EthicalAds Newsletter - December 2020

David Fischer
EthicalAds Newsletter - December 2020
Photo by Lukasz Szmigiel on Unsplash

December advertising stats

December was a slightly down month here at EthicalAds from our record-breaking November. Considering the major holidays, I'll still call that a win. The bulk of our advertising is shown during business hours and there were a lot fewer business hours in December.

In December 2020:

  • We generated $9,373.04 for our publishers, a 7% decrease from November.
  • We had 89 publishers on our network with a paid ad impression.
  • We had 5,227,541 paid ad views across the world.

In November, we mentioned we were holding out hope of a December increase while mentioning that it is a historically down month for advertising. We got pretty close, but weren't quite able to get there. For January, in spite of the New Years holiday which results in a few days of lower traffic, we're expecting a return to growth.

It's amazing to look back and realize that while we've been sustaining Read the Docs with advertising for a few years now, our wider EthicalAds network just started in July and we've been going for only six months. In just those six months, we've grown from nothing and generated $42,239 for our publishers.

Read the Docs advertising stats

For 2021, we wanted to begin to also report Read the Docs' advertising stats just like we're doing for the ad network. We've reported these numbers previously in yearly Read the Docs stats posts but not on a monthly basis like we are for EthicalAds. We will continue to break out third-party publishers just as we have been so stats will continue to be comparable month over month. For Read the Docs in December, we achieved $17,656.37 in advertising revenue on 8,575,795 paid ad views. Our goal here is to treat our own publisher, Read the Docs, as just a regular publisher as far as the ad network is concerned. From a company perspective, we will be separating them out in terms of accounting and budget as well.

New features

The big things we added last month:

  • We broke out our headlines and calls to action in our ads. This allows publishers with custom integrations to style them differently and gives advertisers a convenient way to show which content should be called out.
  • We added some new reporting for advertisers to break down their performance by geography and by publisher. We expect that as advertisers analyze this data we are going to get requests to advertise only on specific publishers or on more limited geographic subsets. We are still working out exactly how to sell that.
  • We rolled out some testimonials from advertisers and publishers on this site.
  • We also delivered a new prospectus for Q1 2021. The largest change was a modest price increase for targeting the US & Canada where demand continues to outstrip our supply.

You can always see our latest updates in our ethical-ad-server changelog.

Growing our team

Last month we mentioned that we'd be hoping to expand our team and that's going to start this month. Both the Read the Docs team and the ads team are going to expand and job postings will be up by the end of the month.

For advertising, we are looking to bring on a part-time person to help manage advertiser and publisher relationships. At the beginning, this role will involve some customer service along with some light sales and marketing, but the role could specialize in either direction as we continue to grow. As I mentioned, this will start as a part-time role but we hope it will become a full-time role by the second half of the year.

This person will work directly with me (David) and with Eric to make sure our publishers are getting as much money as they can while our advertisers are getting the best results we can deliver. Unlike many SaaS businesses, advertising is a little higher touch, and working closely with both publishers and advertisers helps to get great results.

If this role sounds interesting to you, please let us know!

Tricky bits

Both hiring and afterward onboarding new team members are hard work and require a lot of time to do well. We expect that this will take some time but the end result will hopefully be faster responses to our advertisers and publishers.

Beginning in 2021, we want to treat Read the Docs as simply another publisher and this means separating out the budget and accounting of each. To get specific, we'll be attributing 70% of ad revenue on Read the Docs to Read the Docs itself and count the other 30% of the revenue toward the EthicalAds network just as we do with third-party publishers. This will let us better allocate resources to grow both sides of the company.

Another upcoming challenge in the next month is an engineering challenge around how we save data for long term archival. While we explicitly do not track user personal data, we still end up storing a large amount of data on ad impressions in case we get issues with fraud or merely a billing dispute. This data is close to exceeding what's reasonable to store in our transactional database and we'll need to move into a system that can scale up a lot but it won't have real-time requirements. While this is a fairly well-understood OLTP/OLAP kind of problem, adding new infrastructure to our reporting is never easy.

Upcoming features

The major features in our upcoming roadmap:

  • We want to give both advertisers and publishers high level data right in their dashboard when they first login. These are stats like exactly how much advertising money they've spent or earned this month and how this month compares with last month.
  • We're hoping to expand our advertising logic to take into account price when selecting ads. This will allow us to assure maximum revenue for a publisher, but we don't want to always show a single ad on that site, either.
  • We hope to do a beta test of a sponsorship program with a publisher, which is an extension of the ad network to allow for specific and customized placements on high-value publishers. If you're get advertisers asking you directly how to advertise on your site, please let us know.

Thanks again for being along with us on this journey to build an ethical ad network. Please email us if you have any ideas or feedback on our product or roadmap, we always love to hear from you.

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