Forbes Online Success does not Cannibalize Print; Future Focus on Local Business News

I had missed that news last week:

The head of Forbes.com told an industry conference that online success has not come at the expense of the print product. Speaking at the OPA forum for the future, in London today, James Spanfeller, president and CEO of Forbes.com, told delegates that his site drew 16 million unique visitors per month.

“The success of Forbes.com has not come at the expense of our print product, in fact the two media platforms have been a great complement to each other… we’ve had all the magazine content on the site for ten years, from launch, during that time readership for the magazine has increased. “The strategy has paid off handsomely for us not only in terms of increasing readership for the print product but we have also seen tremendous uptake of folks reading our sites.”

Mr Spanfeller said that growth was based on the recognition of the Forbes brand rather than a specific single delivery platform. “The manner by which people find our content is less important than having a brand that stands out and that people recognise.” He added that Forbes was prepared for a platform agnostic publishing world where the focus was on providing business news on a local basis. He said Forbes had just launched a Polish version and further local language services with geographically specific content were planned. He added that Forbes was investing heavily in creating original video.(…)

(via Journalism.co.uk )

What it means: it’s common knowledge in the industry that Forbes has done a very good job with their online properties, building specific content for the Web and launching vertical sites like Forbes Autos . What’s interesting is that they say it hasn’t dented their offline revenues and that’s good news for an industry that has seen its share of problems recently. Premiere Magazine is shutting down its print edition in the US but will keep operating its web site. In the videogames industry, Computer Games Magazine, the second oldest pc-focused game magazine, has apparently been shut down by publisher TheGlobe.com. (Personal note: I’ve known Steve Bauman, the editor-in-chief, since my days at UbiSoft in the ’90s).

Coming back to Forbes, according to this New York Times article, “the Forbes site attracted almost $55 million in revenue in 2005, the most among business publications” The Times article also debates whether they have as much traffic as they claim, bringing back to the surface the whole third-party measurement issue. “Some competitors argue that Forbes.com’s popularity derives in part from racy, provocative or wealth-obsessed lifestyle features that have little to do with traditional business news — examples from this year include “The Hottest Billionaire Heiresses,” “Top Topless Beaches” and “America’s Drunkest Cities.” Those kinds of articles, unlikely to appear in Forbes magazine, may be a small fraction of those that Forbes.com posts each day, but they are often featured on mass-market Web portals.” I call that smart marketing. As long as you don’t over-extend and dilute too much your brand, there are a lot of things that can be done differently online. You want to capture those eyeballs.

Update1: InfoWorld kills print edition, will focus on online. Owen Thomas from the Business 2.0 blog says: “I’ve heard from IDG insiders that IDG is keeping other print titles on life support, on the theory that the print edition adds brand awareness and gravitas to the websites.”

Update2: Time Warner announces that Life Magazine will be shut down

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