There seems to be almost no end to the number of mobile ad networks popping up, such as Jumptap, Millenial Media and Quattro. Apple offers its own ad network in iAd, which serves ads to the iPhone and iPad (with publishers getting a 60 percent cut and Apple keeping 40 percent).
Increasingly, digital magazine vendors are getting into the act, offering either their own networks or solutions that pull ads from third-party networks. Zinio offers the ZSPAN Network that serves up ads to publishers within its Unity platform, while iMirus offers a Dynamic Ads solution that services publishers in three ways: pulling ads from the publisher’s site and placing them into digital editions; publishers uploading ads directly into digital editions; or pulling ads from ad networks and placing them in digital editions. iMirus recently launched a mobile platform and will roll out an ad network to support it.
But by their nature, ad networks work best with high volume sites, often leaving smaller publishers out in the cold. “Most of our clients are in the b-to-b and association world,” says iMirus president and CEO Chris Riggs, who estimates that about 6 percent of the iMirus client base is taking advantage of the Dynamic Ads solution. “The audiences are very loyal and very targeted but they don’t have the numbers of large consumer titles. Without having a large circulation, it’s difficult to generate a lot of CPM revenue.”
Digital edition vendor Yudu will debut its own ad network solution in September that will focus on delivering on rich media ads and video spots to smartphones and tablets. Anticipated CPMs range from $10 to $40, with video ads averaging about $30 CPM. Still, Yudu CEO Richard Stephenson cautions publishers to manage their expectations with ad networks. “You have to be careful about getting euphoric about what these can do for publishers,” he says. “Ad networks work best on high traffic Web sites. The problem with a lot of the digital edition marketplace is that these are niche areas. We do have one client that got 1.8 million views on one issue but that’s a rare event. Most are in the range of 20,000 views. We’ve been frank with people who want to work with us but have circulation that may not get yield the payback they want.”
Even some larger publishers are more focused on direct sales. Hearst Magazines Digital Media works with mobile ad networks such as the Nokia Media Network but is putting a priority on selling the iPad over other mobile devices. “You have to separate out what we’re doing with iPad editions and other mobile apps,” says senior vice president and general manager Chuck Cordray. “Mobile for us is not fundamentally critical—it’s less than 5 percent of our digital revenue. With the iPad, the demand is coming from the print side, not the digital side. Most of the buys will be made not in an ad network but brand-by-brand sales.”
Cordray does say that Hearst has had a good experience with ad networks selling mobile inventory. “The key is having a partner you can trust,” he adds. “You can verify that by the type of ads being delivered—are you getting quality ads, are you seeing what you need with blocked lists not showing up in those networks?”
Access Intelligence recently began working with iMirus. “We like their capability to integrate digital ads with the online product rather than just present it as an electronic flip product,” says Joe Rosone, vice president and group publisher of the Aviation & Satellite group. “We are looking at networks aggressively and we want to take products to the iPad. It comes down to making sure we’re on top of our game to drive traffic. We’ve made some adjustments with marketers in-house so that every message that leaves our house is an opportunity to drive traffic.”