Price that Forbes sells for will tell us a lot
Wolff writes, “Forbes in print form was once worth several billion dollars. Now its magazine has, at best, nostalgic value. So reports that the new Forbes was hopefully looking at a $400 million or $500 million sale on the strength of its digital accomplishments have buoyed the digital content market.
“Indeed, the digital journalism business has been distinguished most recently by the number of new start-ups in the field, and by well-known journalists leaving traditional brands to join new digital efforts. There is even a sense that there is a new science to digital publishing, that the code has been broken.
“Forbes is the looking glass example of this “science.” Looked at one way, by being aggressive or shameless, it has built a platform that offers the use of its brand to virtually anyone in a public commons sort of way. Thanks to the sheer volume of free content and opinions alone (and with artful top editing — i.e., headlines that encourage clicking), Forbes generates lots of low-cost traffic and views, against which low-priced advertising is sold. That’s the business in a nutshell: keeping your cost of content lower and cost of traffic lower than the low rates you’re getting for each view.
“But looked at another way, Forbes is an obvious fraud. It is not a magazine or editorial operation at all. It is just, in effect, a user comment site that allows commenters the pretense of saying they have written for Forbes. Or, even, for paid promoters to write laudatory articles for Forbes about whatever they are promoting, then to say, in further promotions, that Forbes lavishly endorses such-and-such complete baloney.”
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