NEW YORK: With BrandVoice, Forbes was one of the first publishers to offer a sponsored content program to advertisers, but its thinking in this area has moved on to focus on the role of influencers, one of the company's leading executives has said.

Chief Revenue Officer Mark Howard told Ad Exchanger that BrandVoice had really taken off in 2012 but now, almost four years on, "every major publisher has some form of branded content solution, page views are becoming a commodity".

In a saturated market, he expected that some publishers would fail while others explored new business models, such as moving to a platform-only model – something Forbes itself has avoided – or developing "really robust, immersive [branded content] experiences".

While admiring of the technology and design going into the latter, he was sceptical of its practical application, suggesting such content was difficult to consume on a phone which is where an increasing proportion of media consumption is taking place.

"We are on the cusp of a content bubble," he said. "We can't support all those rich, immersive experiences over and over for every brand and every site on mobile."

He indicated that Forbes was taking a simpler approach that will see it focused on influencers.

"For us, the ability to identify influencers to consume content on behalf of brands and distribute content to those influencers is going to be a big part of how we push forward in 2016," he said.

BrandVoice, Howard added, has grown 70% two years in a row, and he expected "similar growth this year".

Research undertaken for Forbes in 2013 found a "statistically significant lift" when people were exposed to branded content: brand favourability, for example, stood at 37% with the consumer group exposed to branded content, compared to 29% for those who were exposed to control content.

Purchase intent and consideration also showed more pronounced levels, at 31% for the branded content group compared to 22% for the control group, while brand trust went up by 29% for the branded content group compared to 25% for the control group.

Data sourced from Ad Exchanger; additional content by Warc staff