On the Fast Track
After teetering in the post-dot-com era, Fast Company expects 30-percent revenue growth this year.
Some publishers want to talk strategy, share metrics and demonstrate platforms. Christine Osekoski wants to tell stories: China's push into sub-Saharan Africa, the ugly truth behind bottled water, "tech-doping" at the 2008 Olympics. Exciting and unnerving - if they share a core message, it would be "what you thought was true maybe isn't so" - these stories open up new vistas of pitfalls and possibilities. They also have a lot to do with the recent success of Osekoski's magazine, Fast Company.
"Fortune, Forbes and BusinessWeek are firmly defined in the space of, ‘How do I make more money? How do I make my company more successful?'" says Osekoski. Fast Company's approach, however, "is, ‘How do I change the game? How do I create something that's different?' ... I think that's [why] people are really enamored with the magazine, because we are talking about the future of business, not the bleeding edge that is not relevant, but relevant steps that people are taking."
Fast Company has its own dramatic story, one that begins during the dot-com bubble. The name evokes growth, energy, risk - all the things that made the business climate of the late '90s thrilling and, ultimately, unsustainable. Like its peers The Industry Standard, Business 2.0 and Red Herring, this business book teetered after the tech bust, then fell - to be caught at the edge of the abyss by investor Joe Mansueto, who purchased it in 2005 from Bertelsmann's Gruner + Jahr division along with sister publication Inc. for the comparatively paltry sum of $35 million.
"People were wondering, ‘Will Fast Company still be alive or will it be relegated to a Web site?'" recalls Osekoski, who came on board a few months after the purchase and was promoted from national sales director to publisher in August 2007. "There were people who thought we would fall off the planet, and the readers stayed true to it because they were still seeking what it was."