Don’t worry about the senior corporate citizens of the Old Economy or
the great business magazines that have grown rich and fat chronicling
The slow, dumb, out-of-touch multi-internationals that built the
America we love — the GEs, AT&Ts and Exxons — are doing just fine. You
can read about those codgers of capitalism all the time in Fortune,
Business Week and Forbes.
instance, has just rolled out its annual Forbes Super 100, which
measures and ranks companies on a composite score that looks at sales,
assets, market value and something most of the New Economy’s hot young
punks don’t have much experience with yet — profits. GE, Citigroup,
Exxon Mobil, Bank of America and IBM are Forbes’ top five.
At 532 pages, the April 17 Forbes is a real door-stopper. But Forbes
(like Fortune and magazinedom’s No. 1 ad-king, Business Week) has had
decades to put on as much weight as the family cat. More impressive,
considering their youth, are two much more specialized business
magazines your Uncle Fred has never heard of — Red Herring and
Both cover the New Economy almost exclusively — and
enthusiastically. Both are larded with smart articles, serious opinion
from insiders, wild graphics and hundreds of full-page ads devoted to
the latest wireless, interactive, converging, fully integrated,
scalable, streaming high-tech stuff and the upside-down, “Invest-Lose
Money-Invest” business models of the wild new dot-com universe.
Red Herring’s 488 pages include a
sensible editorial — don’t regulate online gambling — and a package on
how the entertainment industry’s Old Guard is now clamoring to climb
aboard the Hollywood Web rocket before it and its crew of venture
capitalists leaves them pool side. (Movie critic Roger Ebert addresses
this unavoidable online-entertainment collision/collusion in a Yahoo!
Internet Life’s April Hollywood package.)
Red Herring also goes to the town of Oulu in Finland near the Arctic
Circle that has powered that country’s high-tech miracle by incubating
141 startup companies — including cell-phone market-monster Nokia and
the Linux operating system. There’s a 38-page report on the causes and
global implications of Europe’s booming wireless market. And for
students of the bio-tech sector, a 17-part package looks at the renewed
flurry of optimism and investment activity in that $150 billion industry
starts on Page 262.
Business2.0 is nearly as bloated and just
as e-nuts. Not two years old, it spends a mere 392 pages fulfilling its
mandate to cover the New Economy, the New Rules, the New Leaders of the
New Economy. A winner of several best new-magazine awards in 1999, its
cover story package sets out to try to separate the froth of the New
Economy from the substance.
Michael Lewis, the brainy author of “The New New Thing,” takes the
frothy side of the debate. He says the New Economy, the Internet boom,
is powered by an ideology that has brought about several revolutionary
and permanent changes in society and in business.
Not only is getting rich now politically and socially cool, he says.
Entrepreneurs have risen in social status to become the New Culture’s
heroes. Innovation is no longer seen as a threat or an economic
irrelevancy, but as the most important factor in creating wealth
and economic growth. And capital has been democraticized to the point
where high-school dropouts who don’t own a tie can borrow millions to
start new companies.
Lewis, a man of rational exuberance, says these changes and new
values spring from “a single belief — or perhaps it is a suspension of
disbelief — that the future will not just be better than the present,
but so much better that it will be unrecognizable.”
His debater, Christopher Byron, on the other hand, has Greenspanned
his exuberance. A financial columnist for the New York Observer and
MSNBC.com, his belief in the fundamental business verities of yore
causes him to sees a painful readjustment for the economy coming around
Another worthy Business2.0 offering is “Do Profits Matter?” That
question — which Biz2.0 says “haunts the sleep of everyone doing
business online” — is asked of dozens of online business CEOs and
Their collective answers seems to be, “Yes, but no.” Or at least,
“Yes in the long run, but not necessarily yes right now when online
companies like guru.com and wholetree.com and Amazon.com are spending
billions of start-up capital on ads and promotions to capture market
share so that someday they’ll actually make a profit.”
GE’s profits last year, by the way, were $10.7 billion. Not bad for a
Covering the Big Weeklies
Geeze. Where did all the large news go? At Time, Newsweek and U.S.
News & World Report, it’s pretty much another week of going through the
motions. They’re at their journalistic best — especially Time and
Newsweek — when they have to scramble squads of their reporters and
editors to assemble big packages around nation-seizing tragedies and
news events — Oklahoma City, TWA Flight 800, Columbine, etc.
No such luck.
cover package is part three of its decent but contrived and not very
exciting “Visions of the 21st Century” series. For this installment,
which focuses on Space and Science, Time recruited top scientists to
answer questions like “Will We Live on Mars?” and “Can We Save
California?” (from tectonic forces, not cultural ones). One of the
pieces says it’s virtual certainty that a killer asteroid will take aim
on Earth someday. For the sake of the Big Three Newsweeklies and their 9
million or so customers, let’s hope it happens sooner than 100,000 years
Until then, we’re stuck with Newsweek’s big cover take-out on “The
Race to Decode the Human Body Genome” and
exercise in ranking “America’s Best Graduate Schools.”
Hasn’t U.S. News done this for the last 50 years? How much really
changes at these schools? Haven’t Harvard, Stanford and Penn’s business
schools been ranked 1,2,3 forever? Maybe the media-monitors at Brill’s
Content ought to investigate this seasonal scandal.
checks the progress of the $250 million Human Genome Project. Thanks to
computer power and the power of future biotechnological profits, by June
competing teams of government and corporate scientists will be done
copying of the “operating instructions” of the human body.
This blueprint of human life — “the code of codes, the holy grail,
the source code of Homo sapiens” — is going to “revolutionize
medicine and vault the biotech industry into the Wall Street
stratosphere,” Newsweek says in a package that tries hard (and in vain)
to explain to the scientifically impaired how scientists are able to
sequence 3.2 billion chemical “letters” in human DNA strands and how
that knowledge will be used.
On the plus side, Newsweek says, it will revolutionize the detection,
prevention and treatment of everything from cancer to depression.
Biotech companies will cash in on all this genomic research, of course,
and their stocks will produce the next Wall Street bubble.
On the evil side, it may bring on “genetic discrimination” in health
insurance and employment, not to mention a whole bunch of bad movies.
But bio-scientist Robert Sapolsky provides the most sensible commentary.
He says a person’s genes are important, but they are not inevitable or
preordained. Environment and nurture are equally important factors in
determining whether you’ll be a schizophrenic or have a strange urge to
migrate to South Carolina each April to play golf.
Remember Beirut? Before it tore itself to political, religious and
ethnic bits in a 15-year civil war that started in 1975, the capital of
Lebanon was the Switzerland of the Mid-East. Rich, cosmopolitan, a
trading center known for its freedoms, it was transformed into a bloody
city of death and destruction. The word Beirut is still synonymous with
a bombed-out no-man’s land, but an article in the April Smithsonian
offers written and photographic proof that it is coming back from dead.
It still has a lot of rebuilding and plaster work to go, and the
Israelis still drop a few retaliatory bombs on the city now and then,
but Richard Covington says it is a safe and civilized city again, as
well as a Mecca for artists and entrepreneurs.
Offspring, a.k.a. “The Magazine of
Smart Parenting,” has just been born. For its debut issue, the quarterly
published by the folks who put out SmartMoney ranks the Best 100
children’s books. As chosen by 2,000 librarians responding to
Offsprings’ survey, when all of the Harry Potter books are out, their
top five recommendations are Roald Dahl’s “The Witches” series, Brian
Jacques’ “Redwall” series, J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit,” C.S. Lewis’
“The Chronicles of Narnia” series and Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle in
Joyce Carol Oates’ new book “Blonde: A Novel,” which is based on the
life of Marilyn Monroe, never made the librarians’ list. But the world’s
most famous female face — and heaving bosom — can be found from cover
to back cover in the March-April issue of the always interesting, smart
and hip culture magazine, Gadfly.
David Dalton gets lots of space and plenty of photographic backup for
his deep, fond, intellectualized look at “St. Marilyn.” Gadfly, though
edited by conservative John Whitehead of Rutherford
Institute fame, was recently given the
Cultural Coverage award by the lefties running the Utne Reader.
Whitehead, who says he created Gadfly because he believes the arts and
popular culture is “a fundamental expression of humanity’s search for
meaning,” was honored to be honored.