Friday, December 14, 2007

The Forbes Fictional 15 -- I am not making this up

The media has a fascination with lists. None more so than Forbes.

Each year, Forbes publishes an growing number of lists...It is perhaps best known for the The Forbes 400, in which one billion dollars is no longer enough to get into America's most exclusive club. (I imagine those billionaires who have only -- only 1.1 billion are envious of those who came in at 398 and 399, and feel certain that next year they will be able to displace No. 400.)

Forbes also publishes
But wait, that's not all.

Forbes also publishes:
And more:
And yet more:

Here are some travel lists...
And we're not done yet.

Nope, still not done:
Whew. Talk about milking a concept. The producers of "Ocean's 13" have nothing on Forbes.

Perhaps my favorite example of reporters and editors with too much time on their hands is the Forbes Fictional 15 -- Forbes' "annual listing of fiction's richest. This year's list boasts an aggregate net worth of $137 billion. (I also like Forbes' Top-Earning Dead Celebrities, and have written about them previously in a post entitled Dead Man Branding on Nov. 1 available at

How do you qualify for the Fictional 15? Forbes applies a rigorous standard:
  • "We require that candidates be an authored fictional creation, a rule that excludes mythological and folkloric characters." (That knocked out Santa Claus, who had made the 2005 list. This is interesting because some on Forbes' editorial staff are convinced there is a "War Against Christmas" so why did they take Saint Nick of the list? The explanation: "We still estimate Claus' net worth as infinite, but we excluded him ... after being bombarded by letters from outraged children insisting that Claus is 'real.' We don't claim to have settled the ongoing controversy concerning Claus' existence, but after taking into account the physical evidence--toys delivered, milk and cookies devoured--we felt it was safer to remove him from consideration.")
  • "They must star in a specific narrative work or series of works. And they must be known, both within their fictional universe and by their audience, for being rich.
  • "Net worth estimates are based on an analysis of the fictional character's source material, and are valued against known real-world commodity and share price movements.
  • In the case of privately held fictional concerns, we sought to identify comparable fictional public companies. All prices are as of market close, Dec. 10, 2007.
Weirdly, some fictional characters fell off the list including "Atlantic City real estate magnate Mr. Monopoly, who lost everything in the subprime mortgage crash. Archaeologist Lara Croft is missing and presumed dead after her plane disappeared above the Congolese jungle. And narco-capitalist Tony Montana, aka Scarface, was finally confirmed dead by a joint CIA/FBI task force."

They also published for the first time this year, "the largest fictional companies in the universe. The task was a mammoth undertaking: Dozens of reporters spent countless hours poring over financial documents, a far-flung network of correspondents traveled much of the space-time continuum, and sophisticated algorithms were perfected to perform the tricky business of converting gold pieces, Zorkmids, other exotic currencies into 2007 U.S. dollars."

Yes, that's right. Forbes editorial staff may not have time to write about real companies because they are too busy tracking down the net worth of fictional characters and fictional companies. (Fill in your own Enron joke here.)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Business Week predicts that Rupert Murdoch won't destroy the Wall St. Journal

I think it is safe to admit that selling advertising space on its front-page has not destroyed the Wall St. Journal. The quality of journalism has not declined. The esteem with which the paper is held has not diminished.

Now people are wondering the same thing about the Journal now that Rupert Murdoch owns it.

I don't think Rupe will ruin the Journal. It is his crown jewel. It will feed his Fox Business News. There's no reason to downscale or dumb-down the would destroy the value of the franchise.

That's not to say he won't tart it up a bit. But I think we can rule out Page Three pin-up girls (as in the London Sun) or Page 6 business gossip (as in the New York Post's gossip page).

Business Week's media critic, Jon Fine, made the same prediction in the Dec. 10 issue.

I made that same prediction in a post entitled The Wall St. Post on Aug. 10, 2007. Check it out here. That's four months ahead of Jon Fine.

Meanwhile, look for our media predictions in the next few days.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

New York Times looks at the Wall St. Journal: "Remaking The Journal"

From its headline, "Remaking the Journal," the front page of the New York Times' business section about Rupert Murdoch and the Wall St. Journal seemed like it could be interesting.

Mostly the 1600-word article reported on rumors about changes Rupe planned to make or decided against making.

According to the article, there are already plans to eliminate the Journal's Marketplace, "containing articles on business trends and technology, in the first half of next year, with a new section taking its place, according to people at Dow Jones and the News Corporation who have been briefed on the changes. The editor of Marketplace, Melinda Beck, recently left that post to write a column on health, and no replacement has been named."

The article also noted that "The Journal has been hiring new reporters and has made lucrative offers to a number of prominent journalists at The Times and elsewhere, mostly unsuccessfully."

But the article contained little that was news or insightful.

For example, because of the uncertainty, some reporters have left the Journal. In fact, the Times recently picked up Tara Parker-Pope, a long-time Journal health reporter who is now reporting and blogging for the Times.

Here's an example that the Times didn't have a real story: Take a look at the last line of the article: “A lot of us are at least a little worried about what this place will become,” said one veteran reporter at The Journal. “But right now our attitude is, wait and see.”

Monday, December 10, 2007

What does it mean that Fortune & BusinessWeek have undergone makeovers

Earlier this year, Fortune & BusinessWeek both unveiled new designs. BusinessWeek has specifically said that it updated its design with the intention of being more web-like.

One unusual aspect to its new design is that BusinessWeek articles now offer links to articles and sites from non-BusinessWeek articles and sources.

Although I can't pin down the last time both publications revamp their designs, I do believe the last time was earlier this decade -- which represents a much shorter time between redesigns.

That is another indication that Fortune and BusinessWeek realize that they must continue to work to relevant to web-savvy readers.

Interestingly, both publications have also redesigned their websites. They share similarities but are not 100% similar.

What's also interesting is that some of the print design elements seem as if they are designed for mobile users, and are less glitzy, less interesting.