Peter Kafka

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Forbes Buys True/Slant

That was fast. And not that surprising: Forbes Media, which invested in digital news start-up True/Slant two years ago and brought on founder Lewis Dvorkin as a “consultant” this spring, has now bought the entire company. Dvorkin’s new title is chief product officer.

Dvorkin’s old company tried to build a platform for free-lance bloggers, paying each contributor a small per-piece payment based on traffic and other goals (here’s Walt Mossberg’s review of the site, from 2009). Forbes COO Tim Forbes, whose company owned a 20 percent stake in True/Slant, tells me the publisher will use True/Slant in some way. But what he’s really buying here is Dvorkin, who had previously worked for the magazine in the late 1990s before heading to AOL (AOL).

“I’m tremendously excited to have Lewis come aboard as chief product officer. That’s the core message,” Forbes says. He adds that he hadn’t thought he would buy True/Slant when he brought Dvorkin on to overhaul his Web site and magazine this spring, though it seems as if the idea didn’t come completely from out of the blue. “It wasn’t planned because we didn’t know how things will play out.”

All right. So how’s Forbes Media doing, anyway (disclosure: I worked for Forbes for 10 years)?

Okay-ish, Forbes ventures. He says his family company is still looking for a “very senior executive” to fill the place of Jim Berrien, Forbes magazine’s former publisher, and Jim Spanfeller, who ran the Forbes Web site. That job search, which has been running since last summer, is for a single position.

And the business itself? “Business improves,” Forbes says. “The world heals, and we’re seeing real improvements in order flow. Things are getting better.”

Here’s the release:

Lewis Dvorkin to Lead All Forbes Editorial Areas as Chief Product Officer

The Company to Acquire True/Slant

New York, New York (May 25, 2010) – Forbes announced today that it had agreed in principle to acquire True/Slant, a unique, web-based, news platform company. Founder and Chief Executive Officer Lewis Dvorkin of True/Slant will be joining Forbes to lead all editorial areas at Forbes as Chief Product Officer effective June 1.

Mr. Dvorkin started consulting with Forbes in April of this year. He had been Executive Editor of the Forbes magazine from December 1996 to April 2000. In his new capacity Mr. Dvorkin will be creating and implementing many new initiatives in the editorial product and the engagement of Forbes’s audiences. He will be charged with re-architecting the website; redesigning the magazine; and will assume responsibility for all editorial product across Forbes.

In making the announcement Tim Forbes, President and COO said: “These times demand new models for delivering information and engaging audiences and for the ways we run our business.

“Lewis Dvorkin, a seasoned journalist (including a previous stint with Forbes), a business entrepreneur and founder of True/Slant, and a social media pioneer is the ideal leader for Forbes editorial vision and products at this stage.

“Forbes mission and message will not change. There will be new opportunities for people inside Forbes; new opportunities for audiences to have a deeper relationship with Forbes; and new opportunities for marketers to engage with our important audiences.”

“To participate and lead Forbes into its next stage of media life is truly exciting,” said Mr. Dvorkin. “Forbes is a trusted brand with deep and specific meaning to those interested in information that inspires and enables them to succeed and to create wealth.”  He continued, “With all of Forbes’s great experts, the wealth of Forbes data, and its real-time web features, we have a unique ability to stimulate the social media conversation. Our journalists, producers, audiences, marketers and all variety of entrepreneurs will be engaged as they never have been before with one another. Forbes is stepping ahead of everyone on this one.”

Mr. Dvorkin brings to this new position thirty-five years experience in both old and new media platforms. Besides his years at Forbes, Mr. Dvorkin was Page One Editor of The Wall Street Journal, a Senior Editor at Newsweek, and an editor at The New York Times. After leaving Forbes, Mr. Dvorkin was Senior Vice President, Programming at AOL, where he was responsible for News, Sports and Network Programming and played a significant role in the launch of

Forbes Media encompasses Forbes magazine and, the #1 business site on the Web that reaches on average more than 18 million people monthly. The company publishes Forbes and Forbes Asia, which together reach a worldwide audience of more than 6 million readers. It also publishes ForbesLife and ForbesWoman magazines, in addition to licensee editions in China, Croatia, India, Indonesia, Israel, Korea, Latvia, Poland, Romania, Russia and Turkey.

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Just as the atom bomb was the weapon that was supposed to render war obsolete, the Internet seems like capitalism’s ultimate feat of self-destructive genius, an economic doomsday device rendering it impossible for anyone to ever make a profit off anything again. It’s especially hopeless for those whose work is easily digitized and accessed free of charge.

— Author Tim Kreider on not getting paid for one’s work