Next week, PandoMonthly returns to New York for a candid conversation with a guy unafraid of kicking media conventional wisdom in the nuts: Forbes grand poobah Lewis DVorkin. Even his official title, “Chief Product Officer, Forbes Media,” tells you he’s a man who views the role of journalists differently than most. It promises to be a memorable evening, and that’s saying something, since PandoDaily has already brought you interviews with Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, Mark Pincus, Spotify’s Daniel Ek, reclusive billion dollar fund manager Chris Sacca and many other movers and shakers.
You can buy tickets for the April 18 PandoMonthly NY with Lewis DVorkin right now.
Sarah is on maternity leave (it’s a girl!) so I’ll be doing the honors. I think I’m a good choice because I’m a former Forbesian who knows where the bodies are buried. When I worked there Forbes was a place that took all the fun out of dysfunction. Editors at the top of the masthead ruled by fear and, at times, engaged in shockingly bad behavior. That’s not why I quit, though. I ended up leaving after government prosecutors threatened me with a subpoena to reveal anonymous sources I used in a story on the 1998 hack of The New York Times. Forbes lawyers wanted to cooperate. It got ugly.
But that was oh so last century and several changes in leadership ago, and today Forbes is a far kinder and gentler place. I visited recently and was pleased that a security guard wasn’t ordered to escort me off the premises. You see? If there can be peace in Northern Ireland anything is possible.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that Lewis DVorkin, who once worked at Forbes as executive editor, was brought back to save it. He founded True/Slant, an “expert blogger platform” that Forbes, which was struggling mightily, bought in 2010 then put Dvorkin in charge. His mission revolves around what he calls “entrepreneurial journalism.” His definition involves reporters and editors becoming “content creators,” as well as “producers, programmers, marketers and promoters.” Forbes isn’t just a magazine and website anymore. It’s a platform that provides writers the tools they need to publish. If you measure success by sheer traffic, then he has, thus far, done very well. The Guardian reports that the number of unique visitors has risen from 13 to 45 million a month since the start of 2010.
But it’s also hard to separate the wheat from the chaff when top-notch reporters who write for the magazine – and Forbes has some very talented writers and editors – publish next to more than a thousand shlubs just happy for a megaphone and a means to promote themselves, their work, companies, and personal agendas. Reporters can’t be too excited about being judged not by the content and quality of their work but by how many eyeballs they attract. One in-house pastime, I hear, is constantly checking Chartbeat to find out how a post is doing click-wise compared to other contributors. Meanwhile, Forbes non-staff are compensated by the number of unique visitors they attract. Then there’s Forbes’ dependence on native advertising, which can make it difficult to discern a paid ad from a post.
None of this bothers DVorkin. “The new economics of journalism require quality, scale and efficiency,” he told the Guardian. Digital news economics are different from print, which is rife with inefficiencies, and he’s trying to make the transition to another news business paradigm. If he doesn’t succeed, though, Forbes may run out of options.
At any rate, you can be sure we’ll have a spirited discussion. Get your tickets now before they sell out. And visit our revamped events page to find out what else we have in store and/or to sign up for alerts.