kirkpatrick and Walter Isaacson, in Apsen, a year before the D conference was launched by Walt Mossberg and Kara Swisher. Since then, the Brainstorm conference has gone through a few iterations of purpose, from a tech focus to a general business focus, to splitting it up into two conferences, and at least for the last two years that I attended it, it seemed like a wannabe-D conference despite the quality of speakers. (I can’t judge the previous versions ‘cause I wasn’t there). The D conference has grown to be the definitive event in the media industry, and AllThingsD the website launched two years ago, has quickly emerged to be a force in the tech-media landscape. Now the Brainstorm Tech site, which is also trying to build a conference into an online franchise, will have to forge its path. And if they do well, they will do it despite of all the legacy they inherit from the magazine, not because of it. And in the meantime, CNN.com and CNNMoney can push gobs of traffic to it.
—There’s lots happening at Fortune the print magazine. I won’t get into it. And no, Andy Serwer is not leaving anytime soon.
By Rafat Ali