The dominant readership for Forbes, Fortune, and Business Week, the three leading business magazines in the country, is men.
Recognizing this, Forbes created its own portal for women: Forbes Woman (www.forbes.com/forbeswoman). Articles on the site address the concerns of women and also cover a wide range of topics, not just business stories.
Though Forbes Woman is found on a business magazine’s web site, it carries articles on self-esteem, health, news, leadership, and culture as well as money and finance. The site is organized into business, investing, tech, entrepreneurship, leadership, lifestyle, and lists.
Most business magazines are written with the same tone of Jack Webb in the old detective TV series Dragnet, presenting “just the facts.” Most business articles tend to be informative, detail-oriented, and factual, but often lack pizzazz. Not Forbes Woman. It often breaks the mold, publishing subjective stories and personal essays as well as straightforward news articles.
Caroline Howard, the editor of Forbes Woman, says the site attracts five million visitors a month. It appeals to professional women from The Millennials (the popular name for the generation born between 1977 and 1998) to Boomers and also attracts a slim percentage of male bloggers and commentators.
Howard describes the site’s primary goal as “to give professional and executive women tools for success.” She describes its tone as “smart, conversational, and contrarian.” She noted that it draws columns from about 100 bloggers.
Exemplifying how it differs from most business magazines is J. Maureen Henderson’s article, “4 Reasons to Shut up about Yourself,” written in the first person. When was the last time you read a first-person, conversational article in Forbes or Business Week?
Henderson writes, “I’m referring to this persistent, self-obsessed fixation on telling our own stories over and over again or telling other stories only through the lens of our experience of them and marginalizing the other actors as nothing more than props.” She explores the endless narcissism that many people exhibit where they’re constantly talking about me, me, me, and then let’s talk some more about me. This article is insightful and could easily have been published on Shine, the well known web site that specializes in women’s issues, or O, The Oprah Magazine.
Other articles on Forbes Woman track the news. For example, an article titled “Ruth Chris Hit with Class Action Discrimination Suit” dissects the irony of a restaurant chain launched by maverick female entrepreneur Ruth Fertel being accused of mistreating female staffers.
One strategy of the site involves inviting readers to contribute articles, but this technique can backfire. For example, financial planner Mindy Crary wrote “Money Management for Small and Large Piles of Money.” Crary says that saving money is like hosting a party since you need to plan ahead. She writes, “The point is, you should look at your financial life with no less anticipation than you would the arrival of something very precious or exciting.” In fact, the article lacks specific recommendations of how to do any planning and reads more like an infomercial for the writer.
Another contributor Barbara Stanny, author of the books Prince Charming Isn’t Coming and Secrets of Six-Figure Women, wrote a blog column titled “One Simple Step to Higher Earnings.” Just like the guy who whispered “plastics” in the ear of Dustin Hoffman in the film The Graduate to help with his future, Stanny says the secret of success can be stated in five words, “the survival of the fittest.” She adds, “If you want my advice, prioritize your passions.”
Her advice is clear, just focus on your passion and the money will come. But Stanny doesn’t explain how to narrow down the focus, save money, get out of debt, or spike one’s income. The article fails to live up to the site’s credo of providing women with tools for success.
But even editor Caroline Howard falls into a trap that is common online and which most reputable newspapers and magazine avoid: basing articles on interviews from other publications. Hence, Howard’s column “Diana Taylor: Since When Did a First Lady Become So Outspoken,” about Diana Taylor, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s live-in girlfriend, is filled with quotations from a New York Observer article. Howard attributes the article but why not write original columns?
Hence, Forbes Woman deserves credit for providing articles that transcend the typical business profile and address the needs of professional women, but some articles lack substance or just regurgitate what has already been written.
Gary M. Stern is a freelance writer based in New York City.