Forbes to pay all contributors in its contributor network
This follows the the acquisition of The Memo earlier this week and comes seven years after first introducing the Forbes contributor network.
“In bringing in hundreds of expert voices, both paid and unpaid, to the Forbes audience, we were able to create a viable model in a field with too few of them, that greatly increased how much and what we could cover, while also allowing us to expand our full-time newsroom. As a result, we were able to not only survive, but thrive, during a digitally disruptive time,” Lane writes in his memo.
From this week all of Forbes’ 1,500 contributors will be on a paid contract. The goal, writes Lane, is to help Forbes retain and recruit more high-quality contributors. In terms of content, Forbes is committed to do ever more in-depth reporting, producing a digital “cover story” every day, while adding – through the acquisition of The Memo – its first fully-fledged editorial operation in Europe.
Read Lane’s memo in full below:
Why Forbes is investing big money in its contributor network
Forbes turned 100 this past fall and as if to confirm that age really is but a number, we shattered our audience records on pretty much every editorial platform: 60 million people visited Forbes.com in December, according to ComScore; 9.115 million people read the print edition of the Forbes 400 issue, according to GfK AdMeasure — larger than the best-read issues of Fortune, Bloomberg Businessweek and Inc. combined; thousands attended our 100-plus events and conferences, which featured speakers ranging from Warren Buffett to Kendrick Lamar to Malala Yousafzai. And so on.
Our second century coincides with my new role as Forbes’ chief content officer, providing a unified reporting structure for every editorial platform. For the past few weeks, I’ve listened to each editorial staffer, one-on-one, kickstarting another push forward for our journalism and how we produce it. One focus: the Forbes contributor network, our key digital driver since we introduced it in 2010. In bringing in hundreds of expert voices, both paid and unpaid, to the Forbes audience, we were able to create a viable model in a field with too few of them, that greatly increased how much and what we could cover, while also allowing us to expand our full-time newsroom. As a result, we were able to not only survive, but thrive, during a digitally disruptive time.
More than seven years in, we’re strengthening the contributor platform, implementing several important changes that reinforce quality content, our commitment to contributors and our goal for our expanding full-time newsroom.
First, effective immediately, every individual contributor will be on a paid contract, and those contracts will be uniform. The standard pay rates will not change from our current scale, which compensates these contributors for the loyal audience they build — incentivizing quality — rather than quick eyeballs. And we’ll now provide a larger, monthly $500 guarantee to those who post more regularly. This guarantee will work like a book advance — the money will be paid against those performance rates, and if the numbers come up short, the contributor still gets the guarantee, and we start with a clean slate the next month. We’ll also offer a $250 guarantee to those who post less regularly; give contributors who want to dial-back further in any month the same ongoing guarantees in months they want to more fully engage; and we’ll grandfather in any contributor this year who was working under an old standard contract and prefers to keep it.
The pay guarantees above are just a start – we hope each contributor does far better. Many already do: In 2017, more than 100 earned well into five-figures, including five that topped the $200,000 threshold. We’re also building a suite of perks for top contributors, from more prominent visibility for their posts to a partnership with top agent David Granger (the legendary Esquire editor-in-chief now at Aevitas Creative Management) that can help them transform posts into book or movie deals.
In conjunction with these increased expenditures, which will bring in more talent, we’re redoubling our commitment to quality, and doing so systemically. The contributor platform empowers a diverse set of voices — experts and freelance journalists writing in their prescribed areas of mastery. It’s incumbent on Forbes to recruit wisely. We’ve put more authority with our reporters to find the best minds in their beat areas. This will allow us to expand in areas where we’re underrepresented, from real estate to sports business to venture capital. In tandem, we’ve institutionalized our version of the old Jack Welch maxim — we’ll review our roster regularly, and cut the bottom 10% annually, so that we’re continuously improving the quality and engagement with our readers.
Finally, we’re going to leverage all of this to expand and improve the work of our full-time journalists. Smart takes on daily news from our contributors frees up our newsroom, nearly 150-strong, to focus on the kind of deep-dive journalism, franchise lists and investigations that have been our hallmark for a century. Last year, Forbes journalists revealed how the president took money from a kids cancer charity and how the secretary of commerce was a serial fibber; we did in-depth profiles of every Trump foreign partner and grilled the president himself in the Oval Office; we uncorked multiplatform packages like the 30 Under 30 and our centennial salute to the 100 Greatest Living Business Minds that rank with the best work we’ve ever done.
You’re going to see a lot more of this kind of definitive, in-depth reporting in 2018. Rather than wait for a print issue to come out, we’re going to produce a digital “cover story” every day. We just announced an acquisition that will result in our first full-fledged editorial operation in Europe. We’re in the process of hiring yet another 10 full-time editorial staffers. And there’s lots more to come, as we double-down on what’s always made us successful: journalists and journalism.
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