Forbes’ Mark Howard: Advertising is still a double digit growth business

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Many publishers are trying to diversify their revenue streams instead of relying solely on advertising for revenue growth. But for Forbes, the digital ad business is still seeing double-digit growth.

“Digital ads are still the workhorse for us,” said Mark Howard, CRO at Forbes. “In 2013, digital surpassed print. Together, digital display, direct-sold, programmatic sold, programmatic guaranteed and our digital Brandvoice offering, is 60% to 65% of the total revenue mix. It’s still a double digital growth business.”

Despite growing advertising revenue, Forbes has established a new growth team that is responsible for innovation in new growth areas. In 2020, Howard expects these launches to “represent 10% of the revenue mix.”

In the latest episode of the Digiday Podcast, Howard discusses revenue diversification, why a paywall isn’t right for the publisher and more. Edited highlights below.

A content strategy is lucrative.
“We launched a direct-to-entrepreneur video product. It’s a monthly subscription product that’s about entrepreneurship that helps them at various stages of their journey. We have a partner who is helping us bring this product to Africa. There’s a huge movement there. In the U.S. it’s a very competitive market to be coming out with a video streaming product. You have to have really good products. We have 250 hours of content on the app. Forbes’ 30 under 30 list makers are contributing to this content. All the content, we already had in our library. It just needed to be cut into a different format and for a different format. We leverage the content from our events.”

A pivot will never be in the Forbes playbook.
“You’ll never hear us saying we’re pivoting to a thing. Every year, there is a thing that you could pivot to. There’s a real big business [in subscriptions.] The New York Times is a great success story and they have a great product for it. We’re not in the breaking news space. We don’t chase or write about the news as it’s occurring. We’re more of an analysis website. At present, the conversation for us isn’t about standing up a paywall on We’ve got other businesses that are growing beautifully. We’ve got a great scale that allows us to segment into C-level executives, small business owners, 30 under 30 community, high net worth investors and others. We’ve got the models and platforms where we’re seeing growth.”

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