One of the most successful and unique drivers of Fast Company magazine’s growth in the late nineties was a social network called Company of Friends.  Long before Facebook or MeetUp, Fast Company galvanized readers around the nation for live events and online forums.  The network was launched in 1997.

David Carr of the New York Times wrote in a story in 2003 that there were some 40,000 members. Here’s how he described it:

Unabashedly cultish, the Company of Friends at one time had 40,000
members in 120 cities. The Fast Company ethic — a sort of Ayn Rand
meets Tony Robbins celebration and promotion of individualistic
capitalism — was meant to be shared. But after the dot-com frenzy
broke, people were less interested in re-engineering their jobs and
more interested in making sure they had one.

In addition to effects of the dot-com bust, successive owners, Mort Zuckerman and German publisher Gruner & Jahr, let the network unwind.  There are just a few thousand members active now.

The new owners of the publication, Mansueto Ventures, is set to relaunch Company of Friends next month along with a major site redesign.

I interviewed Ed Sussman, who heads digital operations at Mansueto.

He expects that, headed by Robert Scoble, will add to traffic and interactive participation. 

This is a development to watch.

— Andy Plesser