So this is a post I’ve been meaning to make for a while now. Read on only if you are willing to learn far more about the nature of online advertising than you ever wanted xD. I hope it helps some people get a better understanding of how online ads work! This is the knowledge that I have accumulated over six months of messing around and learning in the few minutes of spare time I have when not working my regular job or translating.
The first question most people wonder is, why even have ads at all when the translators here have donations? Everyone hates ads, right? Heck, I have to confess it; even I (RWX) have Adblock xD. The simple answer for it is – long term, I want Wuxiaworld to be a big, completely self-sustaining website that is still free for everyone to read, and in the online world, the only way that can be done is through ads, especially as we grow bigger and possibly begin to need a full-time ‘tech staff’ behind it; I can’t always just rely on the great kindness of volunteers, right? They have things to do as well!
The next question most people who accept the fact that ads is the way online work is, why does Wuxiaworld, especially lately, have so many “annoying” ads (ie, the video ads) compared to, say, Yahoo News! and these other big websites? And…well, explaining this is the point of this post. But in order to fully explain it, I have to take a bit of time to explain the advertising world. Note that I am not an advertising guy myself – before I started Wuxiaworld, I knew nothing about advertising or servers or any of this, because that’s not my field of specialty.
So to begin – In online advertising, there is a huge difference between ‘direct sales‘ and ‘ad networks‘. Direct sales are usually reserved for those huge, huge websites, who will basically negotiate direct deals with huge, huge companies. For example, Yahoo News! might negotiate a deal directly with the NBA, allowing the NBA to place a (reviewed and approved) advertising banner on their website for a fixed amount of money. This is the best thing possible, because it allows review of every single actual advertising unit, and also pays MUCH better; compared to direct sales, the amount of money that is made by publishers (ie websites) through ‘ad networks’ is maybe 10% of what the companies pay, because there are so many middlemen! The ads are also much safer, because the website can manually verify and approve every single ad that appears on the network.
Ad Networks & Middlemen
Because in the grand scheme of things, Wuxiaworld just isn’t ‘big enough’ (yet), almost every single ad that we have here is through an ‘ad network‘. The way these work is: Companies create ads, which they give to their ‘ad agency’. Thousands (or more) of ad agencies ‘feed’ into a single ‘ad network’ (hundreds of which often join into an ad ‘exchange’), which then create (internally) an invisible ‘bidding’ system; each time you load the page, a tiny packet of information about the page you are on and your country gets sent to the ad network, and the ad agencies will automatically ‘bid’ an offer for that pageview; a U.S. based company, for example, probably won’t ‘bid’ very much (if at all) for a pageview that comes from India. Based on who ‘wins’ the bid, the ad network will load that companies advertisement. This all happens in about 0.10 seconds!
This, FYI, is the reason why when you guys do see a problematic ad, it is so hard when you guys just tell me, “that ad about money loaning”; there’s usually almost no chance that I’m seeing the same ad as you guys, especially if we are in a different country! In general, I’m only working with really big ad networks, and they have a really rigorous ‘vetting’ process, but of course, there’s always a chance that something slips through the cracks.
CPC vs CPM
Okay, so now we have established that Wuxiaworld goes through ad networks (or the larger ad ‘exchanges’ made of many ad networks). At the same time, there are two types of ad networks (well, it’s not that clear cut, but let’s just simplify it for now); those that bid by amount paid by click, aka ‘CPC‘, and those that pay per view, aka ‘CPM‘. Google’s Adsense, the biggest ad network in the world, is mainly ‘pay per click’. The amount of ‘supply’ of ads for pay per click is basically unlimited, because the advertisers don’t pay anything up-front. CPC is great for ‘information’ type websites, such as laptop review websites, camera review sites, etc., and the ads are pretty relevant. But for us, not so much.
Here’s the problem; y’all don’t click xD. Which makes sense, btw; you are going to want to read the ‘next chapter’, not shop for [whatever]; this is a reading website! Here’s some actual stats on the ‘click based’ ads which I use to automatically ‘backstop’ when there are no ‘view based’ ads available. As you’ll see there, for example, on June 18th, for the 380,000 pageviews that these ads got, there was 101 clicks for a total clickthrough rate of 0.03%; in other words, for approximately every 3500 pageviews, we got one click; the other 3499 ads were basically shown ‘for free’. Great for the ad companies, not so much for us. The total amount generated from those 101 clicks? ~$36, of which WW gets 80%. Which is better than nothing, but not really worth even just me spending 6-8 hours a day for, much less the five other people here.
FYI – Directly asking for clicks or encouraging them in any way = BANHAMMER SMASH! It’s considered fraud and will get the account shut down, or worse.
So as you can see…despite the good amount of traffic that we get, most of it basically doesn’t ‘pay’ at all. Fortunately, though, over the past few months, I got WW into some ‘CPM/pay per view‘ networks, which are much harder to get into. Popups are also considered ‘CPM’, but Wuxiaworld will never work with any popup networks! If you see any sort of popup, let me know at rwxwuxiaworld(a)gmail.com! So anyhow, CPM networks work the same way as the CPC networks do, but instead of being based per bidding offer per ‘click’, they just bid a flat rate, once again based on a number of outside factors. Again, this is all invisible to both you and me, and nobody has any idea what ad is going to show up at any point in time. This works MUCH better for Wuxiaworld, but then a different problem comes up.
See, the advertising world goes through ‘fads’, and right now, one of the biggest ‘fads’ in the United States and developed countries in Europe/Japan for ‘pay per view’ ads right now is the funkily-coded ‘in-banner video’ (IBV). Those are the (freaking annoying) videos that pop up in those square ad boxes (called 300×250 boxes) which have always been the most popular ad unit. Because this is the biggest fad right now, the advertising companies have lots of budgets for these ‘IBV’ ads, and so the end result is…behind the scenes they are winning all the bids.
I wasn’t even aware of any of this until two or three months ago, when people started complaining about like three or four videos going off at the same time and choking their computers (I’m under this weird firewall that keeps me from seeing many of the ads at home, as my IP is ‘blacklisted’ from some of these exchanges). I was like, ‘what the heck?!’ and started investigating, which is when I learned all of the above. This puts me at a big dilemma; the only way to stop these video ads completely is by removing the CPM ad banners and going back to CPC, but for CPC, people don’t click! (see above). There’s no way to ‘just’ stop the video ads, because again – I don’t have direct control over any ads; the network does, and the ad being served is dependent on who ‘bids’ the most money.
This is also why I have pretty much stopped directly asking for people to turn off Adblock; I’m kind of embarrassed to, right now, with the problems not fully resolved!
The way I’ve gone with right now is using this compromise by using a mixture of ‘CPC’, ‘CPM’, as well as a single (much lower paying) CPM ad network that is currently 100% refusing all IBV ads (although some still sneak through). In principle, this should guarantee that no more than 1-2 videos should ever play at the same time (mobile is another story…sigh). In the future, I want to reduce it to just 1, or even none.
In the long term, as Wuxiaworld grows larger, that gives us more negotiating power (as in Xianxia, might makes right!) with the ad networks/exchanges/agencies to make special exceptions for us that they aren’t currently willing to make, with the final, ultimate goal being ‘direct sell ads’ that would pay ten times (literally) better, have no (or limited) videos, and which would be individually vetted by myself. That’s still off in the distance, though, but hopefully not too far!
So there you have it. All you ever wanted to know about online advertising (more, probably xD) and how things work. I hope this was of interest to some of you, and also helps explain some of the issues that some of you (mostly Americans) have been seeing! Thanks for sitting through this, and I hope this didn’t put you too much to sleep. Here’s my promise to you; as time goes on and as we do better, the number of ads will only decrease, not increase. You can screenshot it. That’s a promise!
If you are having actual problems because of the video ads – Go ahead and Adblock us for now! Seriously! When I finally, completely resolve the issues, I’ll be sure to let everyone know and start harassing you all in the chapter announcements again xD.
Okay, typing this up was my break from translating xD. Back to CD. Will have it up in an hour’ish! xD