Forbes: Transforming digital business publishing

About Forbes

Forbes Media (Forbes) is a global media, branding, and technology company, with a focus on news and information about business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and affluent lifestyles. The Forbes brand reaches more than 120 million people worldwide through its popular magazine and ForbesLive events, with 40 licensed local editions in 70 countries.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: United States

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

To fuel its digital transformation, Forbes combined elements of Google Cloud, Google Analytics 360, Google Ad Manager, and G Suite, helping it lead the way in 21st-century business publishing.

Google Cloud results

  • Improves performance and stability for millions of visitors to Forbes.com
  • Accelerates development velocity, enabling team to release new features faster
  • Saves more than 50 hours per week for engineers by abstracting cloud services from underlying infrastructure
  • Enables near-infinite scalability for analytics, helping Forbes better understand its customers
  • Helps editorial team mine content and write more compelling articles with AI and ML

More than 2x faster release cycles

Since Bertie Charles Forbes published the first issue of his magazine in 1917, Forbes magazine has explored and recorded pivotal moments in business with the goal of inspiring people to help change the world for the better. It has celebrated the success of those who do, while examining and learning from those who fall short. Today, the company is leveraging technology to broaden the impact of its mission of championing the power of the entrepreneur as it continues to evolve from a traditional magazine publisher into a digital media and branding business.

“Google supplies the core platform for each of the three legs of our business: content, sales, and infrastructure. We’ve found Google to be very open and collaborative, which is key to our success as we move further and further into this digital world.”

Salah Zalatimo, Chief Digital Officer, Forbes

As the publishing market continues its rapid evolution, Forbes has gone through a significant digital transformation to become more user-centric and generate the insights necessary to help elevate and distinguish its content. Forbes is working with Google to achieve its digital goals, using Google Analytics 360 to manage and track content, driving revenue and innovative advertising solutions with Google Ad Manager, and recently completing a migration of Forbes.com to Google Cloud.

“Google supplies the core platform for each of the three legs of our business: content, sales, and infrastructure,” says Salah Zalatimo, Chief Digital Officer at Forbes. “We’ve found Google to be very open and collaborative, which is key to our success as we move further and further into this digital world.”

Focusing on the user experience

Not long ago, Forbes viewed success through the lens of tracking metrics for each story. While this approach provided a way for writers and contributors to gauge reader interest and shape their content, it was not customer-centric. With customers rapidly moving to mobile platforms, Forbes wanted to give them the best experience possible. It re-launched Forbes.com, using Analytics 360 data to build richer content experiences and create deeper connections with audiences.

“Analytics 360 has been a huge factor in making Forbes.com what it is today, with more than 70 million unique monthly visitors in the U.S. alone,” says Salah. “We can better understand our customers and give them more of what they actually want, not what we think they want.”

An example of an insight from Analytics 360 was that Forbes users are increasingly visiting Forbes.com on mobile devices. In order to offer the best web experience to mobile users, Forbes decided to go beyond just using Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) for Google traffic and decided to adopt the AMP Framework as the primary technology for users accessing its URL directly. The result is a high-performance mobile site, with fewer performance regressions and a site that is easier to maintain.

Modernizing operations and development

To maintain the culture of change and pace of innovation at Forbes, technology leadership knew the company needed to move from physical data centers to a modern cloud platform. After a vetting process with three major cloud providers, Forbes chose Google Cloud as the new foundation for Forbes.com, which consists of 50 different services that all had to be moved to the cloud.

“We conducted prototypes with Azure, AWS, and Google Cloud, and asked our engineers and DevOps team how they liked working with each,” says Vadim Supitskiy, Chief Technology Officer at Forbes. “After careful consideration, our team felt most comfortable and excited about Google Cloud because it’s easy to use and offers the most possibilities for automation.”

Service abstraction was a major reason for selecting Google Cloud, notes William Anderson, VP of Engineering at Forbes: “Google Cloud makes it very easy to tap into managed cloud services, allowing engineers without ops backgrounds to jump right into building applications.”

Most of Forbes’ infrastructure on Google Cloud is containerized and orchestrated with Google Kubernetes Engine (GKE), using OSS Istio as a platform-independent service mesh to secure, connect, and monitor microservices. Data is stored on Cloud Storage, while Pub/Sub publishes budget notifications to serverless Cloud Functions that stop or selectively control usage of cloud services to automate cost management.

“Being able to leverage managed Kubernetes via GKE led to better scalability, availability, and disaster recovery,” says William. “Before, we had to overprovision servers to handle traffic spikes that only happened a few times a year, which was a waste of resources. Now it’s all scalable, automated, and monitored.”

Moving to Google Cloud has accelerated Forbes’ digital transformation and development velocity, enabling development teams to embrace continuous integration and continuous delivery (CI/CD) and release new features more than twice as fast, including those aimed at its fast-growing mobile audience. The migration also reclaimed approximately 50 hours per week for Forbes’ busy engineering team.

“Our deployment time is dramatically down, our stability is up significantly, and time to market for new features on Forbes.com has gone down because of moving to Google Cloud and GKE,” says Salah. “We’ve streamlined A/B testing and approvals by providing our QA engineers and product owners with production-grade environments on the fly.”

Adds Vadim: “By embracing automation on Google Cloud, our regression and deployment time decreased by 58 percent. Having Google Cloud tools at our fingertips has made subsequent deployments a huge success, including a modern analytics engine for our writers.”

“The more effective our writers are at telling stories and connecting with their audiences, the more Forbes will succeed in the long term. Especially given the industry trend toward digital subscriptions and payments, using readily available Google Cloud AI building blocks to increase the quality of our editorial is a big win.”

Nina Gould, VP Product, Forbes

Empowering writers and data scientists

Forbes recognizes the power of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) and is putting them to work for its writing staff, using AutoML Natural Language and other Cloud AI building blocks to train custom ML models that learn from 100 years of Forbes editorial and current market conditions to provide suggestions on headlines, topics that are trending, and ways to make articles more compelling. Forbes uses Natural Language APIs to enrich content, analyze content sentiment, and tailor recommendations for writers. It is also using the Vision API for a new project to help discover the impact of images on traffic and engagement. “As data availability and computer intelligence grow, our ability to use them to improve our writing and reading experiences increases significantly. We look to tech leaders like Google to team up with on cloud AI technologies," adds Salah.

“The more effective our writers are at telling stories and connecting with their audiences, the more Forbes will succeed in the long term,” says Nina Gould, VP of Product at Forbes. “Especially given the industry trend toward digital subscriptions and payments, using readily available Google Cloud AI building blocks to increase the quality of our editorial is a big win.”

With a focus on evolution and change firmly in place, analytics-based decision-making moved front and center. Forbes built out its data science team to analyze trends from editorial to revenue, storing and querying data in BigQuery and using Google Data Studio to produce interactive dashboards and detailed reports. BigQuery gives Forbes near-infinite scalability for business analytics, empowering users to ask any question of the data and get the answers they need to make smarter decisions.

“Prior to BigQuery, we were limited to querying data separately from a variety of APIs and interfaces with the goal of subsequently joining the data manually,” says Vadim. “BigQuery solved that problem and gave us the power to connect business-critical datasets like Google Analytics, Ad Manager, and our own CMS together.”

“BigQuery has become our central repository for data we want to analyze, because of its scalability and speed and because our employees are very comfortable using it,” adds Salah. “The fact that BigQuery integrates with Tableau and Looker is another big plus that helped drive organic adoption at Forbes.”

It is this type of innovative thinking that can benefit the broader publishing industry. In that spirit, Forbes is partnering with the Google News Initiative on a project to help match Forbes’s authors to trending news topics. With assistance from SpringML, a Google Cloud Certified Partner that specializes in machine learning, Forbes will develop and implement a system that runs content from each author in its proprietary content management system, named Bertie after the magazine’s founder, through pre-trained ML models that perform entity extraction. This process will help Forbes learn more about its many writers, contributors, and branded content partners. Forbes will then match these insights to trending news topics and alert authors of content that is important to Forbes readers. Once the project is implemented, Forbes and the Google News Initiative will jointly publish a playbook outlining how other publishers can implement a similar system.

Improving internal collaboration

Forbes also wanted to unlock the creativity and productivity of its employees through the use of more powerful collaboration tools, including videoconferencing. To break down silos and provide new ways of working, Forbes began rolling out G Suite tools such as Docs, Drive, Forms, Sheets, Slides, and Google Meet. Using the Meet add-in for Microsoft Outlook, Forbes can add a Meet video call directly into Outlook events or emails. Chromeboxes in conference rooms make it easy to include video participants in any meeting.

“We have writers and remote team members all over the world,” says Salah. “We’ve tried a lot of different videoconferencing tools trying to bring everyone together on one platform, and Google Meet is the one people are most happy with. It’s easy and universal.”

“Working with Google allows us to focus on what we do best, which is world-class business journalism. It makes me profoundly happy that we’ve been able to use Google Cloud to reduce our tech debt and start implementing the things we’ve always wanted to do.”

Salah Zalatimo, Chief Digital Officer, Forbes

Gaining digital transformation momentum

By combining its century of expertise in business publishing with strategic use of Google solutions, Forbes is poised to make an even stronger impact on the world of digital publishing in the next 100 years. It’s improving performance, stability, and editorial quality for more than 120 million monthly visitors to Forbes.com, while giving employees tools to reach new heights.

“Working with Google allows us to focus on what we do best, which is world-class business journalism,” says Salah. “It makes me profoundly happy that we’ve been able to use Google Cloud Platform to reduce our tech debt and start implementing the things we’ve always wanted to do.”

Tell us your challenge. We're here to help.

Contact us

About Forbes

Forbes Media (Forbes) is a global media, branding, and technology company, with a focus on news and information about business, investing, technology, entrepreneurship, leadership, and affluent lifestyles. The Forbes brand reaches more than 120 million people worldwide through its popular magazine and ForbesLive events, with 40 licensed local editions in 70 countries.

Industries: Media & Entertainment
Location: United States