Blog post -
Redesigning Forbes for the digital age – Q&A with Lewis D'Vorkin
Lewis D'Vorkin, Forbes chief product officer, shares the story of the magazine's digital products and discusses how they keep pace with the changing expectations of journalists and readers
Lewis D'Vorkin, chief product officer, Forbes Media. 'News organisations must find ways to create and produce quality content at scale and efficiently.'
Lewis D'Vorkin is chief product officer at Forbes Media and was the mastermind behind the digital design of the magazine's web presence – bringing new profile and sections to a reworked Forbes.com. D'Vorkin also also designed and continues to oversee the new newsroom which fosters participation and interactivity between readers, content creators and marketers in real-time.
The Forbes digital platform has been a great success story, growing from 13 to 45 million monthly unique users since the start of 2010. The Media network spoke to D'Vorkin before his Changing Media Summit talk to uncover the thinking behind Forbes' digital offering.
What are some of the broader trends which you've seen that speak to the future of digital media, and what are some of the key lessons you have learned when it comes to adapting your content to multiple platforms?
Programmatic buying of ad inventory, or real-time bidding will change the economics of journalism much the same way the desktop changed those economics. It's compounded by the consumer move to mobile – advertisers dollars to reach a print audience, dimes to reach a desktop audience and now pennies to reach mobile users. To flourish in the mobile era, news organisations must find ways to create and produce quality content at scale and efficiently.
We believe in entrepreneurial journalism, which turns editors and reporters into content creators, producers, programmers, marketers and promoters. In other words, they do it all. It is their individual responsibility to succeed on the Forbes platforms and all platforms. We've built the publishing tools across Forbes.com and social networks that give them the opportunity to succeed. Our product team also works closely with social networks to integrate their key product features (such as Facebook Subscribe) on our platform. In all respects, it's about the publishing tools – if you build the right ones, they will set you free rather than imprison you.
We're also very excited by our new tablet app that uses a set of tools that merges the power of print storytelling with social sharing and the web. In fact, our new tablet app is already influencing the print product itself, and I expect it will begin to impact our web pages as well.
What philosophy have you adopted to stay relevant to people's digital lifestyles?
We have transformed Forbes.com from a website into a publishing platform. We have a core group of full-time reporters and a 1,000-strong contributor network – and all use a distributed set of easy-to-use publishing tools to create content and attract followings around their expertise. They are building personal brands under the Forbes umbrella brand. In doing so, they are making one-on-one connections with audience members — and engaging in conversation with them. Hundreds of contributors (freelance journalists, authors, academics, topic experts and business leaders) participate in an incentive payment programme – the bigger their loyal audience, the more they make. Others find reward in association with the Forbes brand. The new economics of journalism require quality, scale and efficiency. Our new model achieves all three.
How are user expectations evolving around how they manage their digital lifestyles and information?
People want to be participants and decision-makers in the news process. Social media turns everyone into an editor and many into suppliers of information. That means the audience wants its voice to be heard alongside the professional journalist. In some cases that means influencing a news page through up votes. In others, it means the ability to comment and follow a conversation just like you might follow a story. Digital consumers also want to be able to follow those reporters they respect as a first step in personalising their news experience and creating their own personal news feed to share with friend and colleagues. In all respects, they expect the news organisation to find them, rather than the other way around.
Media brands are experimenting with creating "native" brand advertising that goes beyond the banner ad – what's your take on this approach?
We live in a world in which content is content, and it can be produced by anyone. Consumers respect that and want the best information, no matter who is producing it. There is a new generation of news enthusiasts that understands and welcomes this new world of content and they understand that a click of the mouse will enable them to verify anything or get another view of the world.
The key is clear labelling and identification that is transparent to the audience. That has enabled Forbes to develop new products for marketers interested in content marketing and native advertising solutions. Our product was also designed for a world of streams, or rivers of news and information, that can accommodate the seamless integration of clearly labelled messages from marketers.