Editor in Chief
Time & Life Building
New York, NY 10020
875,520 North American subscribers with a median age of 49.4, and an average HH income of $347.5k. 85% work in business, industry or the professions, 65% are top management.
Fortune is published 26 times a year (bi-weekly with two bonus issues).
-> Kirkland’s background:
Kirkland has spent most of his career at Fortune. After he earned his BA in English from Birmingham Southern and his PhD from Duke, teaching did not seem like a great career. Journalism did.
In 1978 Fortune expanded from a monthly to a bi-weekly. “They were taking bets on people without a lot of journalism background and I was one of them,” Kirkland explains.
He started reporting in 1978, and became a writer in 1981 focusing on policy and international stories. After stints in Washington DC and Europe, Kirkland settled in New York to edit full-time and he climbed up the ladder from there.
“I was in the tradition at Fortune of hiring poets and teaching them accounting, which is a lot easier than teaching accountants to write,” says Kirkland.
-> Current editorial coverage:
“A lot has to do with our slant. We’re doing those types of stories that Vanity Fair and GQ are doing, just about business people and not Hollywood stars.”
As Editor in Chief, Kirkland has helped reshape the magazine. “The magazine has changed because the story changed,” Kirkland explains.
Today, Kirkland says he tries to find stories that help readers get through these difficult times. “After we acknowledged times had changed we weren’t going back to the bubble right away, we figured in the more sober, slower growth era and decided our job was to find the people, companies, and trends to help people win. We’re brutal optimists, but we have to assume things are getting better.”
The titles of the sections have not changed but the cover stories and departments have adapted in four ways:
#1. These days you can not just put some hot shot CEO on the cover.
“We’re trying to discover some rising stars, people who are doing it right. In general, it’s a little more economic and features different kinds of personalities,” Kirkland adds.
“I’ve made an effort to find CEO’s who are not celebrities but back-to-the-basics, interesting people. They might not have the same swagger but you can make the practice of business come alive in a story that gets under the hood and looks at what it’s like to fix the engine.”
For example: “We looked at the CEO of P&G. It was a great case study about his discovery that the company was spending (and losing) a lot of money on new products on research and development and the subsequent decision to figure out (and focus on) the 12 products that helped P&G sell the most business.”
#2. Fortune has a newsier slant.
“The more recent issues have more topical commentary,” explains Kirkland. “The front is more of our take on what’s happening tight now and it features our premier writers. The back is more fun with a new People page and a new This Just In section with unexpected, off-beat, quirky bits, where writers can have fun.”
#3. Fortune is adding a quarterly section focusing on Ideas and Innovation that will identify the trends in biotechnology and IT applications.
#4. Kirkland says there is more room for different kinds of stories. “Because we define business so broadly we can do stories that some of our competitors can’t. We like being able to do real human-interest stories like the recent story on dyslexic CEO’s where we were able to tell people that nobody gets dealt a hand with four aces.”
-> What Kirkland looks for in a story pitch:
“It’s nice if somebody actually reads the magazine and understands what we do,” says Kirkland. “A product announcement is useless and we’re not a daily newspaper. Instead, tell me why this product, company, or person is interesting and why it fits with Fortune.”
1. Think about why the story is right for Fortune. “We tell stories and we do analysis, so it’s got to have a high hurdle raise as they say in Wall Street,” suggests Kirkland.
2. Send a very focused pitch. Customize rather than including Fortune in your barrage to other outlets.
3. Try to get know a writer or editor personally. “It’s always better if you have established some credibility when your pitch comes over the transom or fax,” says Kirkland. Seek out writers or editors who have written similar stories and contact them.
Look at the editorial calendar so you know which weeks are opening weeks and which are closing weeks.
Editorial Calendar for Fortune Magazine:
Fortune Small Business calendar:
“We have this funny rhythm of coming out every two weeks. Part of the week we’re operate like a Weekly and part of the week is spent on stuff that’s been in the works,” says Kirkland. “Some pages can be launched very close to the end of the cycle and others require a lot of lead-time.”
-> Submitting pre-written contributions:
Do not bother unless Fortune specifically contacts you.
-> Becoming a regular columnist:
Fortune is not aggressively hiring but they are not frozen either. “We do have a few columnists who aren’t on staff,” Kirkland says. “By and large I’m looking for people with proven records as business writers and journalists who can tell great stories, but there needs to be a high level of credibility and expertise.”
-> What Kirkland looks for in an online pressroom:
“I don’t refer to them that much just because it’s not in my DNA,” Kirkland admits. “But a lot of people here use them because the online world is a huge part of our consciousness and effort.”
-> What Kirkland looks for in print press materials:
“In general, the most successful way to contact us is with something really short and to get someone to listen to you,” says Kirkland. “You’re never going to get over the hurdle with just a press release or even an email. If you want the door to open send something exclusive, targeted and better yet, from someone we know.”
->Where you can meet Kirkland:
Kirkland goes to a few conferences each year. He usually attends Fortune’s 3 or 4 conferences, such as the Brainstorm show in the summer in Aspen and the Global Forum, as well as occasional one-day events on corporate governance.
He will also do lunches in the New York area (Kirkland frequents Citarella).
-> Kirkland’s favorite professional publication:
“In this industry you’ve got to read the Wall Street Journal.”