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.)

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