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Credit: By Melissa Marques on Flickr. Some rights reserved.

When Forbes was re-thinking its web publishing model in 2010, they were reflecting on the state of the industry and the shift in publishing power.

In particular, their aim was to respond to the fact that "anyone can publish at any time without trucks, planes, satellites," Mike Federle, chief operating officer at Forbes Media, told the FIPP Congress today.

As such, they built their contributor network - on top of what he described as a "technology-led, data-driven newsroom" at Forbes - which enables authorised individuals to publish straight to the Forbes website.

According to Federle, there are three key "components" to this model, driving its success: the technology, the feedback and the incentives.

The technology

Contributors have access to the same publishing platform as Forbes's own journalists, a platform which was built by Forbes itself. And keeping the system simple is vital, Federle said, to allow them "to focus on the journalism", and not get distracted by technicalities.

On the front-end, there is a clear and thought-out structure to the content. Chief product officer Lewis D'Vorkin has previously described these sections to Journalism.co.uk as "stacks".

The website design begins with curation, with a section where Forbes editors select "what they consider to be stories you need to read".

Second is the Most Popular section, which Federle explained is "algorithmically generated" and "driven by velocity engine" which looks at social shares and comments to rank stories. Headlines appearing in this list also feature a reference to how many comments received in the last hour, if this is significant. Similarly it flags up when a story is kicking-off on a particular social network.

Other sections include Follow on Forbes, where readers can follow different writers - again re-inforcing the site's commitment to the writer, and Forbes's Brand Voice section for relevant content from marketers.

As for the technology behind this platform, Federle confirmed this is to be licensed, with "conversations going on around the world with number of publishers".

"We've taken our platform and will shrink wrap it down to a product they can plug into their platform. This is a new business for us."

Feedback and incentives

As for feedback to contributors on the impact of their work, the platform offers a "feedback loop of data", Federle said, which helps contributors "measure success".

Data it shares includes readership and social sharing statistics, on a real-time basis. This is important for the company's community of writers, many of whom are passionate about "building their own brand".

He added that the data "also feeds back for the payment system".

Contributors to Forbes are paid using a "compensation model". Writers made a "minimum commitment" in terms of how much content they will produce, Federle explained, with a certain rate based on unique visits to that content, which is then boosted for repeat visitors with the same month.

According to Federle, some of its contributors are "making over $100,000".

"It is a paid model for a good percentage of our contributors," he added.

Contributions to the site are published direct, but the contributors themselves are pre-approved by Forbes editors. This is followed up with "self-editing afterwards as a result of comments from readers".

Ferderle said that since the platform launched in 2010 it has received contributions from around 2500 individuals, with only "a few instances" where they have had to take content down.

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