From paper to pixels

Sometimes, the simple ideas are the most revolutionary. Way back when, in 1961, a senior partner named Arch Patton proposed that McKinsey should publish a quarterly journal as a vehicle for its best thinking. Some colleagues worried that self-publishing would be perceived as self-promotional or even (the worst sin of all) commercial. It took Patton three years to convince his fellow partners.

When it finally launched, the McKinsey Quarterly turned out to be highly effective. The firm already had a strong publishing tradition. James O. McKinsey, our founder, wrote some of the first books on budgeting and management accounting, and Arch Patton was a fecund writer of articles and books on executive compensation. The discipline of producing a regular journal spurred many more McKinsey consultants to research and write. It also necessitated the hiring of professional editors, which helped set new standards of consistency and clarity.

Roll forward half a century and the Quarterly is still going strong. Yet the world—and McKinsey—have changed in ways that Arch Patton's generation could never have anticipated. First, our firm has grown from about 40 partners in the mid-1960s to more than 1,400 today. As a result, McKinsey produces more articles and reports (not to mention blog posts, videos, and infographics) than could ever fit between the covers of a quarterly journal.

Second, publishing increasingly is a digital, mobile enterprise. Just like everyone else, McKinsey clients are more likely to be found reading (and sharing) content on their smartphones than handing xerographed pages around their offices.

The McKinsey Insights app is our answer to the new needs of our readers: mobile, convenient, customizable, and compendious. It serves up not only McKinsey Quarterly articles but also research reports from McKinsey Global Institute, our in-house economics think tank, and a wide range of materials produced by our practices. What's more, it is available to all-comers for Android devices, iPad and now for iPhone.

A few facts about the McKinsey Insights app:

  • About 250,000 people use it globally—a number we expect to increase further now the iPhone version is available.
  • You don't need to register, but doing so allows you to customize the app to focus on the topics that interest you.
  • Yes, McKinsey clients get access to exclusive content, but most of the goodness is open to everyone.

What comes next for our publishing program? Beyond creating a more mobile-friendly version of (watch this space) it's fair to say we don't know for sure. But if McKinsey clients start consuming management insights via virtual reality goggles, we'll be there before you can say immersive multimedia.

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