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March 21, 2007
Forbes.com's strategy: Foreign, local, videos and phones
Jim Spanfeller, CEO of Forbes.com, just addressed the Folio Publishing Summit here in Chicago. Some notes:
* Within the next 18-24 months, Forbes.com plans to launch local-language editions in German, Russian and Chinese. They will have some local content, and a number of translated stories. But they hope that many of the readers, as they drill down, will access Forbes' English-language offerings. The idea is that for many people in the world, English is a less comfortable but viable option. The first test of this strategy is Forbes.com's Polish site.
* Forbes.com is also planning local editions of the site, perhaps for cities such as New York, Chicago, and L.A.
* Forbes.com "woke three years ago up to the fact" that they were the leading business site in Europe, despite very little investment in European content. Today, Spamfeller says, Forbes.com is three times bigger than the FT.com in Europe, and even larger in the UK.
* The site produces 70 videos per week from its studio in New York. It plans to build new studios in San Francisco, Asia and Europe, and to increase the production "several-fold." They're also "working feverishly" to get videos onto phones and other mobile devices. This is more important, for now, in the more advanced wireless markets in Europe and Asia.
* When Spamfeller arrived at Forbes.com in 2001, the site had 600,000 unique visitors per month. The Wall Street Journal had more than 1 million. While Forbes pursued an open and free strategy, the Journal stuck largely to subscriptions. Now Forbes has 16 million unique visitors, and the Journal, he says, has 1.8 million. "If they'd been free, we wouldn't be as big as we are."
* He notes that top executives rely much more heavily on the Web for information, and that their patterns in this respect are closer to teenagers'. When asked if Forbes.com studied teen and college-student trends, Spanfeller said he relied largely on looking at his own children. "When they get older... I'll be totally screwed."