Forbes.com sees itself as a new model of journalism, one in which contributors provide content for free and are potentially rewarded with payments based on traffic to their posts. You can imagine this is not an environment in which thoughtful analysis thrives.
To be fair, it is not hard to find poor coverage of publishing as a business. In practice, Publishers Lunch makes regular targets of articles in the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. But Carol Tice, who covers franchising news and trends for Forbes.com, is so enthusiastic about a physical version of an Amazon bookstore that she forgets to find things like facts.
Chief among these is her claim that “big rent is what killed many of the bookstore chains.” I’ll put aside the question of how many bookstore chains have been killed and just follow the link that she provided to make her point.
Not surprisingly, it’s an article from Forbes, but in this case the author, Rick Moss, actually reported the story. Here’s what George Whalin, a retail consultant, says killed Borders:
- “Changes in the firm’s frequent buyer/rewards program that angered their most loyal customers”
- “Closing all of their music and video departments, rather than looking at their viability on a store-by-store basis”
- “Hiring people … who had little or no interest in books, authors or literature”
Ryan Mathews, also a retail consultant, added this:
“Borders forgot how to be a bookstore and wanted to become a cafe experience center, entertainment retailer, and — at the end — a flea market for over-priced toys and candy. What got lost were the books and, when they were lost, stores had to become larger, labor costs soared and inventory costs went completely out of line. Finally, Borders started becoming a faux Barnes & Noble trying to ‘out remainder’ the remainder king.”
I’m still trying to find that reference to “big rent.”
Earlier this year Lewis DVorkin, Forbes Media’s chief product officer, set out what he feels are “the nine realities of building a sustainable model for journalism“. The first three were quality, authenticity and quantity. I’d say that Forbes.com is getting the third one right.
A footnote: It’s interesting that most Forbes.com pieces, even ones that are fairly short, are presented in multiple pages. The exception seems to be DVorkin’s pieces, which are much longer than either of the two other posts I cited. Maybe he doesn’t get paid based on traffic.
Edited June 24 to add: My frustration with the Forbes.com model made this post sharper than it needed to be. I’ve written a different post to address what an Amazon retail store might offer, a perspective that would have helped balance this post a bit more.