Cote’s Colorado: Tools to a shared end

The editor-in-chief of Forbes is a creature of the 21st century. Steve Forbes likes to read books on his Kindle and hosts a popular online video interview show. And if you checked his iTunes playlist, you’d probably find a few songs by U2.

The deal Forbes Media inked in 2006 with private equity fund Elevation Partners, which gave the firm associated with Bono a 40 percent stake, underscored the massive changes under way in the industry. Technological advances and economic chaos in the years since have transformed how content is produced and distributed.

In part two of our interview with Forbes, he talks about how journalism can thrive in the new media world. Forbes will deliver a keynote address at the Rocky Mountain Corporate Growth Conference, April 27-28 at the Inverness Hotel and Conference Center.

Listen to a podcast of the interview.

ColoradoBiz: Journalism students used to learn about the “gatekeepers,” but now the gates have been pretty much blown off. What advice would you give to young journalists and how can media companies be successful in the 21st century?

Forbes: Branding is going to be more important than ever before because with so much out there, if you find a name that you trust and you know what you’re going to get, you’ll gravitate to that and not have to feel you’re reinventing the wheel each day when you go online. I think there’s a real appetite for serious content, but the structure you use to create it and the way in which you distribute it has changed enormously.
Just take music, for example. The music industry was very sluggish, which is too polite a word, in responding to what the Web could do to the distribution of music. They sued everybody left and right. It took an outsider – Steve Jobs with iTunes – to show how you could distribute it and get resources for it.

ColoradoBiz: One of your video programs featured interviews with Mark Cuban of HDNet and Josh James of Omniture about the rise of social media, apps on mobile devices and other new platforms. Forbes certainly has been embracing these changes. What does that mean for the company?

Forbes: We have had Mark Cuban and others on what we call “Intelligent Investing,” where you can have a conversation that goes beyond sound bites. It’s been increasingly popular, and I think you’re going to see in terms of new ways to do things the flexibility this offers. In the Web world you can have enormous new sources of content and the ability to deliver it to those who might have an interest in it.

ColoradoBiz: In recent issues of Forbes, a book review begins on an editorial page, below your column, and continues on the screen of an advertisement for the Kindle that also promotes the magazine’s presence on the device. Has the line between editorial content and advertising changed?

Forbes: I think they are very separate. And I think people realize that’s not an illustration in Forbes. And certainly in other parts of the magazine, we very carefully slug what is advertising. What you’re seeing is that marketers are now creating their own content, and it’s very good content. Thanks to the ease, content creation is not the province anymore of just those of us in the journalism business. You can accommodate their desire to create content – again, as long as people see what it is – and you can use that to create the resources so you can continue to do your own journalism and tap into – thanks to technology – outside contributions that would have been physically impossible in times past.

ColoradoBiz: That particular campaign caught my eye. I literally got out of my seat and showed it to somebody because I thought it was so unusual, and it was very effective.

Forbes: It also underscored the technology. I’m a Kindle fan. It allows you to trudge around hundreds of books. I was pleased when they made the proposal because we have the magazine on Kindle. And it’s a way to show that the key thing is the content. Don’t get hung up on the platform. Platforms are tools to a shared end.
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