How does Ad Quality Affect Publisher Revenue — We Ask Jordan Woods

Jordan Woods has worked with Curiosity media for over 3 years and is currently serving as their marketing manager. In this position he has used PubNation to monitor and mitigate ad quality specifically for SpanishDict.com. This gives Jordan Woods an interesting perspective as he is a publisher who also has access to technology that allows him to control user ad experience on their website.

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During our discussion with Jordan Woods many topics were discussed including: what defines a bad or low quality ad, how low quality ads have influenced the increase in ad blocker usage, the relation between ad ops and product, the affect that design changes have on revenue generated, and how PubNation data has affected how processes SpanishDict.com are run.

Check out PubNations Blog here: http://blog.pubnation.com/

Interesting Quotes:

What do you guys consider a bad or a low quality ad?
There’s definitely a long answer to this but the short answer is anything I think would be universally despised. So something that’s really, really slow, a video that’s basically sucking up all of the CPU. Anything really with a slow experience. Auto play audio, that’s really big. I don’t think that anyone like auto play ads. Context still matters a lot, I know that on our site that’s primarily for students we do take things seriously that are inappropriate, anything that’s sexual, even dating ads. The longer answer is probably anything that really upsets your users on a site should be considered a bad ad.

Bottom Line: Context is important, but you know a bad ad when you see one.

One thing we discussed was that bad ads on a single site makes it more likely for a user to install an AdBlocker and then it hurts all publishers.
I think that’s an important point. My views on ad quality and what bad ads have changed a little bit after looking at all the data that we are gathering on how people feel about ads. But I felt for a long time that user experience belongs to product teams and revenue belongs to the ad ops teams. There’s this weird tension. What I am feeling more and more is that user experience is becoming this function of ad ops, because there is this need for us to examine what we are really showing on our site. What are our users experiencing because, as you mention before people are downloading AdBlocker, but ultimately it’s not like I wake up in the morning as an internet user and say ‘I really wanna download an AdBlocker’. It comes from an experience. Increasingly, I think that between product and ad ops theres is going to be less division, less tension because it has become a revenue problem. On any site, ads are probably 25–30% of viewable area on the page and so it’s a significant product problem and for a long time we kind of operated in silence kind of like; I am an ad ops, I need to maximize yield, you’re a product and you need to maximize experience so let’s fight. Now, there’s this concern where it’s like, if we continue to shop certain ads on a site, that will either inspire or get users to download an AdBlocker or maybe they’ll abandon our site or spend less time on it. It does become a more tangible problem, so what exactly is going to be impact if we let this happen. I think that product in ad ops over time should be working together on these kind of problem.

Bottom Line: A bad ad on a single site can lead a user to install an ad blocker, which hurts everyone

Do you have sense on how much design changes affect revenue?
People A/B test a lot, and one of the things they test is ad units and a lot of times in re-design this question comes up; should we add or remove the ad unit? Then we look at things like page views CPM and say, ok we added a unit, obviously the impressions CPM is lower but does that improve page views CPM. I also think that apart from that just to look at page views per user so taking into the account what the impact of the overall revenue could be as a result of this re-design or these addition or subtraction of an ad unit. Do people visit more pages, do they spend longer on the site? So these are things that can impact the revenue that are part of re-design process and a lot of people discuss it, like ad placements. I also think that ad type is a big concern. We recently blocked, to the best of our ability, in-banner videos in our sites, and those specific publishers that designate one 300x250 or they put in-banner video play. All the people that are constantly seeing that one in-banner video ad; is that causing lag on their end, how the page views per user compare to a user that’s not receiving that in-banner video. Those things all come up when people discuss re-design so yes, there are a number of ways to measure that and it’s going to be different on each individual site.

Bottom Line: A/B testing is the way to understand how design change your site revenue

Now that SpanishDict has PubNation data, what have you guys changed in your own processes?
Slow ads are an issue and that’s especially true with in-banner video players, particularly ones that show content clips in between refreshing and placing new ads and you’re just looking at your page request after a request. It’s just a slow and terrible experience. Another thing I mentioned earlier, I think for a time we were curious and said ‘ok, we have a bunch of teenagers and college students on our site, let’s just see what happens if we unblock dating, like a dating ad’, and immediately we came to a conclusion that this will not work. It was not just ‘hey, click here to find a perfect soul mate’, there was also a lot of sketchy stuff, and it was really hard to control that. The types of programmatic partners we worked with have changed a lot too. When we launched somebody we could immediately see what kind of ad feedback we were getting.

Bottom Line: Each user base is different, so you have to carefully observe any changes you make and protect the user’s experience

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