Jim Spanfeller, publisher of Forbes.com, and Roger McNamee, whose Elevation Partners bought 40% of Forbes Media a year ago, kick off PaidContent’s “Future of Business Media” event at the Waldorf. (Disclosure: Up until last June, the two men were my employers).
Ancient Forbes Magazine in trouble? Rafat Ali asks Jim Spanfeller why the magazine hasn’t changed its look, but he’s asking the wrong guy, as Jim runs the Forbes website. So Roger McNamee jumps in. “The magazine will change when its readers need it to change.” He notes that it’s lightweight and you can read it on the toilet. Jim points out that the magazine is actually doing pretty well compared to peers…
Back to Forbes.com: It has a huge audience, but not all of it the “C Level” execs that Forbes says it wants to reach. How do you balance those two needs? Roger and Jim: We publish a lot of stuff and we reach a lot of people. Roger: My sense is that business journalism in 10 years is going to look radically different than it does today.” That doesn’t mean that magazines and newspapers are going away — but they will if they try to protect new business models.
Rafat pushes Roger to explain what’s changed at Forbes since Elevation invested. He demurs. How involved is Forbes with Fox Business Channel? Not involved.
What about NY Times story, and others, that poke at Forbes’ story mix and traffic claims? Jim and Roger testy about this. Roger says competitors are bitching because Forbes pleases its customers. Jim complains that NY Times offered a sort of retraction, but didn’t run it. Jim: “We publish 3,000 stories a day” and perhaps 5 or 10 of them are “wide aperture” lifestyle stories. [Note most of those 3,000 stories are wire stories].
M&A strategy? They’ve bought Investopedia, and may have invested and/or bought Clipmarks. So what else are they looking at? No comment.
How does industry consolidation affect Forbes? Neither Roger and Jim address what will happen when WSJ.com goes free. Here’s what will happen: it will put a lot of competitive pressure on Forbes.com.
Website still requires registration for some content — mostly Forbes magazine stories. Will that change? Jim: Yes, will probably drop that in the future.
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