Poynter recently went behind the Forbes.com curtain.
Two years ago, Forbes.com was a news website like most others. Today, it is less website, more operating system – an underlying layer of technology that hundreds of contributors use to publish independently.
The business of journalism has been hurting (to say the least), so there’s plenty of room for experimentation and new business models in the publishing industry.
In the case of Forbes, leveraging its brand to bring in hundreds of contributors at no or little cost has proved successful to the tune of 30 million unique visitors each month.
Considering Forbes charges online advertisers roughly $150 CPM (cost-per-thousand impression) on average, it seems safe to assume the online property operates in the black.
Has Forbes bastardized its brand by including the proletarian-generated content next to professional-grade journalism? On the surface, it can be tough to distinguish one from the other.
I suppose Forbes might say, “Who cares?”
The model seems to be working – making money, which underpins long-term health.
Yes, some of the contributors on Forbes.com craft garbage, but one person’s garbage is another person’s treasure. How else can you explain the attraction of yard sales across America?
It seems to me there’s a healthy Darwinian element to the product; i.e., does your storytelling bring enough readers to justify your existence? If the answer proves no, Forbes pulls the trap door, and the writer vanishes.
A couple years ago I moderated a panel at a Stanford journalism conference on the topic of “Earned Media Versus Owned Media.” One point that came out of the discussion – if the content is good: informative, fresh, a lesson, etc., people don’t really care where the content comes from or if the person producing it has an agenda.
If you think about it, that’s been the catalyst behind the increasing use of owned media.
From a PR perspective, the Forbes concept straddles earned and owned.
If you can navigate the qualifying process at Forbes to land a gig, you gain the halo that comes from the Forbes brand.
At the same time, the quality of the content, much less the voice, has nothing to do with Forbes. You essentially own this slice of media with the only requirement being: attract readers.
It’s an interesting proposition for communication professionals.
In a sense, it’s the best of both worlds.