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How to buy a masthead and influence people

Mark Di StefanoReporter

Last month, iconic US magazine company Forbes, best known for putting round numbers on the world’s wealthiest people, went up for sale after plans to go public during SPAC-mania fell apart.

Forbes’ owners are now searching for a buyer in a magazine market that’s been structurally upended by Instagram, LinkedIn and now TikTok.

Kylie Jenner, kid sister of reality-television star Kim Kardashian, scored a Forbes magazine cover. 

Though unshakable entrepreneur Michael Lane appears undeterred by such uncertainty, having recently bought the licence to publish a local Forbes edition in Australia (a rights purchase he announced via Instagram in May as his, ahem, main hustle was sidelined during the pandemic).

Lane has since hired editorial staffers while fitting out a glitzy office in Sydney’s CBD, internally adorned with a large neon sign in the masthead’s unmistakable serif font, which the self-styled “Founder & CEO” has gratefully shared via video tour.

This is at the same time as Lane cements his position as Australia’s foremost expert in the art of LinkedIn broetry, dispatching such wisdom as: “Everyone looking for a million $ Idea.. But what you really need is a $100 idea.. $100 Idea x 10,000 people = $1m #idea #mission #million #vision #sell”.

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Last year, Lane appeared to conduct an interview with himself about plans to “empower a billion people through quality education”, distributed through a PR firm and re-published on Yahoo Finance.

It’s the type of self-promotion that likely drew Lane to Tony Robbins, the positive-thinking business preacher who sells out stadiums with the promise to “unleash the power within”.

Lane was previously the Australian managing director of Success Resources, a business events company that charges extortionate prices for punters to hear from the likes of Robbins, Virgin founder Richard Branson and TikTokpreneur Gary Vaynerchuk.

Earlier this year, Success Resources was a focus of A Current Affair, which spoke to several fans who paid thousands to see Robbins, only for the event to be cancelled due to COVID-19 without any refunds.

While Robbins’ own team told Nine (the same company that publishes this paper) there would be “swift action” to get customers paid back, there was no reaching Success Resources for an explanation as to why refunds had not been paid.

Perhaps that’s because Lane had already moved on, making the quick transition to budding media publisher, which makes us wonder what hoops Forbes makes its franchisee owners jump through before signing.

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Lane at least understands how magazines make money. Forbes Australia’s glossy media kit promises to advertisers it will “stand with our heels on a 105-year media legacy, and our toes on the cutting edge of experience and innovation”.

The pitch also claims a remarkable 2.4 million Australians visit Forbes.com every month (The AFR gets 3.5 million), perhaps why Lane is hoping to charge $67,000 a pop for sponsored editorial features in print, among the more expensive rates among local premium mags.

If Lane’s magazine is anywhere near as exciting as his previous exploits, it’ll definitely be one to read.

Mark Di Stefano is the media and tech correspondent at The Australian Financial Review. Connect with Mark on Twitter. Email Mark at [email protected]

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