Less Ads, More Revenue

How LittleThings Improved Play Rate and CPMs with a “Less Is More” Strategy



In 2016, the CEO of feel-good website LittleThings, Joe Speiser, set an ambitious and unexpected goal: “Every quarter we’re going to remove [a piece of video advertising] from the site until we can’t anymore.”

As he revealed at JW Insights 2017, Justin Festa, chief digital officer, tried to be the voice of reason. “Okay, it’s going to cost us money.”

But Speiser said, “No, it won’t.”

The CEO had cause for being optimistic. The previous quarter, LittleThings had seen significant boosts in play rates and average CPMs after removing all outstream video ads.

The move ran counter to the idea that publishers must inundate their website with as much aggressive video advertising as possible to gain the best ad yield. For LittleThings, the change was the beginning of a revenue-boosting ad strategy that was rooted in a proven adage, “Less is more.”

According to Festa, removing outstream videos, which expand and play in between paragraphs of articles, created greater justification for premium advertising.

“What we found was, once we got rid of outstream, we had a much more compelling case to say to people, ‘If you want to show up on LittleThings . . . there’s a premium that you have to pay, and part of that is going to pay for instream [pre-roll, mid-roll, or post-roll].’”

The result? LittleThings saw increased time on-site, social sharing, and pages per session. In addition, the company went on to increase play rates by removing:

  • Third-party content recommendations – click-bait recommendations from third-party sites that sit below the fold. Removing them reduced the chances of viewers clicking off on the third-party site or getting turned off by disturbing content.
  • Interstitials ads – Removing ads like video pop-ups also kept more people on the page.

LittleThings focused, instead, on display and pre-roll. Festa said the company took it “back to basics–how do we make it as easy as possible to click play?”

In the end, increasing audience engagement and revenue became a study in restraint: a disciplined approach in pulling back from ad overload for greater long-term gain. “We’ve removed a lot from the site,” Festa said. “We’re not done yet.”

 

 

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