From “The Fall of the House of Forbes”
Talking Biz News has acquired an advanced uncorrected proofs copy of “The Fall of the House of Forbes” by Stewart Pinkerton, the magazine’s former managing editor, due out in September.
Here is an excerpt from the book as Pinkerton describes the scene at the magazine in 2002:
With a global audience of 38 million in Web, video, and print, including fourteen foreign language editions, Forbes had long sought to make its readers richer and smarter by delivering unique insights: mapping the smart places to put money; exposing the traps that await the unwary; drawing inspirational portraits of those who find opportunity where others see only adversity; and pointing a powerful searchlight in the faces of any who seek to exploit, mislead, or defraud.
Embedded with evidence and logic, Forbes’s edgy stories were always highly numerate, told with clarity and brevity. Like well-crafted jury summations, they proved, never assets. Typically contrarian to what the rest of the press was reporting. Forbes would question where others applauded, find the silver lining when others derided. Surprise was a constant litmus test for whether a writer’s story idea would be approved.
The payoff for the reader was always a lesson to learn and/or profit from — an obscure mutual fund that’s outperformed the market; a company beating the pants off the competition because it embraces a technology or distribution technique the others dismiss or haven’t thought of; a new way of using an old tax code provision to get a bigger refund. The Forbes 400 list, the “franchise issue” each year, ranks the country’s riches people and dissects the reasons behind their successes and failures. It has, Bill Gates once told publisher Rich Karlgaard, “an MBA between its pages.”
But unbeknownst to many employees, the company was in a tailspin. In 2000, at the height of the tech frenzy, the magazine was bulging with 6,081 pages of ads, more than any other magazine that year, including the bride books. The problem was that 1,500 of those pages came from companies that didn’t exist at the end of2001. And without the lucky push of the nineties economy, there was no more cover for the owners’ management missteps.