When Lewis DVorkin joined Forbes Media as chief product officer three years ago, he started turning the venerated brand on its head. He blew up the scale of content creation on Forbes.com with a network of non-staff contributors that has since grown to about 1,000, including marketers taking advantage of Forbes' BrandVoice program.
Taking a cue from the Web development community, Dvorkin also led a shift in the print magazine culture to one in which everything is continually tweaked and improved.
The business did not rocket upward at first, but by the end of 2012, Forbes' revenue and profitability had hit their highest levels in five years. Digital revenue increased 19% from 2011 to 2012. Print ad revenue also rose last year.
Initially skeptical, the marketer, agency and media communities now cite the revived Forbes as a trendsetter, and DVorkin is a much sought-after speaker for industry groups.
Rick Segal, president worldwide and chief practice officer at gyro, was not among the skeptics. In fact, gyro was an early adopter of BrandVoice (in June 2010).
“With this platform, Forbes has provided a mechanism for content to shine and be shared in a way that few other media companies have done,” Segal said. “Over the past 36 months, they've been continuously innovating this platform, adapting it to advertiser needs, improving its analytics and strengthening the brand journalism approach they invented.”
Adam Kleinberg, CEO of Traction Corp., called BrandVoice “one of the most elegantly executed examples of native advertising on the Web.”
“Most publishers are touting native advertising opportunities that are really just sponsored content or advertorials,” he said. “Forbes' execution has been at the forefront as brands look beyond the banner to engage audiences.”
Stephanie Mace, senior VP-director of engagement and experience planning at MRM, said, “We've had a really strong partnership with Forbes. We have had a fair amount of work running in their digital environments using custom-content units where clients can put white papers, case studies and video content into an ad unit and the decision-maker can engage with [the advertiser's] content without leaving the site.”
Meredith Levien, chief revenue officer at Forbes, said the company has been working to improve display advertising with more engaging and impactful ad units. “We're big believers in IAB [Interactive Advertising Bureau] Rising Stars ad units,” she said. “We're adopting a pull-it-forward approach where content is fed to the user on our site.”