In this era of fading revenues, how can a newspaper or magazine draw traffic while differentiating itself from the hundreds of other similar sites out there? Lewis DVorkin, Chief Product Officer of Forbes Media, has written about how Forbes is doing just that.
Most news sites, DVorkin writes, are still very similar to their appearance of ten years ago: plain, generic, boring text; sidebars with as many links as possible (search-engine fodder, don’t you know); very little individuality from article to article or even paper to paper.
The larger point is this: the top-down, one-to-many, “Voice of God” world of journalism lives on. The media dutifully professes the need to adjust its gatekeeper mentality in the face of disruptive technologies, social media and economic models that no longer work. It’s just so much talk.
But not Forbes. Dvorkin discusses the changes Forbes has been making to its site and article structure to make the structure more attractive, make it easier to share and discuss content or follow Forbes authors who interest you, and discover other interesting Forbes material. Forbes has also made it easier for writers to publish directly to the site with less editorial oversight, and while this sometimes results in posts that don’t live up to Forbes’s standards, such posts are quickly caught and corrected by audience or staff.
And it seems to be working. DVorkin says Forbes’s audience has doubled over the last year, and it now gets 30 million unique visitors per month.
I have to admit, I do remember what Forbes articles used to look like, and the new way is an improvement. The text is readable enough I don’t immediately reach for the Evernote Clearly button, and I can follow the story well enough. If I were moved to share the content, I could click on a sharing link either in the sidebar or at the bottom of the article. If I wanted to follow the author on Facebook, I could click a link right on his byline. My only complaint is that the space outside the article text itself seems a little cluttered, but if I’m just reading the text I can ignore it easily.