Lessons from Forbes’ digital transformation to Web3, NFTs and the metaverse

It’s not every day that you hear about a 105-year-old exploring Web3 and experimenting with NFTs. But for American business news titan, Forbes, doing so is just another day at the office. 

This week at VentureBeat’s Transform 2022 event, Forbes CTO, Vadim Supitskiy, detailed insights from the media company’s digital transformation efforts — including its early steps into metaverse-style engagement.

Capturing and engaging with a digital audience 

As a large legacy publisher, Forbes doesn’t need to worry about gaining readership. It reports an average readership of more than 150 million a month combined across platforms. Instead, the company has its sights set on how to keep that core element of its business and mission actively engaged.

“We’re trying to engage our audiences in all of these domains: The traditional ones, the video, the audio and the storytelling on the website,” said Supitskiy. “Now with Web3, we’re trying to do the same in the metaverse. The world is changing and we want to be where our audiences are and want to present information in the most convenient and fun way.”

Arguably, nothing has changed the way news is consumed more than the internet in the 20th century and its gateway to the creation of social media in the early 2000s. Forbes was an early adopter of both — its website came online in 1996 and the publication followed suit, joining its peers on social media when it boomed around 2005. 

Not shying from new technologies, the company embraced streaming as well and in 2019 launched its own service, dubbed Forbes8, which was described as “the Netflix for entrepreneurs.” The effort quickly evolved to become a section of Forbes’ regular news content as a dedicated section aimed at “inspiring entrepreneurs.”

Given the company’s tech-forward mentality, it’s not surprising that it’s already taking steps to engage with readers in a way that aligns with the next iteration of emerging web tech: NFTs, the metaverse and Web3.

Last year, in a first for the publication industry, Forbes auctioned one of its magazine covers off as an NFT — which sold for $333,333. The profits were donated to the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation.

This year, it went a step further, expanding these efforts to engage its audience by selling a collection of fictitious billionaire NFTs  — each tied interactively to an imaginary stock market portfolio. Every day, based on the real New York Stock Exchange market performance, your Forbes NFT characters move up or down in rankings — just like an evolving Forbes list.

“We have an extremely large and engaged audience around Web3, blockchain and crypto … It’s important for us to engage our audience there with something that we are known for like the Forbes lists,” Supitskiy said. “In general, we want to continue building in that space. We want to bring more utility. We want to engage our users with Web3, Web2 and the metaverse and really create that environment. We’re definitely early in the journey, but we’re going to be doing more and more there.”

Accessibility meets responsibility 

One of the criticisms about the metaverse, Web3 and NFTs is their lack of accessibility. Experts say these technologies will ultimately work toward democratizing the digital world and information, but for now, it can be expensive for the everyday person to begin to dabble in these emerging spaces and technologies.  Even with the recent NFT market cool-down, one, on average, still costs around $2,000, according to research from Bloomberg. 

Not long ago, in 2019, nearly 40% of U.S. adults reported that they couldn’t afford a surprise, $400 emergency — so the NFT market as an entryway to the metaverse may not be attainable for everyone, even at its lowest price.

Although many Forbes readers tend to be in a good position financially — as many are C-suite execs and business leaders — accessibility to these emerging technologies is something the company is still thinking about as it continues to evolve, Supitskiy said.

“I want to make sure that we in the industry itself make it easy and frictionless. Right now, obviously, it’s not as easy for everyone to access it,” he said. “You have to get a wallet, buy crypto, you have to join the marketplace and buy the NFT or join one of the many metaverses. While waiting for it to get frictionless, we’re going to help to do that and are going to work in that space as well [while we] engage audiences there.”

One Transform audience member asked Supitskiy what Forbes is doing from a social responsibility perspective to help educate marginalized communities about these new technologies and level the playing field.

He said the company has a team of reporters who focus on covering stories specifically about Web3, crypto, NFTs  and blockchain, as well as how these innovations are now and will continue to impact different communities.

“Our goal is to educate around the whole technology, but also how it affects the society as well,”  Supitskiy said.


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