Business news service Forbes has redesigned its home page after spending two years overhauling the rest of the website.
Following the redesign, a new landing page brings together all the changes, aiming to give prominence to what Forbes sees as the three main voices in the media business: journalists, the audience and marketers (nma.co.uk 2 July 2012).
Lewis D’Vorkin, Forbes chief product officer, talks to new media age about the publisher’s strategy going forward, the importance of social networks in building audience reach and the plans for search.
What kick-started the home page overhaul process?
We actually started out reinventing and revamping the entire site from the bottom up, one page at a time. Once we set the foundation with key pages, such as the Wealth List members’ profile pages, we then looked at the pages for all the companies we talk about, the pages for colleges, places and sports teams, and then we did a major revamp of the articles pages. After all that was done, we then addressed the home page. In other words we put the roof on last – that’s what you’re supposed to do when you build a house.
What was the strategy behind the dashboard?
The dashboard was a major effort from our technology team. And again we couldn’t have the dashboard unless we had the notion of each individual staff member and contributor publishing as their own being, their own individual, their own brand. We built up our content creation base to 1000 content creators and we then built the technology to [allow users] to personalise their home page experience by being able to follow each one of those contributors or group pages.
The reality is people want to have the experience their way and now they can
Social media plays a major role on the new home page. How will you be using it to leverage the site?
Our whole strategy for two years has been to put the authoritative journalism of Forbes at the centre of a social experience. Over those two years the traffic we receive from social sites has gone up eight or ninefold.
It’s critical to everything we do. Audience members have become their own editors, they have become distribution agents for our content so it is very important when it comes to the home page that the voice of that social community is present.
It’s important to understand that our brand is very authoritative and people trust it. At the very top of our home page you see that authoritative content as determined by our editors. Then underneath that you see what the social community find important. And underneath that there is the opportunity for the individual to make their own Forbes experience. That’s the order of things.
What impact have all these changes had on audience reach?
We have 30m unique visitors as measured by Omniture. That has increased by 50% over the past year to 15 months. It’s a very dramatic increase.
We introduced what we call a social log on about three months ago which made it easy for any reader to use Twitter, Facebook, Linked In, Google+, Yahoo or AOL to log on [to Forbes]. We’re very early in the data collection of that process but it has already had a positive effect. When we first launched social log ons the next week our registrations went up 70% and that number still holds true three months later, so it wasn’t a spike.
Prior to [introducing social log ons] you could only register by creating a Forbes account – the number of people creating a Forbes account hasn’t changed. It has remained steady. So it’s not like people are using a social account instead of a Forbes account. They are doing it the old way and they’re doing it the new way as well.
How do you plan to extend the community aspect of the site going forward?
We are embarking on a programme now to highlight the forum and we are building tools to make it a more vibrant experience. You’ve seen it elsewhere perhaps, where some people are identified as being regular, loyal users to the site and are able to have special notice and presence when they come in [to the forum].
We’re a moderated commenting site, so all our comments must be approved by the creator of the post. If I write a post and I think a comment is productive or rewarding, whether that person agrees with me or not, as long as it adds to the conversation I have to approve it. But moving forward, if I have loyal users and I find that I approve them all the time and they are trustworthy and good, we may say to that person they no longer have to be approved.
How is the AdVoice programme set to evolve going forward?
We’ve had about seven or eight companies that have published through the AdVoice platform over the past 18 months, including SAP, Dell, NetApp and Microsoft. We think it has very significant growth potential for us as marketers who want to develop relationships with news consumers.
How are you looking to update the search experience?
Over the past two years we’ve built a lot of the site but we haven’t built our search pages yet. If you search on forms, you’ll be taken to a page that functions and looks very much like it did five years ago. We’ll be updating that from a visual perspective and what you get back from a search result will be a much enhanced experience for the user.