Forbes

Financial documents being shown to potential buyers raise questions about its future growth. Has Forbes peaked? And can it justify the high price it's seeking?

The bidding for Forbes is now moving into round two, with a sale expected within a month. A surprising set of largely non-U.S. buyers is flipping through the pages of a memorandum prepared by Deutsche Bank, which Forbes has tasked with shopping the property. A careful reading of that 62-page confidential document reveals a lot about the company's much-heralded forays into new businesses.

The reinvention of Forbes Media extends well beyond its content model. The business side of the house is in transition as well as the business publisher seeks to diversify its ad products and keep pace with the growth of the digital audience.

Forbes is building out both its advertising products and its operations as it seeks to capitalize on a steady rise of website visitors. In a phone interview, Chief Revenue Officer Meredith Levien talked about the growth of Forbes’ digital business and the opportunities that lie ahead in areas such as native advertising and mobile.

Amid its larger company struggles, Forbes has been trying to change, adapt and adjust to what Chief Product Officer Lewis D'Vorkin calls "wrenching transitions in the news business." Online, the 95-year-old business magazine has shaken up its editorial model, revamped its technology, introduced new types of advertising, and challenged conventional wisdom in the magazine publishing world.

"The economics of journalism have changed -- forever," D'Vorkin wrote in an email to me. "Marketers will not pay for digital ads what they pay for print ads.

By now, we have some pretty good examples of what a digital-native media entity looks like: it looks a lot like The Huffington Post or BuzzFeed or Vox, with a relentless focus on the dynamics of the real-time web and the way that content lives online — and the power of the social web and what Om has called the democratization of distribution.

But how do traditional media entities get from here to there? That’s a question we don’t have a lot of answers for yet.

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