In the latest shake-up of its editorial leadership, beleaguered Forbes Media has hired Randall Lane from the Newsweek Daily Beast Co. as the editor of Forbes. Lane will report to Lewis DVorkin, whose hire in April 2010 as chief product officer ushered in a housecleaning and revamp of the flagship magazine and its website.
Lane, 43, worked at Forbes in a variety of positions from 1991 to 1997, but the Forbes he returns to has undergone dramatic change since then. Longtime editors Bill Baldwin and Paul Maidment are no longer in their respective positions. DVorkin, whose blogging platform True/Slant came as part of his hire, has also invited controversy by giving advertisers and outside (read: free) contributors a greater voice in the magazine and on the site.
Other major changes impacted the business side. Last November, Forbes Media put Mike Perlis in charge as president and CEO, marking the first time a non-Forbes family member has run the nearly century-old company.
As for the flagship, DVorkin said that he hasn't heard that putting contributors and advertisers on equal footing with staffers in Forbes has caused any confusion. Nonetheless, he said that the site would be rolling out new articles pages this week that would more clearly label and identify authors.
"The magazine is doing very well," he said. "We're getting great advertiser response to the look of the magazine, to the cover treatments . . . My perception is, advertisers love our changes in putting Forbes' authoritative journalism at the center of a social media experience."
Lane has had a varied media background. He had an ill-fated run as president of Doubledown Media, the publisher of high-end targeted magazines Trader Monthly, Dealmaker, and P.O.V., which filed for bankruptcy in 2009.
DVorkin called Lane's entrepreneurial stint an asset, though, noting the high failure rate of magazines. "He produced a great product," he said. "A startup magazine has always been difficult. The lessons from startups, that's what you want from people."
At the Newsweek Daily Beast, another closely watched media experiment, Lane was editor-at-large, along with being captain of the softball team.
The combined entity, under Tina Brown, has been in a negative spotlight lately because of some controversial cover choices, while its financial viability remains a question. There have been some positive signs of late, though: newsstand sales inched up 2.8 percent versus a 9.1 percent decline for the industry, and ad page declines have flattened out. A Newsweek rep pointed out that comparing the title's past three months since Brown officially took it over to the prior three months, average issue ad pages are up 88 percent and single copy sales up 30 percent.
Lane said his decision to leave wasn't related to any concern about the company's financial health. "It doesn't feel shaky at all," he said. "I was very happy here. But how many chances do you get to go home and revitalize a 100-year-old icon?"
"Obviously we're sorry to see Randall go, but this is an exciting opportunity for him, and we wish him the best," said Edward Felsenthal, Newsweek Daily Beast executive editor.
Lane isn't the only recent departure; the company recently lost associate publisher Jeff Barish to Condé Nast and sales director Pete Matthews to Time magazine. The door has also swung the other way: David Wharton from ABC and Rosanne Lufrano from Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia were hired as a producer and digital vp, respectively.