Experiments with advertising, Adsense vs Adbrite, experience so far
It has been a while -- almost 6 months, to be precise -- since I decided to see if there is more to on-line advertising than venerable Google AdSense. So it is time to see if I have learnt anything.
1. Summary: gain some, lose some
An overall verdict is pretty much inconclusive: I like some aspects (more control, less fluctuation with revenue); but from strictly monetary view point, change is mixed bag. Fortunately revenue we are talking about is in "trivial" range -- enough so that it does not round down to zero, but not enough to pay for hosting at current rates. So I can freely do whatever I want without risking losing any "real money". I might as well just gain StackOverflow credits.
Overall the main positive aspect for me is the feeling of empowerment: AdBrite gives more control for publisher, from controlling what to display to defining minimum bids, and even allowing fallbacks (typically, to, what else but AdSense!). I like this a lot, and would assume it is a non-trivial competitive advantage as well: whereas for me control is more of a nice-to-have, I know for a fact that bigger "serious" publisher REALLY want to have more control. This is most important for publishers with valuable brand to take care of.
Another smallish positive thing is that since most advertisements are cost-per-display (aka cost-per-thousand == CPM), and NOT cost-per-click (CPC), revenue stream is steadier. With AdSense, your revenue typically fluctuates wildly, unless you get lots of direct placements.
On downside, "guaranteed" revenue from CPM is not particularly high. In fact, little CPM that I have seen from AdSense for others sites (not this blog) is typically in the same range as what I can get from AdBrite for majority of views (AB does have wider range of CPMs, based on viewer profiling); and even if readers are often skimpy clickers, whenever there are clicks it is typically worth more than two or three thousand CPM views. So overall it is possible that AdSense might actually pay more, over time (with caveat from above that either way, very little money will change hands :-) ).
Oh. One thing I was hoping to see was wider selection of interesting ads to display; not just same old, same old. This may or may not be true: I think that overall selection may be wider (just from looking at all the ads that get displayed, via publisher management console), but selection for individual profile is still rather limited. So I don't know if it's very different from what Google would give. I guess it makes sense, in a way, that algorithms tend to over-fit ads with (IMO) too little randomity. But I really would like some more variation, personally.
It has been merely quite interesting ride. Perhaps I should check out potentially other choices? Too bad most alternatives seem to be just obnoxious irritating block-the-whole-page scams, or things that try to take over links, images; things that I would personally hate to see. I have no plans to introduce anything like that. But as usual, I am open to things that fit in well enough; something similar to AdSense or AdBrite ad systems, I guess.