Forbes Media CEO on digital transformations and the next century

Connecticut's showing of Forbes Best Employers

The Annual Members’ Luncheon, hosted by KMPG LLP, was preceded by a roundtable discussion with CEOs and C-suite executives from Connecticut companies named to the 2017 Forbes America’s Best Employers List. Those joining us included KPMG, Eversource Energy, W.R. Berkley Corporation, Pitney Bowes, Webster Bank, Synchrony Financial, Deloitte, People’s United Bank.

The Business Council of Fairfield County’s Annual Luncheon last week was of significance, as it marks the beginning of its second century.  As The Business Council charts its course for the next century, we couldn’t have found a more fitting keynote speaker to launch the voyage than Forbes Media CEO who spoke on Forbes Media’s digital transformations and their next century.

The Annual Members’ Luncheon also highlighted the year’s accomplishments and was hosted by KMPG LLP.

“KPMG has been a member of The Business Council for more than 35 years,” stated Ken Seel, Office Managing Partner, KPMG LLP. “We’ve benefited from its work and have valued the opportunity to help build a stronger community and a stronger firm through our participation. It is an honor to be part of today’s program.”

Transformations and reinventions

“Evolving, staying relevant, and staying current has always been a difficult thing to do,” began Mike Perlis, CEO & Executive Chairman, Forbes Media LLC. “It feels like everything is accelerated today, so much disruption, with the need to reinvent our businesses and companies so rapidly, but the truth is people have been doing that for a very long time.”

B.C. Forbes launched the newsletter Doers and Doings, the precursor to Forbes magazine, in 1917.  In 1918 the very first Forbes’ list, “America’s Richest People,” was published in an era where technological advances were transforming industries, from manufacturing to transportation to communication.

Staying relevant in the face of accelerated change was the very challenge the Forbes family presented to Mike Perlis when he became the first non-family member CEO at Forbes in 2010. “The Forbes family decided that if we were going to survive into the next 100 years we needed to become a digital company, we needed to reinvent ourselves. We would value who we were in the past, but we needed to create something new moving forward.”

Perlis joined the company with Louis DVorkin, whom Perlis referred to as the ‘tech guru’. “We set out to completely transform Forbes. We moved from dedication to print and all the old systems in place to make that happen to an approach to create content that revolutionized our newsroom.”

That revolution included the creation of a contributor platform in addition to its veteran newsroom. “That took us from the very early stages of being a digital company with 5 to 6 million unique visitors a month to almost 60 million per month today.”

As Forbes’ digital footprint grew, so did its global presence, now with 37 international editions up from 10 in 2010.  “The message of celebrating success and empowering entrepreneurs in a world with so many emerging economies helped our effort in reinventing Forbes because as a small country emerges and begins to build their economy, interestingly the Forbes brand resonates.”

The Brand and the Next 100 Years

“Today, we are a global media branding company with technology at our core. With 56 million unique visitors we still publish our magazine profitably in concert with that digital effort,” commented Perlis.

Perlis sees that commitment to high quality journalism essential to keeping the brand powerful.

“Now we have begun the process of branding using the Forbes name.  We are in financial services, we are deeply in the travel industry, we are doing education and we are now in real estate,” said Perlis, highlighting a recent project in Manila, the Forbes Media Tower.