Every month we feature a publisher from RMX Direct on the Right Media blog, but I think there is usually a nugget or two of wisdom to be learned from successful web publishers out there so it’s worth posting here as well.
Web 2.0 and social-networking sites may be all the rage, but do not forget nor underestimate the importance of the humble email site. That’s where online community movements began when the internet was still new. With that, this month’s RMX Direct featured publisher is from down under, in Australia: Bruce Davey of Fastmail.FM.
Email is still big business. Bruce is focusing on fast, effective and unique email services for his clients. I recently interviewed him by–of course– email:
VP: How did you get interested in web publishing originally? What were those early days like for you?
Bruce Davey: I was dragged in! One of my business partners started “playing around” with an email site…and then it turned out a whole bunch of customers would pay for this, so we needed a bean counter. This is me!
VP: Can you tell us about your email-focused website?
Bruce Davey: FastMail.FM is the place for serious email users. Have to use Outlook at work? Want to use Thunderbird at home? Chatter on your PDA? And the web when you’re stuck at some dodgy kiosk? Move something to a folder one place and everywhere else is in sync. That’s IMAP, and one of FastMail’s biggest features.
VP: Having this focus, are there any particular issues exclusive to your site that you had to overcome to make the advertising model work?
Bruce Davey: There’s a whole bunch of issues given we originally weren’t aiming to be ad supported. Our free accounts have a bunch of features that make it hard to advertise- we let users use ssl. Try finding an ad network that works over ssl. You can count them on a finger or two, and they don’t pay well.
Never-the-less there’s a non-trivial bunch of customers who are good for business!
An email site means logins…which means no contextual advertising. “You-know-who” can’t crawl it(not that we want them to anyway – our “content” is primarily our user’s email- keep your noses out!)
It also means stickiness – our hits today are mainly the same users as our hits yesterday, so you’d better have a whole bunch of different ads to be showing them!
VP: Did you get into this with the idea that you would make ad dollars from this site? How did you initially monetize your site? What problems did you encounter utilizing these early methods?
Bruce Davey: Until recently, we monetized the site from paid subscriptions only. Our free accounts give users a taste before they shell out their hard earned…but then I read how much ad revenue one of our competitors was making…if we got a piece of this, we ought to be able to offer our free users more.
VP: Why did you start using RMX Direct as your ad network management system of choice?
Bruce Davey: 7 networks, 1 reporting system. 1 creative filter. 1 set of tags. It’s a no-brainer really.
Before Media Guard, it looked something like this. User sees a popunder / other offensive ad and complains in our forum. OK, so which of these 10 networks hasn’t keyed our filter settings in correctly? Days later, the user responds with what country they’re in…. find a proxy in that country… clear cookies…. view ads… eventually reproduce and get the offending networks filter changed…a complete waste of time…
VP: What statistical changes have you seen since you started using it? For example, have your eCPM and revenue increased?
Bruce Davey: eCPM is up. Revenue is up. I’d have to guess the last 30% comes from the bidding.
I’m about to close down our accounts at two external networks now… because they almost never win a bid!
VP: What do you like most about RMX Direct? Are there helpful parts of it that other ad management interfaces simply don’t offer? And how does it address the specific needs of being an email-focused website?
Bruce Davey: For me its more about the management interfaces than the revenue. I’ll take the extra money, but look at all the work I don’t have to do!
No looking up revenues on 10 different systems. No managing 10 different tag sets. No managing 10 different creative filters. No learning the quirks of 10 different publisher interfaces.
Reporting that actually breaks down by the two things that effect publisher revenue. Geography and frequency.
The forum… and the fact that suggestions in the forum often turn into features in pretty short turnarounds.
VP: Do you have any tips or tricks that you think others using the exchange might find useful?
Bruce Davey: Under manage, notice the geo and frequency caps. Use them. Use them lots.
You think network A is giving you $0.10 CPM? Well you’re wrong. It’s giving you $0.30 CPM in the USA on the first impression per day, and $0.01 CPM (if you’re lucky!) in Kazakhstan on the 75th impression per day. Very few impressions happen to be exactly $0.10.
Every time you gave RMXD an $0.11 impression over the $0.30 you lost $0.19. Every time you passed up a $0.09 impression for Kazakhstan you gave up $0.08. For your bigger external networks, add a bunch of placements with different prices for different geo, and different prices for each frequency. It adds up.
VP: Do you have any final thoughts on this “exchange concept” (network transparency and competition, the utility of having just one login, etc.)?
Bruce Davey: It’s just plain the way ad purchasing should be done. Every time your ad server chooses network A and gets a $0.10 CPM ad, and network B would have had a $0.50 CPM ad available, you just lost $0.40 CPM. Don’t kid yourself. This happens a lot. This never happens on an exchange. Ever.
Now if all ad networks would kindly sign up please!
VP: Thanks for being part of RMX Direct, Bruce.