Finweek’s new editor faces daunting challenges
MARC ASHTON is under no illusions about Finweek. The job of Editor is one many might have turned down, given the unpromising market for print publications, the concern about the future of print and a degree of confusion about the best positioning of business titles.
“ Finweek has been lurching from one end to the other as far as its positioning is concerned for 14 months,” he concedes. “We never seemed able to marry it with the online service (Fin24). The integrated newsroom never took off and we were left with a product lacking an identity. Fin24 has achieved great brand recognition and now Finweek will have to re-establish itself as an independent brand.”
Unassuming and self-effacing, Ashton will oversee the implementation of a radical revamp that will turn this magazine into a different kind of publication: still about money and investment but serving the needs of the individual rather than the corporate world. Officially, he’s “acting” Editor until the completion of internal formalities.
“Restructuring has been done very fast,” Ashton says. “It’s a big risk for me. The repositioning made us look closely at our own brand and our skill sets. We don’t want to take the FM head on. We need to make finance fun and interesting.”
Though Ashton is a “digital native”, he’s intrigued by the challenges and opportunities of print. “I consume most of my media on the Internet. I can’t think of the last magazine I subscribed to in print format. It was probably FHM. Online tends to offer less analysis. Headlines are turned into stories. The magazine will give writers the opportunity to expand on their subjects in a way that isn’t possible on the web.
“We have clear financial objectives from the publisher. Our losses have been publicised. This can’t continue. We’re dealing with distribution problems as well as new media consumption patterns. The marketplace in SA is relatively unfamiliar with finance. In Australia, standing around a barbeque you can talk about PE multiples and everybody can contribute. Here they think you’re talking about Port Elizabeth.”
A product of Bryanston High School, Ashton at 30 is young for the job. But he suddenly emerged two years ago as a multi-award-winning journalist at Finweek and is a successful entrepreneur in publishing and small business development. Those skills will serve him well.