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Becoming the Forbes

Becoming the Forbes
"You see it in business history all the time: Sometimes outsiders see opportunities that incumbents don’t. We see it in media, too."

Why Forbes.com?

When Forbes.com went live, it didn’t have the audience or the content prowess, as we know it today.

It was yet another print publisher that ended up launching a website, at least that’s what it looked like at first. Soon, even with the competition from the TIME (Fortune Inc.) and Bloomberg’s BusinessWeek, The Wall Street Journal, and The Financial Times, Forbes firmly stood its ground as one of the best media publishers for business news.

There was a time when Forbes employees worked one week each month without remuneration and sent on leaves because of the scarcity of resources. But recently, the publisher announced a special bonus to its employees, which amounts to 4.5% of the total income of their annual salary. Forbes stood the test of time and, in fact, won in all aspects of the media business – Reach, Revenue, and Remuneration.

Agreed, it had its fair share of flops. And that’s why we’ve studied the growth of Forbes. After all, no one pulled it off successfully without some failed experiments. With no further ado, let us show you how much the publisher has grown – in terms of both reach and revenue.

How it all started?

David Churbuck, a technology journalist, former editor of Forbes Magazine, founded Forbes.com in 1997 and handled the media strategy until 2000 (Src). The idea was to design and run a frequently updated tool – with interactive datasets, directories, calculators, and lists. In fact, Forbes.com was initially launched with a motto of “tools not text”.

Surprisingly, Forbes had around 150k visitors a month and employed just 4 people to manage the online site.

Forbes in 1997

Where are they today?

The publisher has a global audience of 132M+ monthly unique visitors. Forbes also boasts over 40 global licensed editions and various different social media channels. The publisher is particularly active on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, which altogether have over 35 million followers. 

These platforms are also found to be most effective for their advertising campaigns aimed at increasing brand recognition globally. The estimated ad revenue generated by Forbes is $109 million last year according to a source.

Becoming the Forbes

Digital Tool to Media

Funding and Launch

1996 – 1998

To be frank, we can say that Forbes.com is the eldest of almost all the news websites you’ve ever come across. The domain was registered in 1993 and the website was up and running by the end of 1996. But, when the publisher made its online presence on WWW, they weren’t sure about what to do and how to do it. The print revenues were declining and the resources were limited.

So, they figured out getting an external investment will help.

Print legacy and standard concepts will always do the trick. With the funds from BMW, Fidelity Investments Company, Intel, Oracle, Teleport Communications Group, and Stolichnaya vodka, Forbes redesigned the website and announced the launch. Besides, the publisher asked for a commitment of $2,50,000 from each one investor (Src).

Stephen Glass Scandal

Until the early 2000s, the digital magazine and online news websites were not fully considered significant as they were in print. There were a handful of digital publishers that existed before this decade, but the major players at that time faced the same challenge i.e. their audiences never saw digital content as a priority.

For this reason and to prove that their digital content wasn’t a fad, Forbes tried to eliminate this belief by providing genuine editorial to its visitors. To the surprise of many readers, the publisher got attention from all over the world by revealing the fabricated story published by Stephen Glass, an associate editor of TRP in 1998.

The article “Lies, damn lies and fiction” became the biggest tool to build trust among its readers by the end of the 90s and has attracted more than tens of thousands of visitors till now (Src).

Marketing and Promotion

Everyone needs a promotion. Though Forbes had a print legacy, it needed to market itself as the print and internet teams were siloed. Unlike NYTimes, Forbes.com was functioning as a separate entity – with different goals, editorial style, etc.

In 1999, to grow the number of website visitors and Forbes brand, the publisher announced its first major offline ad campaign where it spent $10 Million. The primary goals of the ad campaign were to drive the traffic on the website and thus, increase the ad impressions.

”We have to grow the brand fast. The time span to build a brand on the Web is different. The life span of a Web entity is shortened because there’s so much competition.”

– Bruce Rogers, Vice President for Marketing Communications, Forbes (Src)

Not only the digital channels, the publisher also used Radio channels for the first time to increase their audience reach further. According to the Marketing team of Forbes, one-third of the total budget was allocated to the radio channels where they ran a series of three 60-second programs in seven different countries to create buzz among the people. 

Wondering how many visitors they got? By promoting the ad campaign, Forbes allured 2.5 Million monthly visitors in May, which is an impressive milestone for any publisher (Src).

Automatad Team

At Automatad, we help publishers to monetize better without hampering the user experience. Our products are live across hundreds of publishers, earning them incremental ad revenue with every passing second. You can request a free audit to get an estimated revenue uplift today.

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