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VOL. 125 | NO. 158 | Monday, August 16, 2010

Magazine Keeps Emphasis On ‘Business’

MARIA BURNHAM | Special to The Daily News

Print | Front Page | Email this story | Comments ()
Ken Neill
Photo: Lance Murphey

While most magazines are downsizing or folding, here in Memphis one is expanding. Memphis Business Quarterly, or MBQ, has bumped up to six publications a year from its previous four.

“It gives us a better chance to do more timely reporting,” said Ken Neill, publisher of Contemporary Media, which produces the magazine in loose partnership with the Greater Memphis Chamber.

In its quarterly incarnation, the magazine focused heavily on business profiles and features – news that had some shelf life, a requirement for publishing on a quarterly schedule. With its new schedule, the publication will be able to ramp up its hard news coverage of local business, Neill said. To that end, the company plans to hire an additional full-time news reporter.

The magazine has no pretensions to covering daily businesses news – Neill says there are already plenty of publications in town doing that – but hopes to be able to add longer, more timely features to the city’s business news offerings.

“We can step away from the day-to-day coverage of events … step away from the trees and see the forest,” Neill said. “Hopefully we do that as well as, if not better than, the other business publications in town. That’s what we see as our mission. We want to provide a cosmopolitan reflection of Memphis.”

Launched in the fall of 2006, the magazine was born out of a desire to produce a more enduring business news product, said John Moore, president of the Greater Memphis Chamber.

Contemporary Media, which operates a custom publishing business in addition to producing the Memphis Flyer, Memphis Magazine and Memphis Parent, had an existing contract to produce coffee table-style books about Memphis for the Chamber. But Moore said he wanted something with more depth that the Chamber could send to businesses considering relocating or expanding to Memphis.

At the same time, Neill and his team had been kicking around ideas for a magazine-style business publication.

“So it was sort of a perfect match for both of us,” Neill said.

The magazine has a circulation of more than 25,000, which comes primarily from the Chamber’s mailing list coupled with Contemporary Media’s distribution network for Memphis Magazine and some of its other specialty publications.

“It gets information out in two ways: It works like a business magazine, obviously, but it’s a way to produce collateral material for the Chamber to send to potential new investors in our community,” Moore said.

Advertisers find the concept, and the circulation numbers, attractive, Neill said. Though the publication has yet to make money, it is trending positive.

That’s not surprising, says Thomas Hrach, an assistant journalism professor at the University of Memphis. As mainstream sources of media are scaling back, more specialty publications are popping up, Hrach said.

“The need for news and information out there in our community, and in every community, has not lessened and has, in fact, increased,” Hrach said. “We need the news and information, and if the traditional sources of media won’t provide that, you’ll see other sources step up.

“Businesses, nonprofits, chambers of commerce, they’re all realizing they can’t get the coverage they once got from traditional media because traditional media no longer has the staff to do the work,” Hrach said.

So companies are filling the void with their own publications.

Neill said he believes that even in the age of the Internet, there will always be room for magazine-style print.

“We’re not looking to do just a cheerleading publication. We want to show that Memphis has a wide variety of things going on,” Neill said. “I look back at the things I didn’t know before we started the magazine – it’s been a great education for me, learning about the Memphis business community. Hopefully it’s been the same for our readers.”

Though no longer quarterly, the magazine will keep it’s name as MBQ – much like Gentleman’s Quarterly kept the GQ when it went monthly – because MBQ already has great brand awareness, Neill said. The subtitle, “Memphis Business Quarterly,” however, has been replaced with “Inside Memphis Business.”

Moore said he loves the progress that’s been made from the very first issue to where the magazine is today.

“I think we get to tell the story of Memphis and the opportunities we have here,” Moore said. “In the end, I hope it becomes a just as viable and important piece to people as Contemporary Media’s Memphis Magazine has been for all these years.”

PROPERTY SALES 69 163 12,921
MORTGAGES 35 85 8,088
BUILDING PERMITS 109 531 30,465
BANKRUPTCIES 18 85 6,149