Forbes is most famous for being one of the pre-eminent business-focused publications in the U.S. Its news coverage stretches beyond the business world to politics, science, and culture. However, it has been subject to criticism, both for highly variable quality and changes to its ownership. This leads to two important questions: how factual is Forbes and how biased is it?

How Factual Is Forbes?

The Factual’s news rating algorithm analyzes more than 10,000 articles a day along four metrics: author expertise, publication history, writing tone, and cited sources and quotes. (See our How It Works page to learn more.) For this study, we analyzed 1,000 articles each from 245 major news sources.

Over a dataset of 1,000 articles, Forbes scored an average Factual Grade of 49.7%. This is well below the average of 61.9% for all 240 news sources that we analyzed. This places the site in the 10th percentile of our dataset.

Forbes’ low scores do not have a single cause and instead seem to be the result of several factors, such as hundreds of guest authors, intermittent sourcing for some articles, overuse of internal links, and opinionated writing. Furthermore, mixed in with proper news articles are articles that are effectively advertisements for products, which score very poorly.

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Like any news source, scores for articles from Forbes varied widely based on factors like author expertise and cited evidence. For example, some scored above 80%, while others scored below 50%.

As part of the Factual Grade, The Factual measures how opinionated an article is using a sophisticated natural language processing algorithm, producing a score we call the Writing Tone. For this metric, the algorithm looks for signs of subjective commentary (e.g., first person pronouns, unnecessary adverbs), as well as the emotional nature of selected words, and sees how prevalent they are for a given length of text. Text which is less opinionated gets higher ratings, with “0” being the most opinionated and “1” being the most neutral.

Forbes had an average Writing Tone score of 0.50, placing it in the 35th percentile in our dataset. This suggests that articles from the site are often highly opinionated.

How Biased Is Forbes?

Together, assessments from media bias organizations indicate that Forbes has a “Moderate Right” bias.

Media Bias/Fact Check, for example, categorizes Forbes as “Right Center” due to “story selection that favors the right and the political affiliation of its ownership” and scores it as “Mostly Factual” for reporting, due to some “misleading or false stories related to climate science.” This classification is supported by community feedback, where a majority (35%) of 435 respondents rated Forbes as “Right Center.”

AllSides, another media bias organization, has not completed an in-depth editorial review of Forbes, which they typically provide for major news outlets. However, AllSides community ratings give Forbes a “Center” rating based on 22,159 votes.

Forbes has intermittently published articles that lend credence to its classification as somewhat conservative. For example, they published an article by right-wing commentator Dinesh D’Souza on 2010. The articles was “a gross piece of innuendo—a fact-twisting, error-laden piece of paranoia,” according to the Columbia Journalism Review. Several years later they published an article in which editor-in-chief Steve Forbes likened then-president Obama to Lenin. 

This bias may have lessened over the last decade but remains present. During the Trump era, Media Bias/Fact Check noted the site “presents a reasonable balance through their contributors” but publishes stories “more in favor of his policies than against.” Moreover, Steve Forbes remains the editor-in-chief and continues to publish conservative articles through the platform, with titles like “How Biden’s Corporate Tax Hike Will Hurt The Middle Class.”

Who Owns Forbes?

The Hong Kong-based company Integrated Whale Media Investments purchased Forbes in 2014. Critics suspect this ownership is influencing the site’s coverage in favor of China. Since the acquisition, Forbes has fired contributors known to be hawkish on China, and editors have taken issue with “problematic” language toward China. While such bias is only relevant to some stories, it has noticeable impacts. For example, this story covering the 2018 arrest of Huawei CFO Meng Wanzhou elevates the perceived economic risks of the move rather than the reasons for the arrest.

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How to Mitigate Bias

News articles are bound to have bias because all authors have some frame of reference within which they describe a story. Political bias ratings are helpful in understanding this framing. However, it can be more beneficial to know how factual an article is based on quantifiable metrics that can be seen across the media ecosystem, such as cited evidence, author expertise, and writing tone. This is what The Factual ascertains.

Reading several, highly rated articles from across the political spectrum helps counter the bias of any news source or story. To have the day’s most factual news stories delivered to your inbox every morning, subscribe to our daily newsletter.

Article updated on December 12, 2021 to reflect new data.

Published by Phillip Meylan

Phillip is a writer, researcher, and editor. At The Factual, he leads research efforts that utilize the company's ever growing data on the media ecosystem. He is also a contributor to FP Analytics, Foreign Policy's research and advisory division, and an adjunct fellow with the Center for Strategic and International Studies.