How the nature website scaled its business with 6-second mobile preroll ads and A/B testing
Tigers attacking bears. Alligators fighting pythons. Lions tackling hyenas. Such is the addictive drama that unfolds every day on the nature video website Roaring Earth. The niche publisher has mushroomed into a profitable online destination 30 million views strong. At JW Insights 2018, CEO Jan Renner shared how a viewer-centric monetization strategy helped Roaring Earth scale its business.
“Every missed view is lost money.”
From the very beginning, Roaring Earth set its sights on achieving at least two views per session.
“We knew if we could get at least two views per session, we could make this business work,” said Renner. This benchmark would not only allow Roaring Earth to sustain viewer engagement but monetize successfully. “Every missed view is lost money,” said Renner.
The website was bullish about the 6-second preroll mobile ad. As a niche publisher, Roaring Earth felt this type of preroll was especially suitable for expanding viewership and revenue.
A/B Testing for success
To support viewer engagement, Roaring Earth invested heavily in an advertising approach that prioritized user experience.
Roaring Earth A/B tested more than 1,000 videos, comparing factors like ad length, user reactions, and rate of viewer return. It looked at, for example, the efficacy of running two 6-second ads vs. one 15-second ad. Over the course of a few weeks, it amassed a data set that revealed some consistent results.
Less is more
Roaring Earth observed that shorter ads, fewer ads, or the absence of ads didn’t necessarily mean less revenue because they helped users stay longer on the site. “We’ve found that with shorter ads, you often get lower CPMs. But you also get an extended user experience. For us, we’re almost making the revenue back in additional views,” said Renner.
And in many cases, CPMs actually increased with shorter ads. By keeping ad loads “light and clean,” Roaring Earth has found that, in fact, “advertisers are rewarding us. They recognize higher viewership with higher CPMs.”
While it may seem counterintuitive, this “cleansing” of the ad load can strengthen relationships with marketers. “Now, there’s a spirit of partnership rather than advertisers asking, ‘Where is my ad running?’” said Renner. For Roaring Earth, a viewer-centric monetization strategy was a solution for better viewer engagement, ad revenue, and advertiser relations.
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