Mobile Monetization Mistakes to Avoid

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The mobile ad marketplace becomes more and more complex every day. For developers and publishers, monetizing inventory becomes a matter of navigating that volatile space in search of the right tools, platforms and partners.

Mobile publishers and developers range from teenagers in garages to multinational media companies, and so, of course, not everyone has the inside track on which platforms to use, best practices, pitfalls to avoid, etc. It’s no surprise, then, that so many publishers are leaving money on the table by committing several common mistakes.

The first thing that developers looking to monetize their apps should consider is which platform(s) and network(s) to partner with. There are many targeting and buying platforms and ad networks in the market, all with varying degrees of data quality and platform power.

An obvious mistake is signing on with any partner without conducting thorough market research, but that’s (hopefully) a given. But a common mistake mobile publishers make is partnering with advertisers based solely on the high fill rates they claim to have.

As a publisher, you do have some options when it comes to which types of ads (read: which types of ad networks) you want to host. High fill rates are definitely important, but it’s also important for publishers to seek out partners with a good ratio of brand vs. performance advertisers and the more lucrative CPM pricing model.

Performance-based ad networks can promise a very high fill rate because of their bottomless supply of performance ads. However, as the publisher, you don’t get paid unless those ads perform, and you have no real way of guaranteeing a good placement that will encourage the click/conversion/other KPI you need to hit in order to get paid.

Brand networks, on the other hand, can’t promise fill rates that high, because those ads actually do get optimized based on audience targeting algorithms, meaning they get placed more selectively. The upside to the publisher, however, is that no matter whether an ad performs or not, once it gets served, the publisher gets paid. Typically, this CPM-based pricing model is how most publishers prefer to operate, because ultimately, CPI and CPA pricing is dependent upon too many external factors that can affect ad performance.

Something else to consider when evaluating platforms and partners is their ability to support other engagement channels such as interactive video, games, rewards and loyalty programs. Some publishers make the mistake of either taking the “if we build it, they [users and advertisers] will come” attitude, or limiting themselves to very traditional, and therefore abundant, ad formats like display.

Display still has its place in the mix of course, but to truly optimize revenue potential, publishers need to broaden their inventory offerings to enable emerging formats like interactive video and integrated rewarded advertising. Not only do these elements improve the user experience, they drive real performance for your advertising partners.

A recent Forrester study showed that users respond more favorably to advertising when it is coupled with a reward based model. Some companies are combining the power of rewards and video to help publishers boost their CPMs. Ultimately, simply offering inventory to be filled won’t help you stay competitive, nor will it deliver the revenue benefits that you want from your app.

Another all too common pitfall for mobile publishers is not testing their performance, or doing so too infrequently, to ensure that they are getting the best possible pricing for their inventory and that they are addressing potential problem areas.

Most media platforms out there offer some kind of reporting capability, but it is important for publishers to remember that they cannot necessarily rely upon their ad network partners to provide regular performance reporting. Most ad networks offer their partners very little transparency, and it’s in their interests to keep CPMs low.As such, publishers should consider running regular analytics on their inventory performance, either via built in tools or third party technology partnerships. This way, they can ensure they are being appropriately compensated for better performance.

Mobile publishers have now reached the point where they can no longer rest on the laurels of having created something new and exciting. The app market is saturated, and so publishers must approach monetization with a great deal of due diligence and research.

Starting with the solid foundation of a platform that offers the kind of inventory/third party networks you want with the best pricing model will help guard against lost revenue opportunities. However, to really boost your revenue, it’s important to consider that today’s mobile user needs to be engaged not just through your app experience, but the ad experience as well.

Finally, don’t forget testing! It can’t be said too often. You should always know how your app is performing, how ads are performing and that you are being paid accordingly.

Josh Speyer is CEO of AerServ, the only mobile-first video mediation platform. 

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.com.

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