Experience does count in the digital world. Mike Perlis, an accomplished print innovator, is making his mark in the digital world.
As the CEO of Forbes, Perlis has spearheaded the company’s digital revolution, but he comes from relatively humble beginnings, with stints at both Playboy and GQ before he hit pay dirt by securing a place at top table of the country’s premier publisher.
Perlis – the Forbes Years
In 2010 Perlis took over the reins at the premier publishing house, spearheading the company’s move into digital publishing and launching its groundbreaking AdVoice package, which enables industry leaders to pay for the privilege of writing columns for Forbes’ online space. Some have seen this as a cute move – allowing the company to cut down on staffing costs while populating forbes.com with authoritative content; while others see it as a white elephant – a fancy name for advertising and the death knell to the publisher’s credibility. Whatever your opinion, Perlis’ strategy seems to be paying off, as he explains.
“We did 33 million unique visitors last month, which makes us unique from a digital footprint standpoint,” he said. “Forbes.com started 15 years ago and one of the things that we did that really allowed us as a legacy business to become a digital player was that at the time we separated forbes.com and the magazine completely.
“We set up a completely independent, highly entrepreneurial, and performance driven .com team in a separate building. This allowed us not to make all the bargains and all the deals and all the half way steps you have to take to take a traditional media company into the digital age.
“Just as it was right to separate the assets it was right to put them back together a couple of years ago and now they feed off one another.”
BF – Before Forbes
Perlis has over 25 years experience managing a host of well-known content and media brands before he arrived at Forbes fresh from SoftBank Capital. Before it was sold in 2000, Perlis was president of publishers Ziff-Davis (a SoftBank subsidiary), where he was charged with managing the company’s technology properties globally. Analysts believe that Perlis was responsible for repositioning Ziff-Davis – moving it away from the PC and pointing it firmly at the web. He also negotiated the sale of TVSM to NewsCorp in 1998 after spending two years at the company directing all strategy and operations.
Introducing Playboy to the World
Between 1989 and 1994 Perlis was the president of Playboy Publishing Group, where he oversaw all publishing and product activity. During his tenure the Playboy brand was successfully exported across the globe, which resulted in operations being set up in 17 countries and he also introduced the online community to the delights of Playboy when he directed the creation of playboy.com
Prior to his foray into the world of ‘gentlemen’s entertainment’, Mr Perlis was president and CEO of IDG Peterborough, the company responsible for GQ, and he built the Rodale Active Sports umbrella brand, which included Men’s Health, Women’s Health and latterly the purchase of Runner’s World.
So What’s Next for Forbes and Perlis?
With such an illustrious and colourful career, you could be forgiven for thinking that Perlis can’t have many challenges left, but you’d be wrong. He still sees the future in a digital frame and squarely in that frame is mobile.
Perlis continued: “The whole industry is looking at mobile. We have a growing percent of our traffic coming from mobile and we need to figure out like everyone else how to monetize that experience. For all of us, mobile is an opportunity to deal with and a problem to solve.”