VENERABLE 'FORBES' LOOKS FOR NEW BUZZ WITH FRESH DESIGN: BUSINESS TITLE IS 'STILL VIABLE', BUT RIVALS ARE HOTTER

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Forbes unveils its first redesign in a decade this week, in an attempt to regain some of the luster it has lost to rivals.

The 82-year-old family-owned mag-azine still racks up more ads pages than any of its many competitors. But it has lost buzz edit-orially as others -- such as Fast Company, Red Herring and Time Inc.'s Fortune -- have moved into the spot-light.

OPPORTUNITIES

"They are certainly still viable and are going to be on any advertiser's list of titles to consider," said Beth Gordon, media director at Media Edge, New York. "But we are looking at a new subgroup of titles . . . [so] they may see places where they are losing some opportunities. This may be a way to address that."

The every-other-weekly's redesign comes 10 months after Editor William Baldwin took the reins from James Michaels, the magazine's longtime editor.

Mr. Baldwin sought a magazine that was easier to navigate and more reader friendly. He assigned Executive Editor Louis D'Vorkin to work with design consultant David Herbick to develop the new look.

STRETCHED TO LIMIT

A decade ago, Forbes issues tended to be smaller. For example, the November 1989 issue weighed in at 372 pages; the November 1998 issue numbered 476. Forbes published more than 3,000 editorial pages last year, which was stretching the limits of the older design.

"With that many pages, it's very hard to keep the magazine accessible," Mr. D'Vorkin said. "At the same time, the world of getting information has changed. Thanks to the Internet, how people go about extracting information is very different."

The new design emphasizes clearly delineated sections, as well as consistent elements within sections to signal to readers what they can find on each page. Stories in the "Outfront" section, for example, are marked with a category subhead that lets readers choose articles based on industry, such as "Media" or "Law."

GOSSIP PAGE ENDS 8-YEAR HIATUS

The new Forbes also features a revived "The Informer," a gossip-driven page dropped about eight years ago.

"People reading our magazine certainly qualify as some of the busiest people in the world," said Forbes President James Berrion, who arrived in July from American Express Co.

"What we've done is set up the magazine so they can get information in a staccato, direct manner," Mr. Berrion said.

The familiar Forbes sections, such as "Entrepreneurs" and "Technology," anchor the back of the book and are marked to distinguish where one section ends and the next begins.

While this was done to help readers find information more easily, it also allows natural positions for advertisers interested in buying space near those topics, Mr. Berrion noted.

EDITORIAL DRIVES CHANGE

Advertisers were not pre-sold the redesign, he said, because the primary reason for the updated look was editorial and not advertising.

Forbes ad pages through August were up 2.2% to 2,616.74, according to Publishers Information Bureau figures.

The title was up 1.9% in total circulation, to 798,899, for the first six months

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