Understanding the Forbes redesign
TALKING BIZ NEWS EXCLUSIVE
Forbes magazine unveiled a redesigned publication on Thursday, as well as an updated to its Web site, that changes how a magazine presents information to readers.
For example, comments from readers, instead of being lumped in the “Letters” section of a magazine, are now taken from the Web and included in the magazine’s design next to the staff-produced content.
In addition, online contributors who are experts in certain fields and blog about those specific topics will see their content appear in the printed magazine instead of just online.
Leading the overhaul is Lewis Dvorkin, who rejoined the magazine earlier this year. Dvorkin had founded True/Slant, an online news network. Previously, he had been executive editor at Forbes magazine, where he spearheaded an earlier redesign, managed the annual Forbes 400 Richest Americans list and created the Celebrity 100 List. He was also page one editor of The Wall Street Journal, a senior editor at Newsweek and an editor at The New York Times.
Dvorkin, who said Thursday that the reaction to the changes have so far been positive, discussed some specifics about the redesign in the latest issue, which focuses on the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans, by phone with Talking Biz News. What follows is an edited transcript.
Tell me about the redesign of the print magazine in general and what you were trying to accomplish.
One of the things that we really wanted to do was to start re-architect the magazine so that we could begin to have a lot of voices in it — Content creators, users, and in this case, the subjects of the actual magazine itself. Iin this case, it was the members of the rich list.
The other was an aesthetic kind of thing, to make it kind of open and clean and unlike a lot of what I like to call the tricked-out magazines in types of design, all of the typefaces and the colors that try to turn a magazine into the hyperlink feeling of a Web page, which doesn’t work. We wanted a very templated modular style. In that way, it is like the Web. It creates consistency for the readers.
I was at Forbes more than a decade ago, and I helped redesign the magazine, but I only had a print mentality. This time, I approached the redesign in a very different way. A lot of people have tole md it has a feel of the 1980’s Esquire, but contemperized where words are importanmt.
What about the Web redesign?
That was a re-architecture of the Forbes 400, which will eventually move on to the rest of the site. The goal there was to combine content, data and the conversation on the same page in a seemeless way to enable new kinds of connections and relationships that people can have. We wanted the conversation in the page to show up in the social media stream as well, and also to make a very clean, open page that had a lot of ability for horizontal navigation and drilling down.
It seems less cluttered.
It is dramatically less cluttered. It’s very organized. You know what you’re getting, and there are defined areas.
I went to read the Gates profile page, and it has a stream of content, but it included some information about Zuckerberg because it was about giving. And from the Zuckerberg page, I wound my way to the Larry Ellison page, because he has an interest in giving. There is a stream in relationships. It was actually very surprised, even tough I knew that’s what it would be.
How are you included reader comments in the print magazine?
For a long time, reader letters were siloed in a page at the front of the book. That’s all magazines, not just Forbes. We’re taking reader commentary, thought, observation, whether it’s mailed in or on Forbes.com or on Twitter and making it contextually relevant.
There is a big piece about Mark Zuckerberg in the magazine. We have two things from readers in there from Forbes.com related to the subject matter. So we have placed the reader in that content flow. That’s a benefit to the reader. It’s not just siloed off. Imagine doing that in a technologuy section, an investing section or a commentary section. This is more about taking off the Web what’s related.
The release announcing the redesign said there would be a greater focus on reporting. How so?
We are going to be expanding our contributor base whether it’s digital journalists, authors, bloggers, academics, or folks who have topic specific knowledge. It’s a contuination of what we did at True/Slant where you have knowledgeable readers with therir own page and their own brand, and they’re publishing content. So you’re able to scale your cobntributor base for both reporting and perspective and giving your staff writers more time to do other types of things that they may not have had time to do. We already have 250 contributors on the Forbes blogging platform. All of them we selected.
Will some of that content show up in the print magazine?
What’s the next step for Forbes.com?
We need to launch channel pages, new kinds of section pages. We launched a new blogging paltform, and we’re going to update that in a lot of different ways to make it more social mediaequse. One of the things that’s important is what we’re doing here in a sense is extending the Forbes brand to lots of contributors who produce content that is valuable to the Forbes brand. Those contributors and staffers are helping to aggregate audience that are interested in those kinds of things. We become a place where people talk and exchange their ideas, and there’s a forum for like-minded people.
Does this all mean any changes in the full-time staffing of the magazine?
I don’t know. The Forbes 400 and the blogging platform and the magazine redesign was all done in three months. That’s pretty astonishing. The magazine is a 300-page book, and it’s intense for the amount of information provided. As we move forward and see the demands, we’ll see what they means for how we staff the organization.