Notice Anything Different About Our Site?

The new Adzerk site in all its screenshot glory

In what has become an annual fall tradition at Adzerk, we've launched the latest version of our marketing site. The color scheme and overall "feel" is the same as before (thanks to our awesome designer Joshua Smith at Quartz Studio), but we've made several big changes:

  • We streamlined the navigation of the site. Now pages flow together more organically, and it's easier to get a price quote or learn about the solution that fits your company.
  • We organized our features into solutions. Previously, our site was a veritable encyclopedia of feature pages, which made didn't reflect how our partners actually integrated with us. Our solutions gather commonly used together features into bundles.
  • We highlighted the APIs. Our partners today are doing awesome stuff with our three APIs, and our earlier site wasn't good at pointing out its capabilities. Now we have examples of a typical API workflow and a quick portal to the docs.
  • We collected our partners' stories in one place. We didn't want the details of our partners' adventures on the Adzerk platform to get lost in our blog. You can now view them at the bottom of the homepage. We'll be adding new stories on an ongoing basis, so stay tuned for more!
  • We switched from WordPress to Jekyll. Jekyll is a Ruby-based static site generator that parses Markdown into HTML, which we deploy directly to our servers. It's minimal, crazy fast, and a lot of fun to work with (if you're cool with text editors and the command line). We've already found that it's easier to maintain a static site with many custom elements via Jekyll rather than WP.

Take a look around and tell us what you think!

Using Advertising To Monetize A Social Media Community

So you've built a growing social app, or you're running a social media community that has a decent amount of user activity. Now you're ready to monetize. Cool.

The first thing you should realize about monetization is that bombarding your users with banner ads is not an option. If you have a active user base, that means you have people who care about your product, its content, and the other people using it. Their attention will be focused on those three things, not on any annoying banners interrupting their experience.

This is why banners have crappy clickthroughs and crappy payouts, and are getting even crappier over time. This is also why many apps and sites turn to subscription models or even affiliate programs to monetize.

But don't give up on advertising too early. When users tell you that they hate ads, what they really mean is that they hate intrusions. A poorly placed or targeted ad is a turn off, but an ad that fits the context of your site or app can actually extend the experience of using it.

Here's what we mean: let's say you've built an app that connects dog owners who have compatible dogs, so you two can hang out at the dog park at the same time. And let's assume that your users must create an account to login. They upload a picture of their dog, data about their dog's behavior, and the dog parks they like. In return, they see a feed of who has a similar dog and who wants to go to the park now. (Basically, it's Tinder for dog owners.)

Conventional thinking says that you should reach out to pet stores, dog food companies, etc. and convince them to purchase banner inventory on your app. Except there's a big problem: your users aren't here to buy dog food. They're here to connect with dog owners, and reminding them that Phydeaux needs to eat is distracting them from that task.

So how do you monetize your app without distractions?

Method 1: Upsells

If you have a premium version where users can see other users' names, you can remind them of that while they browse a user's profile. Even better, you could offer a trial version if the user appears to be the sort of power user who is most likely to keep a premium subscription: maybe they check the app 20 times a day, for instance.

To get really savvy, use an ad server to show certain upsell messages to targeted users. If 87% of users in Central Park have gone Premium, let the remaining 23% percent know! Nobody wants to miss out. An ad server will make this easy by choosing the right notification for the right user, which saves you many coding hours.

Method 2: Native Ads

This is the real frontier of digital advertising. Imagine a user browsing matches, where they see a profile for a vet. (With a little banner beneath the vet's avatar that says "Sponsored"). Since both the vet and the user own Boston Terriers, the user visits the profile and sees that the vet frequents a park near their practice. "I have a Boston Terrier meetup on Tuesdays", the profile says, "come hang out and we'll talk about taking care of our dogs!"

The goal of a perfect native ad unit is to be a win-win-win: the user finds relevant content, the advertiser finds relevant leads, and the ad appears in a relevant context.

The key is to never forget why the user is using your app or site in the first place. In this case, it's to hang out with dog owners.

We hope this article has given you new ideas about how advertising can fit into your monetization plans. Every community is different, so your approach will be unique. If you want to toss around ideas or have your own ideas you'd like to share, let us know!

Why Only Native Will Save Metafilter

There’s a lot of talk about the death of MetaFilter. After a round of layoffs, the Washington Post called the site a relic of a pre-social media web, and others have put out theories about peak ads and the decline of advertising value over time.

According to CEO Matt Haughey, 90 percent of MetaFilter’s ad revenue comes from AdSense, which took a hit when Google’s “Panda” indexing updates removed 40% of search traffic to AskMetaFilter overnight. Despite a team of moderators who are supposed to curate content, MetaFilter still receives daily emails from Google requesting the removal of “inorganic” links, which Haughey believes is a symptom of Google’s inability to treat MetaFilter as the legitimate community that it is.

Things have gotten better in recent weeks, as this DIgiday interview with Haughey explains: the site has redesigned its UI, and traffic has improved after Google made corrections to its indexing.

But this isn’t a permanent fix for MetaFilter at all.

The problem is that MetaFilter’s method of making money has never been aligned with the core usage of the site.

Google is under no obligation to index MetaFilter’s pages if they aren’t relevant to search results. MetaFilter has been around since 1999, and even its “new” spinoff AskMetaFilter has been around since 2003, which is 11 in human years and 1100 in internet years. While hundreds of pages from these past 15 years probably are the most qualified for a given search result, there are tens of thousands more that aren’t.

Trusting in the “long tail” of content plus whatever algorithm Google currently uses to determine authoritativeness is not a sustainable revenue strategy, especially when that strategy is banked by the notoriously fickle AdSense (who, as Haughey points out, flags pages as adult content for containing medical terms).

Long tail content and AdSense creatives aren’t useful to the MetaFilter community either, who are far more likely to respond to the latest posts and discussions than to dig in the archives for content. Search results may be useful for the casual Googler, but the casual Googler should not be (and is not) MetaFilter’s community, and MetaFilter shouldn’t try to cater to them to drive revenue.

MetaFilter did take a step in the right direction by introducing The Deck network to their inventory. They’ve run these premium ads (geared for designers and coders) since 2010, which are better aligned with the values of the community that whatever Google throws into an AdSense slot.

But a single ad network isn’t going to do it. The Deck makes up only 10% at most of MetaFilter’s advertising revenue. The entire network brings in around 300k a month, so MetaFilter would literally need 100% of the entire network’s revenue just to replace what they’re making currently.

So is MetaFilter destined to be a relic of the past, clinging to old monetization strategies until the well runs dry?

I don’t think so.

Instead of trying to get enough content into Google and playing the SEO cat and mouse game (hint: people like are always going to be better at this than you are) they need to find a way to monetize MetaFilter in a way that is in line with how their core audience uses the site.

They’ve been asking, “how can we generate the most amount of content and put ads on it?”

This philosophy assumes that increasing the volume of ad placements and/or increasing the amount of traffic will lead to greater revenue. It’s also the same philosophy behind content farms, which is what Google once perceived MetaFilter to be.

The real question is “how can we make our community available to advertisers?”

The past ten years have shown us that banners alone aren’t the answer. Good, sustainable online revenue comes from the intersection of a marketer’s message and how a user interacts with a site. In other words, it comes from native ads.

MetaFilter’s next goal should be discovering a native ad unit that caters to their community while creating an opportunity for advertisers to be heard. That could be lots of things: sponsored questions, sponsored comments, sponsored anything.

I don’t know what ad unit will resonate with the MetaFilter community the most, but I’m sure their team has some great ideas. Native ads have been around long enough now to show real results, like polls where respondents found sponsored content to be equal or greater value than organic content. What the MetaFilter team needs to do is recruit brands to test which units create the best response.

The last thing they need to do is to continue their AdSense strategy. Facebook, Twitter, reddit, Pinterest, Tumblr, etc. don’t make money from Google optimized results, and they don’t need to. They create revenue from the way their communities are structured: sponsored updates, sponsored tweets, sponsored links, and so on.

We’re also now in the era of ad filtering (AdBlock and Adblock Plus are the most popular plugins for Chrome, Safari and Firefox) which also means we’re now in the era of AdSense decline. Optimizing that strategy is like bailing out a slowly sinking ship with a bucket.

Full disclosure: I should mention that I’ve reached out to MetaFilter’s CEO to discuss how my company Adzerk could help them built the native ad unit of their choice. I haven’t gotten a response, and I’m not sure if this post will help or hurt my efforts to get in touch…

In any case, I’m offering MetaFilter a free year on the Adzerk platform if they’re interested. I really don’t want to see MetaFilter disappear, and I’d love to work hand and hand with their team to help them discover the best ways to build back their revenue. If Matt Haughey or anyone else on their team wants to try this out, shoot me an email.

Power To The Content Creators Social Platform Hang W Monetizes With Custom Video Ad Units

Broadcasters on the social video platform Hang w/ have a new incentive for sharing their live content: advertising revenue. The platform’s parent MEDL Mobile announced yesterday that they are integrating ad notifications into their broadcasts, playing a short video before each broadcast and offering a rich media ad unit afterwards.

“I believe the real money is going to be earned not just by the household names, but by these kids who are living the life of an artist and sharing it live,"

said Timothy ‘Timbaland’ Mosley, an early investor in the Hang w/ platform and a Grammy Award-winning producer.

Currently, celebrity broadcasters are a huge draw for Hang w/ – they incldue 50 Cent, Cheech and Chong, Jared Leto, Larry the Cable Guy, UFC, and Ultimate Poker. The addition of revenue sharing from advertising will make the platform attractive for even more creators, both well-known and obscure.

Hang w/’s selling point is the combinaton of a live video broadcast and chat functionality, which lets viewers chat with each other and also interact with the broadcasters while the content is airing. (This has already proven effective during broadcasts on Twitter, but Hang w/ takes it a few steps further.)

Their goal is to continue to weaken the divide between spectator and creator in social media, but their current monetization model is based on traditional television: interruptive ad units which may (or may not) be an extension of the broadcasted content.

How effective will this old model be in the era of new media? If their advertisers’ content aligns with the content of the broadcast (and the audience’s interests), it could turn out to be quite lucrative. They could accomplish this through highly targeted selling, via programmatic channels or direct relationships with agencies.

Interactive ads should be key for their platform as well, since interacting with content creators is the basis of Hang w/. A great example of potential ads are Hulu’s "in-stream purchase units" which let viewers order pizzas (for instance) during a commercial break.

Regardless, we wish Hang w/ the best as they enter the exciting and sometimes confusing world of digital advertising. Any platform that uses advertising revenue to incentivize original content is a good platform for the future of the web.