Forbes.com: immediacy, depth, interactivity
Maidment spent some phone time with us recently. Here's how it went.
SWMS You observed Forbes from afar for years. What has surprised you now that you're inside the four walls, so to speak?
Maidment I've spent quite a lot of time in New York, so I wasn't entirely unfamiliar with Forbes. I expected a great brand. When I did my due diligence it became pretty clear that there was a deep pool of under-exploited talent and content. If anything, the pool is deeper and richer than I thought.
SWMS What is your mission?
Maidment I wear two hats. I'm the editor of the Web site and executive editor of the magazine, and really my role here is to bridge the two. At the FT we really pioneered the integration of online and print journalism. A lot of my immediate focus will be on the web site. To my mind, whether they're print or online, publishers can get hung up on whether they're producing a web site or a newspaper. Publishers are producing their brand of journalism and how that's expressed shouldn't be driven by convenience or production constraints. If they want it online they should deliver it on that... so what we have to do as journalists is produce really high-quality, informative, opinionated business journalism and find appropriate formats for that.
At FT we were able to do that with tremendous success. Journalists were contributing in both media - but it took five years of blood, sweat and tears. Then again, we were pushing on an open door. Journalistically, at least, the organization gradually was becoming ready for it. The big obstacles of change were on the commercial side.
SWMS What was the big win for you at the FT?
Maidment It was the way our coverage was perceived by the States. Originally our US edition closed at 6pm eastern time, which gave the Wall Street Journal a seven-hour advantage over us. We obliterated that advantage, becoming on a par with the Wall Street Journal Interactive.
Also, we managed to banish this shibboleth about web cannibalizing print. Ever since ft.com launched, the Financial Times newspaper has reached record levels of circulation. Online extends the reach of a print publication. As long as that [growth] is captured, it doesn't matter about whether it's 'print' or 'web.' A publication's best advertisement is its own editorial. Get it under the noses of as many people as possible and you'll be okay.
SWMS Describe your Forbes roles a bit more.
Maidment I'll be specializing somewhat in the area of personal finance, taking the role of a finance editor, focusing on service industries, investment for individuals... the sophisticated and wealthy.
SWMS Why did you come to Forbes?
Maidment There was a wonderful opportunity to come in and really make a difference. None of that would have been possible without commitment from the Forbes brothers, to pursue integration of everything under the brand. The need for that is well understood here. The Financial Times had the same sort of firm commitment, and it took us five years to do it there. Looking back, I can see the key drivers of that were based in a very strong top-down commitment to making that change. The editor of the FT first saw the importance of integrating with his head, but then, finally felt it with his heart, and that's when things really started to happen.
SWMS You must have been a successful politician at the FT!
Maidment Yes, or a masochist! Forbes came and asked me to do this. I do bring the experience of having done this. I know what we'll have to drive hard on. Expectations have to be set at the right levels, and it will take time. I suppose it's like the old saying, 'Never cheer for the coup until the countercoup has failed.' I hope people come to understand that change isn't something that should happen to them, it's something they should embrace.
SWMS How will visitors to Forbes.com know that your impact is being felt?
Maidment: I think you'll see that the site will look more immediate, deeper and interactive, though in may ways you'll barely notice the change. It's a very solid platform to build on. We're not going to rip it up and go again. A simple way of thinking about Forbes.com is this: the Forbes editorial values are immediacy, depth and interactivity. That's what a good web site seeks to provide. Anything under that umbrella... tools, community... that's all a part of content.
SWMS Your arrival is on the heels of [Forbes.com CEO] Jim Spanfeller's. Is that good?
Maidment I think it's a pretty strong signal that there are two new people at top of the web site organization. It should be seen as a signal across the company that there is positive change to come. I hope Jim [Spanfeller] and I make the most of the political capital we've been given. ®
Copyright © 2001 Sam Whitmore's Media Survey
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