World: Medium of the Week - Forbes broadens its scope with Top 2000 survey

Forbes is trying to supply an international focus with its survey, Mark Tungate writes.

"Some think small," the flyer Forbes sent out to media agencies and advertisers recently said. "Forbes sees the bigger picture."

The flyer was referring to the Forbes 2000 survey of the world's leading companies, but it was also a subtle dig at the business publication's biggest rival, Fortune. When it launched the 2000 survey last year, Forbes was clearly trying to go one better (or, when you think about it, four better) than the Fortune 500 ranking of the biggest US companies.

This year, Forbes is placing even more emphasis on the global 2000 survey, having scrapped its own 500 list of US companies after 36 years. Alongside the World's Billionaires issue - an annual list of the richest people on the planet, which appears every March - the 2000 survey is now the most important date in the Forbes calendar. It will appear simultaneously in the US edition, which has been going for more than 85 years, and the international version, Forbes Global, which launched in 1998. Both are owned by the Forbes family and headed by its chief executive and the former US presidential candidate, Steve Forbes, the son of the late publisher Malcolm S Forbes.

Forbes Global's managing director and publisher, Bob Crozier, says: "While our worthy competitor Fortune continues to focus on the top 500 companies in America, we feel that this has become an outdated concept. The world economy depends on a large number of companies that are based outside of the US - in China, for example, or Finland in the case of Nokia - and our survey reflects that shift."

The list is based on four main criteria: revenue, profit, assets, and market capitalisation. Price-to-earnings ratio is also taken into account. In last year's survey, eight out of the top 20 companies in the survey were non-American.

Tim Ferguson, Forbes Global's editor, says the survey required around 3,000 hours of investigation by an in-house team of more than a dozen researchers. In addition, 12 Forbes reporters - including those based overseas - had conducted interviews and written articles to wrap around the list.

"The whole thing took more than two-and-a-half months to put together," he adds. "The big difference this year is that, while last time we placed a lot of the resulting material on our website, in 2004 you're going to see almost all of the content in the magazine."

The international viewpoint will surely help Forbes, which can suffer in Europe from being seen as a US-centric publication. Sam Piller, the client executive at Carat International, says: "Forbes sits in the same group as Fortune, Newsweek, BusinessWeek and The Economist in that it appeals to high-ranking international business people. But both Forbes and Fortune continue to have an Americanised image, as opposed to The Economist's more international perspective."

Ferguson acknowledges that this is the case, but he comments: "I think we have begun looking at the world with a broader lens and this survey is not just another step in that direction, but a giant leap."

Established: Global 2000 survey, 2003. Forbes magazine (US), 1917.

Forbes Global, 1998.

Publication date: 12 April 2004

Price for full-page, four-colour ad: US$29,000 (£15,827)

Owner: The Forbes family

Frequency: Annual (Forbes Global is monthly)

Worldwide circulation: 138,919 (international edition), 900,000 (US)

Typical advertisers: IBM, Orange, HP, UBS, MasterCard

Rival titles: Fortune, BusinessWeek, The Economist

Local-language editions: Japan, Korea, Brazil and China

Distribution: 94 per cent subscription

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