The difference between Forbes & Fortune


Each magazine works hard to develop its own personality, to provide information and perspective differently from its competitors.

While Forbes and Fortune have a similar 26-issue publishing schedule and both tend to cover large companies (while devoting one issue per year on small businesses), there are some significant differences.

First, let me say, both publications are terrific, interesting, and are very good at understanding what their advertisers and readers want.

But even given that readers of both magazines have a high net worth, their approach to the same news and the same demographic is quite different.

And I’m not talking about the fact that Forbes does not refer to the group of 500 large corporations as the “Fortune 500.” (The same is true of BusinessWeek, by the way, which refers to the BusinessWeek 1000.)

Let’s look at the cover stories of both magazines that appeared the same time.

Forbes published its 26th annual list of the richest 400 Americans, known as the Forbes 400. This issue is devoted to the unimaginable wealthy, how they earned it and how they spend it, and claims an accuracy within $100 million. (Apparently my net worth is not even a rounding error.)

On the other hand, Fortune’s cover story is devoted to “How to be a great leader.” To be fair to Forbes, Fortune cover story from the previous issue was “The business of luxury,” filled with items only the super-rich can afford.

In pitching Forbes, the undercurrent is how to get rich.

In pitching Fortune, the undercurrent is how to be a better manager.

This is not a judgment of their editorial missions or approaches. It’s just that from a PR perspective, it’s important to understand the difference.

By the way, BusinessWeek is totally different. BusinessWeek covers news more closely than either Forbes or Fortune (since BusinessWeek publishes 50 times a year, nearly twice Forbes & Fortune). BusinessWeek is far less likely to devote itself entirely to luxury topics; it’s a more serious read than its two competitors. (For example, Fortune runs the humorous Stanley Bing column at the back page of each issue, while Forbes ran a Chris Buckley-written multi-page humorous look at billionaires through the ages going back to the Biblical era. I’m a Chris Buckley fan, but BusinessWeek would never run something so frivolous.)

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