Forbes is a disrupter in journalism
by Chris Roush
Clayton M. Christensen, David Skok and James Allworth write in the latest Nieman Reports about disrupters in journalism, and include Forbes magazine.
They write, “Take the example of Forbes magazine. Executives at Forbes understand that you cannot run a news business and produce quality content in the digital era with a cost structure built for analog times. The biweekly publication’s website has changed the traditional role of the editor. Editors still manage staff reporters but their working relationship with freelancers has changed. Instead of giving them assignments and editing their stories, editors now manage a network of roughly 1,000 contributors — authors, academics, freelance journalists, topic experts, and business leaders, all focused around particular subjects of interest — who post their own stories and are accountable for their own individual metrics. According to Lewis DVorkin, chief product officer at Forbes, 25 percent of the content budget is now dedicated to contributors, who wrote a total of nearly 100,000 posts last year.
“With a focus on niche subjects and a network of bloggers who write posts and curate work on these subjects from other publications, Forbes attracts new contributors and facilitates conversation across the network, driving more traffic to the company’s sites. As DVorkin describes it, ‘Talented people want to belong to a respected network, and that’s what we’ve built and continue to build.’ This new system has resulted in a network effect whereby contributors generate their own loyal followings under the Forbes umbrella. In one year, Forbes doubled the number of unique visitors to its website. Referrals from social networks rose from 2 percent to 15 percent of the traffic to Forbes’s digital properties, and search engine traffic increased from 18 percent to 32 percent of the total traffic.
“Every newsroom’s reporting strengths will be unique, and the challenge is for the news manager to assess a newsroom’s unique strengths. If the strength is local reporting, how can the newsroom derive more value from its content? How can it expand local reporting capabilities? How can the newsroom develop innovative products and applications — and how can it do this while reducing the cost?”
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