Forbes.com is not your grandpa’s pub. In the last 2 years the website has doubled usage by rethinking their approach to publishing. The 95-year-old company is now an online experiment engine – using search data, social media and digital tools to run rapid tests that maximize sales, page views and content sharing.
Bruce Upbin, Forbes managing editor, hosted a video town hall at Intuit recently where he shared the news organization’s best practices for engaging readers via digital participation. With more than 29 million readers and growing, it’s a story worth noting. Below is a quick recap of the 10 simple tactics that Forbes.com is doing better than most websites.
1. Individual as brand. Each of their 900 freelance contributors takes ownership for the success of their content, with Forbes as a facilitator and central resource. Writer compensation is proportional to viewership so the best rises to the top.
2. Data is everywhere. Take a stroll through the website and you’ll notice that each article’s performance metrics are pretty easy to discern. This “data transparency” builds mutual accountability while ensuring that readers can easily navigate to what’s most relevant.
3. Outsource control. When talented, empowered contributors meet a century-old news organization, the staff’s job is to get out of the way. While they inject guidelines, best practices and editorial reviews into the process, Forbes also maintains a level of professional autonomy that sparks wonderful dialogue. Some of their more controversial articles are here, here and here. Oh, and can’t forget about this one.
4. Social sharing is caring. Forbes uses big, prominent social sharing tools that make it easy to promote the content you care about. This one is a no-brainer.
5. Transparency and openness. Each writer has a clear bio and profile that provides an instant snapshot of their agenda, profession and body of work. As the line between journalism and blogging gets increasingly blurry this practice helps build credibility by allowing the reader to decide for themselves.
6. It’s still about journalism. There’s no panacea formula but the Forbes.com approach is simple: great insights, experiences and news written about people we relate to by people we relate with. They are far from perfect, and readers are quick to point out their editorial mishaps, but they do remain progressive.
7. Power of partners. Forbes works with brand sponsors and media allies to bring this real-time production to life. Most recently, they carved out a portion of their blog platform (built on WordPress ) for brands to use to power their own conversations.
8. Content is content. The Forbes story count has increased by 45%. While news articles and stories are cornerstones of the content mix they are not the whole pie. Videos, imagery and multimedia can sometimes tell stories in ways that words can’t.
9. What they stand for doesn’t change. In 95 years the Forbes approach to news values has remained steady. What they represent is part of their DNA, how they represent it will continue to evolve.
10. Build a scalable content model. Each morning Forbes.com holds a content planning session to map out the day’s digital activities while using Campfire, a web-based group chat tool, to maintain real-time conversations with editors, contributors and collaborators. They can flex up at a moment’s notice and ensure the publishing workflow is moving forward.
Search and social have doubled their portion of inbound traffic to Forbes.com and its readership outpaces similar sites. I continue to be an avid, sometimes rabid, reader of the site and can vouch for the tactics above. Forbes has transformed their online offerings by building a platform that embraces experimentation and adaptability. So what’s the catch? This approach also required relinquishing control so they could focus on grander goals – engagement.