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Interview: Vivek Shah, President, Fortune/Money Group: So Far, No Recession Signs From Advertisers

It’s been several months since Time Inc. closed down Business 2.0 as a print mag and folded it into Fortune. But Vivek Shah, president, Fortune/Money Group says that the move has already started to pay off. Following his appearance on a panel at the Magazine Publishers Association’s 24/7 Digital Media conference, Shah told me that Fortune’s technology advertising category is up 35 percent year-over-year. Shah, who spent five years as general manager of The Fortune/Money Group (then called the Time Inc.’s Business/Finance unit before being restructured in September), noted that another feature of the division’s changes has also helped it weather the challenges faced in the financial advertising category. “We took the brand publisher roles out a few years ago and then reinstated them this past year. That has led to bookings being up at our magazines this past year in a pretty difficult environment, as the business/financial category is a difficult category right now.” Some of the other issues we discussed included:

Video growth: It wasn’t the sudden competition from Fox Business News that spurred the the unit to pursue video more aggressively for CNNMoney.com, Shah said. Either way, he told me, the timing has been right. “The number of streams we’re doing per month is growing fast. In January, after launching on the 15th, we did seven million; in February, we’re on pace to do twice that. According to Nielsen, the average viewer spent 45 minutes watching videos at CNN/Money.com. There isn’t a lot of inventory in this category, so that also makes us a little more attractive to advertisers.”

AJAX appeal: Last spring, CNNMoney.com began using the AJAX software system to provide automatic refreshes to its revamped custom portfolio page. One of the fears of using AJAX is that pageview numbers tend to be smaller than they previously were. Again, Shah offered a very sunny view of the experience with AJAX. Citing internal figures from Omniture, in January, the Time Inc. unit saw 425 million pageviews. “You can imagine if we didn’t have AJAX how much higher those numbers would be. But we know our consumers want it. They don’t want data that’s stagnant and in turn, advertisers value the site more as well. Advertisers love it because their impressions last longer because there aren’t all these ‘refreshes’ going on.”

No recession, so far: Declining to weigh in on whether he believed the industry was currently going through a recession, Shah said he can only judge whether advertisers are acting as if actually is one. “And I can say that we’re not seeing that yet. There is some pullback in parts of the financial category, but it’s hard to say how much of this is timing and how much is real reduction. But at this moment, at least, things look reasonably good.”