Industry Insights on Monetization as an Independent Publisher

greg-brown-videopokerGreg Brown



For those of us not familiar with, please tell us a little more about your website and core audience. is a free to play site, with more than 65 authentic video poker games. We invent the games and our partner IGT distributes them to brick and mortar casinos. Since we own the content, we are the only site where people can practice and play the same games they find in casinos. People love the site because they play real games, play for free, enter contests to win money, play new games before they hit casino floors, and improve their play using the training features we offer.

We currently have about 200,000 active members. They are comprised of true video poker enthusiasts who play a lot of video poker in casinos, as well as casual gamers who don’t necessarily gamble in casinos but enjoy the entertainment value of the games and the site. Demographically speaking, users skew a bit older and are equally divided by gender.


Other than memberships, your e-commerce site, and training software, how do you typically monetize on the advertising front?

Our advertising revenue comes from traditional display ad units that run during game play (and elsewhere throughout the site) and from pre-roll video that plays prior to a new game session.


Direct sales of ad space on a publisher site are known to be extremely difficult, unless you have scale or a very valuable niche audience. What was your main decision in choosing to work instead with ad networks and exchanges to monetize your traffic?

I think the evolution and sophistication of the demand side (ad networks, DSPs, exchanges, etc.) has decreased the margin between direct CPM rates and those we get from third party demand partners. Plus, tools like Thalamus and others are helping buyers find publishers directly. So, it’s now even harder to make the argument (from a pure cost/benefit standpoint) for direct sales. For us, we just don’t have enough supply to even make the argument – unless of course someone is willing to sell on 100% commission.


When working with these ad networks and exchanges, what types of ad units (leaderboard, big box, skyscraper, pop ups, rising IAB units) have provided you with the best yield?

Most of our display revenue comes from our skyscraper and leaderboard ad units that surround our game play area. Since both units are close the user’s game experience, and both 100% above the fold, they produce similar yield. In addition, we run pre-roll video prior to each new game session. These CPMs are obviously higher, but the challenge of video ad serving (latency, tag integrity, video player issues, etc.) bring that eCPM down a lot.


For a publisher of your size, how many ad networks and exchanges would you recommend working with? 

We serve about 50 million impressions per month. In order to get the proper balance, you really need to experiment. On one hand, fewer partners mean fewer tags to work with, fewer reports to have to consolidate, fewer payments to reconcile, and less latency. On the other hand, you may need more partners to fill out your impressions and optimize yield. Visitor frequency also comes into play. If you have a lot of frequency, and your demand partners have low frequency cap requirements, then you’ll need more partners to fill your inventory. For our supply and our frequency, 4-5 demand partners seem to work best.


Do you also work with any data providers to monetize on aggregated/anonymous user data?

Not at this time.


What has been the main difference for you in working with ad networks, and exchanges?

I haven’t really noticed any differences. Some partners provide better fill and yield but I haven’t worked with enough in each category to say there are any measurable differences from our view. They all provide a tag and that tag serves an ad. What happens behind the scenes doesn’t really matter to me as long as the fill and yield meet our objectives.


What are your biggest challenges or frustrations when working with ad networks and exchanges?

Ad quality is probably the biggest challenge. All the demand partners we work with are high volume and highly recognized players, but once and a while a bad ad will make it through the system and wreak havoc with our game play. And it’s often times difficult to determine which ad was bad and where it came from – even if you deploy an ad tracking service.


Being ‘Quantified’ by Quantcast helps with providing some very detailed data about your audience. Has any of this data been useful in terms of helping you understand your audience better, or knowing how to better monetize them?

Not really, we have more accurate information from our internal analytics, member surveys, member profiles, and from third party profiling and modeling initiatives we have undertaken.


Lastly, what do you see as the future of monetization for independent publishers?

I think it’s a big unknown. Hopefully solutions for small to medium publishers will continue to evolve and make it easier for publishers to implement productive programs. The industry is very fragmented, and it’s still extremely difficult to get the buyers and small to medium publishers together efficiently. Most of us don’t have dedicated ad ops staff so we need better information and better tools at our disposal. was launched in 2004 and is currently the number one Web destination for people to practice and play authentic video poker games. People love the site because it’s the only place they can play real video poker games found in casinos.  No other site can make that claim. Games include all the most popular single-hand games like Jacks or Better and Double Double Bonus Poker, as well as multi-hand favorites like Triple Play Poker, Super Times Pay Poker and Spin Poker.

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