Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The difference between Forbes & Fortune

Each magazine works hard to develop its own personality, to provide information and perspective differently from its competitors.

While Forbes and Fortune have a similar 26-issue publishing schedule and both tend to cover large companies (while devoting one issue per year on small businesses), there are some significant differences.

First, let me say, both publications are terrific, interesting, and are very good at understanding what their advertisers and readers want.

But even given that readers of both magazines have a high net worth, their approach to the same news and the same demographic is quite different.

And I'm not talking about the fact that Forbes does not refer to the group of 500 large corporations as the "Fortune 500." (The same is true of BusinessWeek, by the way, which refers to the BusinessWeek 1000.)

Let's look at the cover stories of both magazines that appeared the same time.

Forbes published its 26th annual list of the richest 400 Americans, known as the Forbes 400. This issue is devoted to the unimaginable wealthy, how they earned it and how they spend it, and claims an accuracy within $100 million. (Apparently my net worth is not even a rounding error.)

On the other hand, Fortune's cover story is devoted to "How to be a great leader." To be fair to Forbes, Fortune cover story from the previous issue was "The business of luxury," filled with items only the super-rich can afford.

In pitching Forbes, the undercurrent is how to get rich.

In pitching Fortune, the undercurrent is how to be a better manager.

This is not a judgment of their editorial missions or approaches. It's just that from a PR perspective, it's important to understand the difference.

By the way, BusinessWeek is totally different. BusinessWeek covers news more closely than either Forbes or Fortune (since BusinessWeek publishes 50 times a year, nearly twice Forbes & Fortune). BusinessWeek is far less likely to devote itself entirely to luxury topics; it's a more serious read than its two competitors. (For example, Fortune runs the humorous Stanley Bing column at the back page of each issue, while Forbes ran a Chris Buckley-written multi-page humorous look at billionaires through the ages going back to the Biblical era. I'm a Chris Buckley fan, but BusinessWeek would never run something so frivolous.)


Unknown said...

thanks for posting this. I am currently in college and trying to add a new magazine to read (currently all i read is the economist) and am trying to figure out which one to add between business week, fortune and Forbes. This has been helpful.

Norman Birnbach said...

Things have evolved a bit since I posted this article, Melody, but the essence of each publication remains the same. Forbes is about investing and taking a contrarian perspective. Fortune is about managing and working in large companies. Bloomberg BusinessWeek is more focused on straight news. The Economist is great, and provides a much more global perspective than BusinessWeek.

Edward Hananto said...

Hi Norman thanks for the write up. I had looked for similar comparison and yours is one of the better explained. Btw as a non-US business owner, which publication would you recommend that focus less on exclusive US issue?

Norman Birnbach said...

Glad you liked the blog post. As a non-US business owner, I think the magazine more likely to be interested in an international company would be Forbes -- as long as it could tell an investment-related story. Forbes seems to be more interested in entrepreneurial companies while Fortune seems to be more interest in large, US-based companies and in providing management insights. That said, BusinessWeek does look at international companies, too, but you'd need to be part of some trend in a country their reporting on. Good luck!

Unknown said...

Norman, I'm MD form México, what books or magazines do you recomend to increase money and investment management skills. Thank you.

Norman Birnbach said...

Hi Reynaldo. I'm glad you liked this post. You might want to check out Why Stocks Go Up (and Down) by Bill Pike and Patrick Gregory. The book is in its 4th edition and seems to do a good job. You can learn more about it here: http://whystocksgoupanddown.com.