Forbes.com is the number one business Web site in the world and is anxious to hold onto that spot, said Jim Spanfeller, the site’s CEO, delivering a keynote address Wednesday morning at the Folio: Publishing Summit in Chicago. “But the Internet is a very fluid environment,” he said. “So that could change at any moment.”
That’s why Forbes.com “thinks big,” said Spanfeller. The site, for example, posts 3,000 stories a day and uploads 70 original video segments for its 20 million worldwide readers. And that’s probably why the site currently brings in about as much revenue as its print product – about $340 million, according to the 2006 PIB numbers.
“I never saw the Web site as just taking the magazine model and putting it online,” said Spanfeller, who joined Forbes.com in 2001. “I thought it was an opportunity to be bigger and faster.” Since its launch 10 years ago, Forbes.com has always offered its content for free and always posted the entire contents of its magazine for free on the site, before the publication hits the newsstand. Both magazine and Web site have fared well with Web site traffic increasing from about 600,000 uniques per month in 2001 to its current 16 million a month, said Spanfeller.
“If we had not been free from the get-go, we probably wouldn’t have been as successful as we are,” he said. “The least encumbered your site is, the more likely people are to go to it.” Forbes.com is run as a separate business from Forbes the magazine. It has its own staff, including editorial and sales staffs and has employees and offices worldwide.
But Forbes.com does outsource its search engine optimization efforts, said Spanfeller. And SEO has been critical to driving traffic to the site. Forbes.com currently has more than 300 syndication partners, including Yahoo. “Anywhere, we can provide a Forbes.com branded link with a story and drive traffic back to our Web site, we’ll do it,” he added.