Six months ago, Meredith Corp. sold the magazine to Thai businessman Chatchaval Jiaravanon, a member of Thailand’s richest family, for $150 million. Jiaravanon rarely talks to the press and appears willing to let Fortune’s existing management develop a strategy for sales, marketing and circulation.
The latest moves are aimed at reducing a reliance on print advertising, which has declined as audiences and ad dollars shift to digital media, The Wall Street Journal reported. Fortune’s ad pages fell 54% to 630 last year from 1,364 in 2014, according to the Publishers Information Bureau.
Alan Murray, the former Chief Content Officer of Time Inc. who is president-CEO of Fortune, said consumer revenue is “the only way for serious journalism to survive in the current environment.”
He declined to discuss how much the magazine plans to raise its cover price from the current $6.99. Fortune will relaunch the publication next year and print it on better-quality paper.
When Henry Luce, cofounder of Time Inc., founded Fortune in 1930, the magazine had a cover price of $1 -- the equivalent of about $15 in today’s prices. Luce priced Fortune as a premium product that wealthy and influential people would see as a status symbol.
Newsstand sales averaged 8,206 copies an issue last year, about half their 2015 levels, according to the Alliance for Audited Media.
The digital paywall will come into effect later this year, after Fortune takes full control of its digital properties from Meredith in July.
Fortune will join the ranks of publishers that have added paywalls to their websites to boost revenue. Publisher Condé Nast plans put all its titles behind paywalls this year, following similar moves by Business Insider and New York.
Fortune’s audience of C-suite executives likely will be willing to pay for the paywall and treat it as a business expense. Its average monthly audience of 20 million readers probably will shrink. But readers who are committed to paying for the content are a more desirable audience, anyway.
The company also plans to expand its conference business by adding three events to this year’s calendar. This year, it's estimated to generate between $40 million and $43 million in revenue. Seven of its 20 conferences are outside the United States, including two in China.
The conference business makes up about 40% of its yearly revenue, while digital advertising accounts for 20%. Prints ads and circulation contribute the rest.
In early September, Fortune will exit Meredith’s New York office at 225 Liberty St. and move to 40 Fulton St. in lower Manhattan.