Forbes Editor Steps Down as Troubled Magazine Pursues New Strategy

William Baldwin, the editor of Forbes magazine since 1999, Tuesday announced that he was taking a new job at the business magazine as a writer. His departure comes about two months after former AOL executive Lewis Dvorkin was named chief product officer, a position with a higher rank than Baldwin's. It also comes about one month after Paul Maidment, Baldwin's co-editor, resigned.

As of Sept. 1, Baldwin will be a writer, columnist and blogger, with the title Investment Strategies Editor. Steve Forbes, the magazine's editor-in-chief, praised the veteran editor in a memo posted on the Romanesko website, recognizing Baldwin for his "critical part in making Forbes a unique, formidable force in American journalism. He has been a superb editor of Forbes: readership of our magazine is at an all-time high."

Tough Times for a Capitalist Tool

But if everything is so great, why make a change? Forbes is in big trouble. The magazine's advertising revenue fell 1.7% in the second quarter to $61.96 million, according to data compiled by the Magazine Publishers of America. In 2006, Elevation Partners made a significant investment in the closely held media company. Since then the environment for business media has worsened as the company that calls its publication the "capitalist tool" has been forced to lay off staff.

After dealing with so much financial pressure for many years, Baldwin may have had enough. Journalists often bounce between writing and editing jobs after losing internal political battles or to remedy simple boredom. But as my colleague Jeff Bercovici noted earlier this month, Dvorkin, who joined the company after selling Forbes his True/Slant blog publishing business, wants to make big changes. He advocates entrepreneurial journalism in which writers function as freelance contractors with a financial interest in building their own readership.

Tearing Down the Walls

"The goal is to tear down the walls between content creators, audience and marketers," he told Bercovici. "How do you get those three voices talking to each other so that everyone knows who's talking? To me, if you can do that with transparency and legitimacy, that's the future of the free press."

Perhaps, but those are ambitious goals that are much easier said than done. Dvorkin didn't respond to a voice mail message. Baldwin couldn't be reached. In a memo to staff, Baldwin struck a supportive tone, saying "I have high expectations for the new face Lew [Dvorkin] will put on both the magazine and the website." A Forbes spokesperson told paidContent.org that the magazine had begun a search for Baldwin's successor.

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