I read a lot, and when it comes to magazines few capture and hold my attention. Why? Because when you get down to it, Forbes isn't that different than Fortune or BusinessWeek. Time versus Newsweek? Who cares. People versus Us Weekly? Sound bites without substance.
Previously, only one magazine fit into the "must read" bucket, and that is Vanity Fair (note: VF is still must read). While those who haven't read the magazine (and only heard the title) would reasonably assume fluff and fashion, VF has a real narrative angle on each of its stories. Moreover, its stories are varied and feature-length so topics ranging from the threat of Avian Flu to the Bush confederacy of dunces to the somewhat sordid biography of Paris Hilton's parents get breadth and depth. It is visually appealing with great photography and feels timeless in the way that it is packaged. Plus, the advertising is half the fun.
Now, I happily add CondÃ©'s Nast Portfolio Magazine to the "must read" bucket. Touting itself as delivering Business Intelligence, Portfolio provides both feature length and sound bite coverage of everything about business and finance, always answering the WHO, the WHAT, the WHY and the SO WHAT with clarity and total read-ability.
For example, a great article last month covered the conundrum facing the Yankees as its owner George Steinbrenner's health and mental acuity starts to fade. Another captures the personalities at play in the deal to acquire Warner Music Group (and a subsequent lawsuit). Others look at how P&G's $57B acquisition of Gillette has played out. Click on this link or the picture below for an interesting historical lesson on who made money and who lost money buying and selling New York's Plaza Hotel over the years.
For readers who loved Red Herring in its heyday, it is worth noting that Portolio's managing editor is Blaise Zerega, who was managing editor of both Wired (recently) and Red Herring (during heyday). Check out at least one issue of the magazine, and tell me if you are/aren't hooked.