Friday, February 19, 2010

Forbes, America’s Most Miserable Magazine

Not Miserable!

Cleveland Ohio appeared on yet another Forbes list, this time Forbes calling Cleveland “America’s Most Miserable City” . Forbes puts Cleveland at the top of the list, saying that it “secured the position thanks to its high unemployment, high taxes, lousy weather, corruption by public officials and crummy sports teams (Cavaliers of the NBA excepted).” They bring up the city’s “colorful history” reminding readers about the Cuyahoga River burning in the late 1960s, and the city’s default in 1978, the “first U.S. city to default on its debts since the Great Depression.” It mentions the anguish fans have suffered over its sports teams, and grudgingly mentions the currently successful Cleveland Cavaliers NBA team. It also resurrects and old city nickname, “the Mistake by the Lake.”

The magazine used the “misery measure” which they explained as follows “Our Misery Measure takes into account unemployment, as well as eight other issues that cause people anguish. The metrics include taxes (both sales and income), commute times, violent crime and how its pro sports teams have fared over the past two years. We also factored in two indexes put together by Portland, Ore., researcher Bert Sperling that gauge weather and Superfund pollution sites. Lastly we considered corruption based on convictions of public officials in each area as tracked by the Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice.”

The article explains how Cleveland rates poorly in the key categories, and then, in an section that I call “damning with faint praise”, they explain that “There are certainly bright spots in Cleveland. Downtown has experienced a revival over the past 15 years helped in part by the construction of three new sports venues for the city's NFL, NBA and baseball teams. The Cleveland Clinic is one of the top medical centers in the U.S. and the largest employer in northeast Ohio.”

I was unable to find on the Forbes web site the actual data used to compile the list. Here are the cities that Forbes lists, and their ranking:

The 20 "Most Miserable Cities" in America:

1. Cleveland
2. Stockton, Calif.
3. Memphis, Tenn.
4. Detroit
5. Flint, Mich.
6. Miami
7. St. Louis
8. Buffalo, N.Y.
9. Canton, Ohio
11.Modesto, Calif.
12.Akron, Ohio
13.Kansas City
14.Rockford, Ill.
15.Toledo, Ohio
16.New York City
17.Sacramento, Calif.
18.Youngstown, Ohio
19.Gary, Ind.

One thing I learned years ago when I worked in a job that included analyzing and reporting performance metrics and business expenses is that a person can make numbers say just about anything they want, as long as they pick and chose the right categories and the right set of results. Forbes, in this case, seems to enjoy picking and choosing those categories which puts Cleveland, and a lot of other Ohio cities, on the top 20.

Based on my own statistics, taken by reviewing comments from Cleveland area residents, and commentary from various local press sources, I have deemed that Forbes Magazine is the most miserable magazine in America. I can also say this also from personal experience, because I actually subscribe to Forbes Magazine and over the last two years, find myself reading it less and less because it offers very little. I should mention that I’ve never had to pay for that magazine subscription as it was a “freebie” that I got as a giveaway from another business web site. Apparently Forbes has to give away their magazines because it’s hard to get people to pay to read the tripe they publish. Thankfully, my free subscription runs out soon and even if it is free I won’t be taking it anymore.

But back to the miserable Forbes. Since Forbes dredged up Cleveland’s ancient past, let’s dredge up Forbes’. The magazine and web site’s performance seems to be slipping, with the web site 24/7 Wall St. saying about Forbes in May of 2009:

Ad pages at Forbes were down 17% last year and are down 19% year-to-date. The most recent issue’s ad pages were 33% lower than they were in the same issue last year. Forbes has a circulation rate base of 900,000 in the US. The company also has an edition for Asia and several smaller publications.

The print business at Forbes is doing as poorly as it is at BusinessWeek and Fortune. Forbes has the advantage of a much larger audience online. In the US, it has almost 5.6 million unique visitors and 66 million pageviews. Revenue from the Forbes online business is between $70 million and $80 million, but is not growing. Forbes management might say that its online operations are profitable and that its print business loses money. It is convenient to separate the two businesses, but they share so many resources, that this is not a realistic description of the Forbes overall business. themselves reported on February 8, 2010 that Circulation for U.S. magazines slipped more than 2 percent in the second half of 2009. A new report also finds that single-copy sales, which are more lucrative for publishers, dropped more than 9 percent.” It seems Forbes is part of a dying industry, and that has to be miserable.

And imagine working for a company run by Steve Forbes, president and CEO of Forbes, Inc. and chief editor of Forbes Magazine, a guy who tried to run for president of the United States and was largely ignored. Despite Steve’s wealth and life in his ivory tower, that failure has got to make a guy miserable. I guess his money can’t buy everything.

But the Cleveland Plain Dealer said it best, where Phillip Morris said in an editorial that “Forbes magazine is worse than a dirty lover, it's fickle” , going on to say:

"Just last year, Forbes was singing Cleveland's praises. The magazine said we were hot. It ranked us as America's 14th best city for single people.

What a fickle lover.

At the time, I took note of that ranking and called it a joke. Cleveland is full of beautiful, if slightly overweight, people. We have a nice theater district, and a downtown entertainment district with options enough to keep one from going stir-crazy. We have professional sports year around.

But this city has not been one of America's hottest cities since Halle Berry left. In 2008 Forbes ranked us as 38th in the dating category, which begs the question: How did Forbes suddenly discover that we were so hot?

With the latest ranking – that we're miserable – I wonder how we could make such an astounding leap in the quality of our dating scene at the same time we were busy killing each other and hemorrhaging jobs, homes, and population?

The magazine never explains its revision.”

Count me in as another Cleveland area resident who thinks that Forbes is way off base here. The Cleveland area has so much to offer (just spend some time reading my blog here and you will see what I mean). It has plenty of things to do and see, including beautiful Lake Erie and the Cuyahoga River Valley, the world class Cleveland Orchestra, and let’s not forget the world class medical care, which draws in people from all around the globe. Living costs (housing, food utilities) are very low in the Cleveland metropolitan area. Sure, it has problems like crime, poverty, and housing problems in the inner city, but so do many other big cities. But it is unfair for Forbes to pick and chose certain “miserable” categories on which to base its ranking; one does’t get a clear picture by cutting out most of the snapshot.

So Forbes, let me congratulate you on being the most miserable magazine in America. You’ve certainly earned it.

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Hank Drake said...

Another issue is that there is no mention of cultural access. Cleveland has a cultural life that is the envy of cities twice its size. The Muesum of Art, which is FREE to residents; the Zoo, also FREE to residents on Mondays; the Cleveland Orchestra (which outplays the New York Philharmonic by a country mile). And we don't have one central park, we have a necklace of parks surrounding the city.

To top it all off, life is affordable in Cleveland. I've lived in Massachusetts, Florida, and California. Dollar for dollar, life is better here.

Anonymous said...

Cleveland is a wonderful town. Forbe has no idea what they are talking about.

Those New Yorkers would never be able to afford the huge homes we have in this area, and they certainly wouldn't be able to afford thr wonderful yards that come with a lot of them. In the summer it is filled with green, you know, from trees, which those big city Forbes folk don't get to see much.

RottenMom said...

Excellent Post! Great to see that others love Cleveland as much as we do!