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Why data should inform your native advertising editorial decisions

May 25, 2022

The 140 million people who interact with Forbes each month get insightful business news, world-renowned lists and rankings and access to exclusive physical and virtual events.

But Forbes gets something from them too. Its proprietary ForbesOne platform uses machine learning and AI to gather first-party data on its readers. As an outlet that engages more C-suite decision-makers, business leaders and entrepreneurs than any other media company, this is valuable insight into a highly coveted audience.

Adam Wallitt wants to help brands use that insight to create content that will resonate with audiences and deliver results. As the group vice president for data strategy and sales, Wallitt says “my job is to turn Forbes into a data-led sales organisation.”

New proprietary data platform

Adam Wallitt

The ForbesOne platform, officially released in February 2021 after 18 months of development, monitors the type of content people read on the site, the newsletters they subscribe to, and the physical and virtual events they sign up to attend to identify behaviours and sort readers into audience groups based on shared interests and demographics. 

The platform is meant to help Forbes’s marketing partners “reach with pinpoint accuracy” custom audience segments like C-suite decision-makers, small business owners and entrepreneurs, as well as people interested in gaming, travel, fashion and dozens of other segments. Forbes’s partners can utilise the data to develop native advertising article ideas that are more likely to resonate with the audience they’re trying to reach, even if the topics wouldn't necessarily make sense on paper. 

“If you have an advertiser that says, ‘I'm trying to reach C-suite and IT decision makers and Forbes comes back and says, ‘yeah, you should write an article about pets or sports,’ they’re going to think you're crazy unless you have data to support that,” Wallitt says. “What we try to do is to give our partners the information that allows them to tailor what they're writing about. Not just for their next article, but for next month's set of articles or the next three months.” 

The ForbesOne data allows advertisers to generate native advertising ideas in the same way Forbes’ own staff uses it to guide its editorial decisions. This is in line with Forbes’ overall view of native advertising, Wallitt says. 

“Native advertising to Forbes is allowing an advertiser to have the same exact tools as our staff writers,” he says. “In the same way that ForbesOne informs the editorial side of the house about what people want to read, when they want to read it, and how often they want to read it, it also helps inform our advertisers on what our readers like.”

Native advertising pioneer

In many ways, ForbesOne is an extension of the media’s groundbreaking native advertising model BrandVoice, in which brands are given a platform to publish their own content and put it in front of Forbes’ sizable and influential audience. First launched with SAP some 12 years ago, Wallitt says Forbes has had over 500 BrandVoice advertisers. 

RELATED: Read our interview with SAP's Tim Clark

“We've created opportunities for every type of advertiser,” he says. “You can publish a handful of articles if that's all you want to do or you can do something like Deloitte or SAP does, which is to publish as much content as they want from as many contributors as they want. We also have everything in between.”

The insights provided by ForbesOne allow advertisers to better adapt their content to fit the interests of the audience segments they want to reach. This includes some proprietary groups tied to Forbes’ established franchises, like its CEO, CMO, CFO and CIO Networks, and its Under 30 and ForbesWomen segments.

For Wallitt, the benefit to advertisers is quite simple. The data collected through the ForbesOne platform allows them to write articles that will actually be read.

“If you don't have a firm grasp as to what your readers want to read, then it's going to be very difficult to surface that information up to them,” he says.

According to Wallitt, the ForbesOne platform will expand in the coming months with additional tools. One of those will be the ability to measure brand sentiment by analysing how audiences react to certain topics and how they respond to a BrandVoice partner’s own content versus regular editorial content that mentions the brand.

He says the platform’s continued refinement is all about helping Forbes’s marketing clients better engage with their target audiences by revealing which topics those audiences care about.

Story by Justin Cremer

Justin Cremer is the editor of the Native Advertising Institute. Originally from Iowa, he worked as an English-language journalist in Denmark for several years. In addition to his NAI role, he is also a journalist and copywriter for the Copenhagen content marketing agency Brand Movers.

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