Jim Spanfeller on Editing Forbes.com

James J. Spanfeller serves as President & Chief Executive Officer of Forbes.com, a leading media Internet company, and as Executive Vice President of Electronic Publishing for Forbes, publisher of Forbes, the nation's leading business magazine. As CEO of Forbes.com, he oversees all aspects of the strategic and operational management of the company. He is the first person to hold the position of Executive Vice President of Electronic Publishing at Forbes, a position created in recognition of the driving need to link all elements of the company's business to the Internet. In this capacity, Mr. Spanfeller develops and oversees joint opportunities for print and online across all areas of Forbes.
Prior to joining Forbes, Mr. Spanfeller was President, Consumer Magazine Group of Ziff Davis Media, Inc., the largest technology publishing company in the United States. The titles under his responsibility were PC Magazine, Yahoo! Internet Life, Smart Business, Family PC and Expedia Travels. He also managed Corporate Sales and Custom Publishing and was on the company's Board of Directors. He joined Ziff Davis Media in 1996 to launch Yahoo! Internet Life, as Founding Publisher, and oversaw all aspects of the business, including editorial, circulation, production, marketing and advertising sales. This magazine launch was one the most successful in the last decade, and the publication now has a circulation of 1.1 million. He also had direct supervision of the magazine's Web site, which attracted over 4 million page views a month. Before working at Ziff Davis Media, Mr. Spanfeller was Publisher of Inc. magazine, and he has also been Senior Vice President, Marketing/Associate Publisher of Playboy Enterprises Publishing Group, which owns and operates Playboy Magazine. Prior to this he held senior sales positions at Newsweek.
Mr. Spanfeller has a BA in English Literature from Union College, Schenectady, New York. He sits on the Board of Directors of The New York Chapter of The National Foundation for Teaching Entrepreneurship To At Risk Youth (NFTE); served as Executive Director of The Magazine Publishers Association, 1999-2000; and was named one of Folio magazine's "40 Industry Visionaries" in 1999. Mr. Spanfeller lives in New York City with his wife, Peg, and their three daughters.
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TRANSCRIPT

Question: What is the editorial process at Forbes.com?

 

Spanfeller:    It’s a 24/7 type of operation.  We’re publishing 5,000 stories a day.  Now clearly we don’t write of 5,000 stories but they are made up in roughly 3 or 4 different buckets.  Obviously, the first bucket is the most important bucket, ones that are written… write it, are written by our staff.  It’s a staff of full time and part-time online people that was originally 375 journalist will now combined the offline and online staffs together, so we’re pumping around 700 journalist that are going to be reporting on some regular fashion throughout the course of a week or a month on the site and they all write a great many stories.  We then also have wire services which will contribute you know, the regular sort of what happen and when type of story then we’ll have contempt partners.  And at this point I think we’re up over 250 different contempt partners that will file to the site and fairly those filters that we placed on those partners are ones that make the selections that do appear on the site more Forbesian if you will.  But those partners arrange everything from a paidcontent.org to Oxford Analytica which is a company that reviews sort of the world economic and social political situation on daily basis and then everything in between.

 

Question: What is your most popular content?

 

Spanfeller:    So, we use web analytics to measure our web traffic every minute of the day and in fact we’re looking at that in our intraday basis.  We’re looking at it from a daily snap shot with good staff snapshot and mostly staff snapshots as well but fundamentally you know, the editors are constantly reviewing that and making decisions base upon that in terms of what goes where in terms of placements.  The popularity will range and vary depending what’s happening in the world.  So, as you might guess, you know, around the middle of September of last year through now, there’s been a higher degree of interest in finance stories and in market stories.  Although there was interest before but it was just spite as you’ve seen you know, the world sort of implode and explode and then hopefully rebound over the last you know, 6 to 18 months depending on how value and will feel about it.  Other times, we’ll have an idea that will you know, make news so when we do one of our major list, one of the rich lists or one of our celebrity lists, you’ll see huge traffic around that.  And the other times it would be you know, as it relates to news today, if a companies had a major announcement or a major breakthrough or hopefully not but if it goes through some serious issues, there’ll be a permanent traffic around stories about that happening.


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