Forbes magazine has seen the same downturn in print advertising as its competitors, with a 12.3% decline in the number of ad pages over the first three quarters of 2013. However, it's been more successful than most of its print competition in growing its digital side. Digital circulation at Forbes.com has more than doubled over the last three years, and digital earnings currently account for about half of total revenues for the parent firm.
One analyst indicated that potential buyers needed to ask 2 basic questions. First, was the rapid growth in digital revenues driven by its aggressive branded-content emphasis in combination with its unpaid-blogger strategy? Second, if that's the case, why is Forbes up for sale?
Print media has been losing value in recent years, and increasing distribution costs and declining ad print ad sales have imperiled traditional print business models. Many recent print sales (Washington Post, Boston Globe, Newsweek, Maxim) were at levels 80-90% below peak valuation. In contrast, some of the early numbers suggest Forbes could go for only 20-25% below peak valuation. That does suggest that Forbes Media may have been more successful in developing its digital side and business model. That includes cost savings by ditching professional journalists in favor of unpaid bloggers (the Huffington Post model), and their pioneering "native advertising" Brandvoice program. Native advertising is a bit controversial for its combination of interactive targeting and using ad content that mimics their editorial content. The combination makes the Forbes.com more of a bazaar than a traditional journalistic outlet.
Sources - 'Forbes' Placed On The Auction Block, MediaDailyNews
Running For The Exit, Garfield at Large blog, MediaPost.com