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Forbes.com strategy helps grow revenue, unique visitors

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Forbes.com grew its revenue last year, building a digital sales number that for the first time matched what the print side generated, said Meredith Levien, chief revenue officer at Forbes Media. “The exciting news is that it's not because print is shrinking,” Levien said. “Print is growing modestly, and in digital [we saw] substantial growth in what is still a challenged digital display market.” Forbes.com logged record traffic in January, drawing about 16 million unique monthly visitors in the U.S., up 26% from the year-earlier period, according to comScore. Lewis DVorkin, chief product officer at Forbes, attributed that growth to the contributor network model introduced in 2010 to augment staff-driven reporting. “When you produce quality content at scale, you're going to generate a lot of traffic,” he said. The number of unique visitors to the site climbed 67% from June 2010 to January 2013. Investments in content publishing and management tools have been integral to the evolution of the site. The company has developed detailed metrics, leveraged social media tools and optimized the site for mobile traffic. An iPad edition of the magazine debuted in January. Digital revenue grew 17% last year, Levien said. (Privately held Forbes does not release specific revenue data.) Digital display advertising continued to lead the category, but Forbes' BrandVoice content marketing vehicle yielded the greatest growth, Levien said. BrandVoice gives sponsors a branded page where they can publish thought-leadership and expert pieces. Marketers purchase the page as part of a larger digital display buy or an integrated program, or they can pay a monthly site license for a minimum of three months. Sponsored content is clearly labeled and supported by the same tools used by the contributor network. “The information that they publish is discoverable in all the ways that our content is discoverable,” Levien said. The company has also introduced new digital display-ad products and established an in-house creative team to support such ad formats as the Interactive Advertising Bureau's Rising Star units. The creative team focuses on building rich media units, Levien said. It deploys what it calls a “pull-it-forward strategy,” working to embed directly into the ad the content that normally would be on a linked landing page. The team also generates metrics that help marketers determine the impact of those ads. “We are focused on helping the market evaluate the success of bigger, richer units around things other than click-through,” Levien said. The company partners with analytics technology company Moat Inc. to measure nonclick interactivity and engagement. Forbes also sells integrated programs that leverage a combination of print, event and digital assets. And Levien has embraced ad exchanges, automated ad buys that deliver a small percentage of revenue but free the sales team to concentrate on bigger opportunities, she said. “It lets us focus on premium advertisers who are buying high-touch, high-CPMs that are trackable through means other than click-through programs,” she said.
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