Leaders’ Insights: Charles Yardley, Forbes Media

13 Nov 2015

Charles Yardley, Managing Director International, Forbes Media

Charles Yardley is Managing Director International at Forbes Media.

Yardley is responsible for running the commercial and advertising operations for Forbes across all its media platforms.

He joined Forbes in a sales role in 2004, previous to that he had held a sales position at the Financial Times.

Through its print and online operations, the Forbes Media brand reaches more than 75m people around the globe.

Describe your role and what you do.

In my role, I am responsible for running the commercial and advertising operations of Forbes across all media platforms, and introducing marketers to the company’s new and highly-innovative advertising products in the marketplace. Part of my role is also about educating and informing the UK and European marketplace about Forbes as a whole and assisting in its global expansion.

How do you prioritise and organise your working life?

In a revenue-driven business like Forbes, I am constantly sourcing new business opportunities and avenues for exploration. This means I spend a lot of my time travelling and reacting to business opportunities as they appear. In the media business, priorities are always changing as we respond to our readers and the altering landscape. That said, in order to shape our current and future years, I tend to focus on our larger accounts, core markets and new business.

What are the biggest challenges facing your business and how are you tackling them?

Right now, ad-blocking and positioning the business for the mobile device audience is one of our biggest challenges. However, it’s also opening up a lot of opportunities as we reach out to the millennial generation more and create platforms in which more of our audience can access our content via their phone. We’re pursuing a mobile-specific strategy with content developed first for mobile.

‘Ad-blocking and positioning the business for the mobile device audience is one of our biggest challenges’

What are the key industry opportunities you’re capitalising on?

Native adverting. At Forbes, we continue to be a pioneer and offer a vastly different native advertising solution to our marketing partners compared to other products in the marketplace.

Having launched Brand Voice five years ago for both Forbes magazine and Forbes.com, we’ve been overwhelmed with the response from brands. Indeed, last month we announced our 100th Brand Voice partner.

Advertisers really value the fact that they can share their expertise and connect directly with our audience using the same content management system that our journalists use on a day-to-day basis. We offer easy-to-use tools and a Brand Newsroom we created (reporting into sales) that shares best practices with our partners and advises them on how to create compelling content. Transparency is also important; marketers’ content is clearly labelled so that the source of the content is clear.

What set you on the road to where you are in the industry?

I left school at 18 and was selling windows by day and drinks by night until I stumbled across a small publishing house in Brentwood that changed my career path entirely! From there, I moved to London and worked in a commission-only sales environment for some time before immersing myself into the digital space: the early dot-com bubble. When that burst, I joined the Financial Times and, shortly afterwards, Forbes. Now, 12 years on, I have seen this industry go through a number of exciting cycles. However, they have paled in comparison to the last five years, which saw Forbes undergo an incredible transformation, which I’ve been fortunate enough to be a key part of.

What was your biggest mistake and what did you learn from it?

I think the biggest mistake anyone can make in this industry is not keeping one’s ear to the ground when it comes to innovation coming down the line. I learnt early on that if you bury your head in the sand when it comes to technological advancements you’ll never succeed. Working through the dot-com boom, I learnt to embrace innovation – even if it looked like it might be detrimental to the current marketplace – and look at ways of working with, as opposed to against, it.

‘The last five years … saw Forbes undergo an incredible transformation’

How do you get the best out of your team?

Maintaining a transparent and open dialogue with all my team members and having all parties incentivised to help drive our revenue goals is key. In practical terms, it means we sit together on one table and bring all our challenges and opportunities to the whole team for discussion.

STEM sectors receive a lot of criticism for a lack of diversity. What are your thoughts on this and what’s needed to effect change?

I think that this situation is slowly starting to change but, as we know from other sectors, it takes time for this to be felt. STEM sector organisations have been, quite rightly, making a lot of moves to address their diversity problem and it is encouraging to see initiatives going on. From a media perspective, I think it is important to see diverse voices coming through talking on STEM-related topics. At Forbes, we’re pleased to see a number of our contributors discussing this issue.

Who is your business hero and why?

I don’t particularly have any business heroes, however, I’ve been fortunate to work with an eclectic mix of superb management staff at Forbes and they continue to innovate and inspire me on a daily basis.

‘I think it is important to see diverse voices coming through talking on STEM-related topics’

What books have you read that you would recommend?

The Maintenance of Headway by Magnus Mills.

What are the essential tools and resources that get you through the working week?

Gin, I mean, the gym. Seriously, I would be lost without an honest team that I can rely on whilst travelling, as this is a huge part of my role. In addition, the support network of management within the business is an essential resource as we strive towards exceeding our goals.