Tapjoy Mobile Champions: Jennifer Cho of Tapjoy

Tapjoy’s Jen Cho, Director of Account Management for our North American Developer Relations team, shares her thoughts on effective app monetization strategies, the biggest differences between APAC and NA markets, her advice for indie developers, and more.

In the latest edition of Tapjoy Mobile Champions, we sat down with our very own Jennifer Cho, Director of Account Management for our North American Developer Relations team. Jennifer has been with Tapjoy since 2012 and has worked with some of Tapjoy’s largest publisher clients. We spoke with her about her role at Tapjoy, her tips and strategies for effective app monetization, advice she would give to indie developers and more.

TJ: Please tell us a little about yourself and your role here at Tapjoy.

JC: I oversee the Account Management team under Developer Relations. We help our publishers optimize and grow their ad revenue to reach maximum monetization potential with Tapjoy.

TJ: What do you like most about your job?

JC: We’re all about the white-glove service here at Tapjoy, especially for our publisher partners. Each one of our team members strives to communicate frequently and build enough trust to almost be considered like a fellow employee or personal consultant for our publishers. Because of this, when our publishers succeed, it feels like a victory for us as well. My favorite part of the work week is when we can celebrate with our publisher on their wins, both small and big — whether it’s a launch, an app store feature, or a best-day-ever for revenue.

TJ: What kind of mobile apps or games do you enjoy the most?

JC: I do try and play as many of the top free games as I can, in the spirit of “market research”. As there are constantly new ones on the market, I usually try out 5+ new games a week. If it doesn’t feel “sticky” in the first couple levels or first 10 minutes, I’ll end up deleting the app. So when a game stays on my phone for over a week (or month, or year even), it’s a testament to how much I love it.

I’m pretty much an omnivore when it comes to genre, but if I were to put myself in a box, I’d say I’m a “hardcore casual gamer.” I play match-3’s almost to the extent of playing competitively, and can get quite obsessed with endless runners. I’m also a tad ashamed to admit that I’ve spent too much money on certain cooking games and city building games.

TJ: What are some of the most effective strategies you’ve seen developers employ to maximize revenue?

JC: The offerwall is a delicate ad unit that gets hit the hardest when it comes to attrition over time in an app. So it’s important to keep things fresh, and evolve your strategy as your app grows. Our top monetizing pubs motivate their users to come back by running currency sales to coincide with in-game events, or they reward their mature, long-term users more through custom currency exchange rates. If done right, the offerwall not only can be a steady source of income for the publisher, but can also be a reason why their users come back for another day and another play.

For video, I take a very different stance. You want to have as much inventory as possible at any given time. We’re working with a very short time span to keep your user’s attention and trying not to annoy them at the same time. However, not everybody has the luxury of being able to integrate and maintain a whole bunch of SDKs in their portfolio of apps. Some of our publishers working with a particularly large video volume have been successful with multiple instances — in other words, calling the same ad network multiple times within the same waterfall, with different eCPM targets. This way you can maximize your monetization potential by reaching those high eCPMs, but delivering fill to the very last user.

TJ: What have you found is the hardest part of app monetization for developers to get right?

JC: Identifying different user segments for different monetization strategies. A lot of the developers that we work with essentially classify their users into two buckets: IAP spenders and non-spenders. The way that I look at it, there are many more shades of grey there. For instance, you have:

  • Rewarded ad users who will engage with ads to learn about the premium currency, but eventually lose patience and turn into IAP spenders (in this case, ads are the “gateway” to spending)
  • Rewarded ad users who will become core rewarded ad users, and engage with ads till there are none left. This type of user may even write in a complaint at some point asking for more videos to watch.
  • Non-rewarded ad users who will never engage with a rewarded ad, but will sit through a 5 second skippable, as a nice little breather.
  • “Never spenders” — those who will turn on airplane mode to avoid ads at all costs.

There are probably many more shades of users, depending on the nature of the app/game. Understanding these different groups and applying a different strategy to make the most out of the lifetime value of each and every user is probably one of the most difficult tasks a developer faces.

TJ: What advice would you give to an indie developer just getting started?

JC: Find the genre you’re good at and stick to it. Regardless of what game genre the studio has been successful for, it seems like at some point every publisher brings up developing a MOBA title, or launching the next Clash of Clans. If you’re trying to take your fame from a hyper-casual game and think your fans will immediately start picking up your MMORPG, the odds aren’t good. Regardless of genre, there is so much depth you can still reach with gameplay and monetization in the genre’s own way. I wouldn’t underestimate the level of engagement you can reach in any genre, as long as you build it to perfection.

TJ: You previously worked in Developer Relations for Tapjoy’s Korean office. What do you see as the biggest differences between the APAC and North American markets when it comes to app monetization and in-app advertising?

JC: Where do I begin? In APAC, trends move extremely quickly, and now that I’ve been focusing on the US market for a few years now, it’s probably light years away from when I was in Asia. Yet if I were to give my two cents…

In-app advertising used to be “looked down upon” by the biggest names in gaming. Users of the core genre games that dominate the top-grossing charts in APAC tend to be very vocal about their dislike of in-app advertising in general. User-initiated rewarded ads were one of the more accepted ad formats, as there is a clear value exchange. But even in those cases, publishers were (and still are) very strict about not showing any ads to a paying user — ever. However, recently in my conversations with APAC-based mobile game developers, it seems like things are changing. Both publishers and users are warming up to the idea of seamlessly integrating ads in games in contextual, in-app placements.

And as happens with almost all trends in the region, adoption is taking off. Mobile game developers are starting to monetize with both rewarded video and video interstitials from launch (whereas before the trend was to wait for the IAP economics to play out first, and then add in ads as your monetization rate plateaus). As the Android market is much larger in APAC, developers are also cautious about not integrating too many SDKs due to the limit in method count. This leads to publishers optimizing revenue through multiple instances in their video waterfalls.

So if anything, I would say when it comes to in-app monetization, APAC and the US market are actually trending in similar directions. This makes sense given that in the mobile gaming market, you need to address global audiences simultaneously.

TJ: This is actually your second stint with Tapjoy, after having co-founded the mobile hiring startup Vengine. What lessons did you learn from Vengine that you apply to your work today?

JC: At Vengine, my main focus was on company operations and product strategy (two very different hats, I know, but hey, that’s startup life!) Working at Tapjoy is a very different environment of course, but at the end of the day, whether you’re a company of 5 or 200, all companies need the same set of bare bones to survive: good people, a clear purpose, and a steady revenue stream. However, when you’re a company of 5, you need to move faster than a company of 200, and be less afraid of the punches and obstacles to come. Of course, making mistakes is also a luxury for a company with little resources, so you need to ensure your ducks are in a row and that you’re ready to pick yourself up from a fall.

I still try and apply that mindset to my job and with the team every day at Tapjoy. Yes, Tapjoy has far more resources and supporting teams, but the Publisher Account Management team is still a lean team. We aim to stay hungry, scrappy, and entrepreneurial at heart.

TJ: Lastly, what is the single biggest piece of advice you would give to app developers?

JC: Monetize with Tapjoy!

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