Forbes is trying to export its editorial franchises and native ad business models to Europe, with a few twists.
The publisher, known for its large network of outside contributors in the U.S., has the same, albeit smaller set-up in Europe with eight permanent editorial staffers, six commercial people and 140 regular contributors. Most of these publish content to the website, though Forbes also has a European print edition with a circulation of 20,000.
With the European push, Forbes is courting business-minded millennials, who, the publisher claims, already account for half its traffic. Forbes is also fine-tuning its native ad platform, complementing it with some location-specific efforts, including a “Forbesfone” mobile service.
Expanding 30 Under 30 franchise
For the past four years, Forbes has released a “30 Under 30” annual list of millennial entrepreneurs, across industries including tech, health care and social entrepreneurship. The list comes with a conference. Its first EMEA summit will be in Tel Aviv in Israel in 2016.
This franchise now has its own editorial vertical, featuring content for and by young entrepreneurs. Forbes also has a social networking app for those in the 30 Under 30 lists to meet and stay in touch. It is available for those on the U.S. and European lists and, in time, will become a single global app.
Forbes worked with Tinder to co-develop the design so it emulates some of the traits the social dating app has become known for, such as its swiping feature.
Members can browse a stack of “cards,” which include basic profile information including their areas of interest. They can swipe right for “I’d like to connect” or left for “maybe later.” If a match is made, both users are notified and prompted to start a conversation, just like on Tinder.
With 1,500 users, the app also includes activity feeds, member directories, a direct messaging service and content developed by the members themselves.
Advertisers can get involved with the products via sponsorship packages and native advertising, according to Charles Yardley, Forbes’ managing director of international.
“Everyone is looking for and claiming to have the golden answer on how to reach millennials,” David Goodall, Havas Media’s managing partner of international. “If Forbes thinks they have cracked it, it is worth paying attention.”
DigitasLBi strategy director David Carr warned against becoming reliant on “millennial” as the default label to broadly encompass such widely diverse groups of people, though. “It’s a terrible badge,” he added.
Still, he applauded Forbes’ attitude with 30 Under 30. “That fear of missing out that seems to have evolved into the fear of not succeeding — the attitude and fears that are born out of having grown up with a smartphone in your pocket — those are the kinds of pressures that younger generations face, and Forbes’ 30 Under 30 channel reflects that nicely.”
Native advertising in Europe
Forbes’ native ad platform, BrandVoice, gives advertisers access to the same content management system as Forbes journalists and contributors. It has 100 native ad clients in the U.S. In Europe, it just signed its fourth.
Yardley said Forbes is focused on growing its native ad business in Europe and EMEA. “It’s probably unfair to say it’s embryonic here, but it doesn’t feel like it’s much beyond that,” he added, noting that Forbes has a strong prospects.
Havas Media’s Goodall said Forbes’ early entrance into native advertising seemed aggressive at the time, and “got them a bit of flack.” But he added that it has proven itself a pioneer in the area and is “not afraid to set the pace,” with a lot of other publishers now playing catch-up.
Telecoms eyed for new revenue stream
Forbes is eyeing the telecoms market as a way to diversify its revenue, rolling out mobile-roaming services for frequent business travelers.
It has partnered with Maltese mobile firm Worldfone to offer data and voice packages under the brand “Forbesfone.” The idea is that instead of frequent travelers having to juggle multiple SIM cards and data plans across different countries, they can get a single “Forbesfone” data or talk plan, which is supposedly cheaper. The service will be available worldwide in January.
“It’s just one of the areas in which we are diversifying revenue streams. We’re also looking at real estate, travel and financial services,” Yardley said.