Jim Spanfeller on How to Make a Forbes List

The CEO describes how he creates those lists you love to read.
  • Transcript


Question: What makes a good Forbes list?


Spanfeller:    Well, I should say a lot of things I guess, right?  There’s a wide variety of list and I think fundamentally people like list and so there are lists that would be outside the Forbes brand and there are lists that are inside the Forbes brand.  So, it’s a good Forbes lists is something that’s inside the Forbes brand but also has a wide degree of interest.  So, certainly rich people you know or US wealth list in our worldwide billionaire’s list and then individual country list who do quite well all around the world.  But any if you’re getting into specific types of things you know, most expensive houses, most expensive city you live in sometimes negative list work, worst automobile of all time was a big list there for awhile and sometimes we… we’ll get a little bit of a little fun with it and we’ll do the highest earning cartoons or fictional characters.  I said cartoons because Scrooge McDuck is usually the number one list on that list.  And then we will do our top earning dead celebrities lists which we usually try to do on a Halloween, so that seems strangely appropriate. 


Question: What is your methodology?


Spanfeller:    We try to be very, very factual in how we do it.  Obviously, when we get it to more humorous and whimsical for example fictional characters, there will in fact be a methodology behind it but that methodology is one that you know, sort of has a… but when they say in Pirates of the Caribbean, it’s kind of a lose guideline but other than that there’s very, very hard fast rules and before in fact for our celebrity lists and our rich lists, we have a very large staff working on those list all year around digging into individuals, digging into what they own, what stock they have, how the companies they’re invested with are doing and then other times where the list will be pulled out of either public place documents or census numbers or US government numbers or some other third party of some credible source who has issued metric in some way should be form.