Through the power of TalkDigger.com I found the first mentioning of Right Media in a podcast (at least that I know of) on The Community Admin Show Podcast. We’re mentioned as one of the relatively few display ad networks who will accept community forum sites, and I thought it’d be a good educational lesson as to how ad networks view forum sites.
First, I should commend The Community Admin Show for linking to the mentioned companies from their podcast page, otherwise I never would have found out about it. It’s interesting to note that just by linking to things, you can gain promotion out of it like they’ve done here. That’s also one of the weaknesses in podcasting compared to blogging or the written word, is that unless you do something like this it’s hard to for people to know what you’re talking about and discover it through traditional web means such as search and links.
I’d like to address though why there are so few display ad networks that accept community sites. Primarily it’s because community sites tend to generate a lot of impressions from a smaller amount of visitors. These are known as “high frequency” users, and they are generally less valuable for ad networks because the more ads they see, the less likely they are to be a new visitor that can be “acquired” by an advertiser through a click or conversion, and each ad view has less new branding potential. This also means they basically click and convert less, so the metrics ad networks show to advertisers are worse.
Now for the networks, Tribal Fusion allows community forum sites, but they have a requirement of 2000 unique visitors a day. For a lot of communities, that’s setting the bar pretty high, which Patrick mentions in the podcast, but that allows Tribal Fusion to make sure the community will have enough unique visitors to provide value to their advertisers. For all those high frequency impressions they can’t pay well for, they’ll serve a default to keep their CPM high and then the user is responsible for making sure that impression goes to another network as Patrick mentions he personally does with his site phpbbhacks.com. It’s up for debate on whether it’s good for a network to default in this manner. It’s convenient for Tribal Fusion because it allows them to keep a high CPM value, but they’re not doing as good of a job monetizing the impressions and it’s up to the user to find another location, which causes more work on the user’s part.
There are a couple of other display ad networks that will take forum sites, but as the podcast mentions Google Adsense and Chitika are two others that will. In the case of these networks, it’s a different story as they are pay per click networks, so they don’t risk anything on serving impressions to high-frequency users. They pay if the user clicks. Some forum sites do well with Adsense, but some don’t as their users get used to the same ads and never click.
So how does our display ad network at Right Media accept forum sites without a requirement for a high number of unique visitors? Our technology is the answer. As each ad impression comes in from our ad network into Yield Manager, we auction it off based on the data about that impression to all the advertisers and ad networks we work with. What this does is value that impression for what it’s worth. If it’s the first impression that day from a new user, it will most likely be worth more than the impression that comes in on that person’s 30th ad impression after reading a bunch of forum posts. So, we can accept forum sites because we know how to value each impression and make the most money we possibly can from it for us and the forum site owner.
We also don’t serve defaults like Tribal Fusion does for impressions they can’t make pay well. We’ll find the best paying advertiser we can, and serve it to them. What this means is we don’t artificially keep that CPM high just for the sake of having a high CPM. We do the best we can to monetize that impression. An unfortunate side effect of this is that the CPM for our ad network looks lower when compared to other networks, simply because we don’t send the low-value impressions elsewhere. It makes us end up looking like we’re paying less, so people drop us lower on their daisy chain and we end up continuing to pay even less because they’re sending us less valuable impressions. And since some publishers know we don’t serve defaults, they put us at the bottom of their chain as well because of that fact. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy at that point, we’ll continue to pay as much as possible for the worst impressions, all because we’re trying to make the most money possible for the publisher. A bit ironic isn’t it?