How to optimize advertising in a Twixl article-based app

Laurent Gerniers 15-02-2018 How-To

There are two ways to sell advertising.

The Print approach:

Here you have the circulation multiplied by the average number of readers of a printed issue. Based on that number and the target groups reached by the magazine, the publisher defines what the price for a page will be. The location of the ad in the print issue (inside cover, back cover, standard page etc.) will also influence the price.

The Web approach:

You sell reach or click-through. Reach in terms of how many people are going to see the ad in relation to how much space the ad takes up on a specific page, and in relation to the type of page (home page vs article).
Click-through being the number of people who are actually clicking on the ad to go to the advertiser’s site or a landing page. Here too, the type of ad, the position on the page and the type of page influence the price for a click.

Advertising on mobile is quite often approached by publishers in line with print advertising because they publish the same content on mobile as they do in print. The mobile version is more or less a copy of print and that way it is easier to sell mobile ads as an extension of print.

In order to define how to best sell ads on mobile we should first understand the needs of all stakeholders and learn about the medium.

What does each stakeholder want?

The publisher:
  • Wants advertising revenue
  • Is looking for a balance between content and advertising in a way that does not annoy the reader and that has no influence on the effectiveness of the ads
  • Wants ads to be successful so advertisers keep working with the publisher
The reader:
  • Is looking for interesting, relevant, entertaining content
  • Is open for ads as long as it is related to his points of interest
  • Does not want to be disturbed while enjoying his content
  • Understands the need for ads as it allows free or at least affordable access to content
  • Is inclined to safeguard his privacy
The advertiser:
  • Tries to find a balance between brand awareness and creating new sales opportunities
  • Wants to be as close as possible to his target groups 
  • Wants quality leads
  • Wants value for money

Identify your readers and their preferences

On mobile you can measure exactly how many times each ad was displayed just like you can on a web site. It is not an estimate, it is exact information!

Mobile users like to have a high level of privacy and are supported by Apple in this effort.
In Safari on iOS, Apple has limited the options to track the reader’s behavior and preferences, which makes it more difficult to identify target groups.
Android is not going to move in that direction because ads are Google’s source of revenue. Who will win this battle is yet to be decided, but this makes it clear the publisher is still very much in control when it comes to identifying the profile of his readers and their value. Also, using entitlement there are ways to identify the profile of the reader and to provide him content according to his/her preferences.

How do readers navigate through your content?

In Twixl’s article-based apps, publishers can create browse pages to introduce their content.
This is a huge improvement over the approach of the classic kiosk apps where you could basically promote the cover of the magazine issue along with a short intro.
One of the best approaches seems to be the combination of actively introducing content with different browse pages of the latest issue, and next to that a browse page that has the look and feel of a classic kiosk, and that provides an overview of previous issues, each leading to its own browse page.
Because the traditional issue approach brings the content in a more structured way, the reader cannot get lost.
This makes reading on a mobile device more about selecting a specific article one wants to read, and it’s not just about browsing from page to page like you might do in a print magazine. The reader is more in control… you can try and inspire him to look further, but you cannot force him down a specific path.

Both the reader and the advertiser see mobile as a digital medium. There can be a perfect match only if the reader is in the target group of the advertiser and if the advertised product is of interest to him. It is all about finding the best way and place to attract the interest of the reader.

Browse pages are ideal for advertising

The publisher can create an initial ‘starter’ browse page, but then also have different sub-pages. Each of those browse pages are an anchor point for the reader to guide him to different articles.
We advise publishers to place ads on these browse pages. Tapping such an ad either leads to a full-page ad or brings the reader to the web site of the advertiser. This would be more like a banner and it would be up to the publisher to decide if he would allow a direct link from the banner to the site of the advertiser or if he would first require the reader to see an ad inline and only then offer the option to leave the app.

Avoid interstitials ...

Because readers are more in control and navigate using these browse pages, they will swipe less from one article to another, so having an ad placed as an interstitial between two articles in a collection could end up being ineffective.

... instead use banners

Instead working with a banner inside an article could be an option. Again attracting the attention of the reader with a banner, and tapping the banner will display the ad or link to the site of the advertiser.

Providing a link to the site of an advertiser might be a bridge too far, as you kind of lose the magazine feeling and get closer to a web site feeling. It is important to safeguard this magazine feeling to maintain the value proposition and experience expectation of the reader.
If the publisher prefers the reader to remain inside the magazine he could limit external links in an ad. But there again if you already attracted the reader’s attention, why not let him go all the way?
We think that you can allow a direct link to an advertiser’s web site from a banner on a browse page but less so from a banner in an article. A banner in an article would work better if it remains inline within the publication. From there the reader can either return to the article or go to the advertiser’s website. On a browse page the reader is not yet focused on an article so there a link directly to a web site may work better.

In our article about managing download sizes in apps, we urged publishers not to make their articles too big/long, but rather to make a collection of smaller articles, each linking to the next one. Here it could be relevant to place interstitial ads in between two articles as long as the ad is related to the subject. It would be disturbing if it is not and could push the reader away. It can also be an option to have an article that is e.g. 80% ad and 20 % content, instead of having a full-page ad.

At any rate, avoid too many ads unless it is within a specific advertising section where the reader accepts a larger quantity. For instance in a directory section or a search and buy section.

Mobile advertising is closer to Web advertising than it is to Print advertising

Browse pages now also allow a publisher to differentiate the pricing of his banners depending on the type, the location on the browse pages and the articles where they are being displayed. A banner in an article that is introduced on the ‘starter’ browse page is worth more than a banner in an article that is only linked from a sub-browse page.

This brings advertising on mobile very close to advertising on the web. Meaning publishers should better identify ad formats for their browse pages and in their articles and communicate those formats to their advertisers, who can then create specific HTML banners.

As a publisher or advertiser, you could argue that the cost of creating the ads will be higher. While this could be the case, our point of view is that you will be better off with a higher cost but at the same time a higher effectiveness, than a lower cost with lower impact, if any.
Also, if the advertiser is placing the same ads on both the web and mobile, formats for both media can be aligned.
In an effort to better attract the attention of the reader and to be more effective an advertiser should really put as much effort as possible in being creative.

Advertising is branding

Working with a combination of a banner, a full page ad and a link to a specific landing page is also positive from a branding point of view. The banner is creating brand awareness, clicking the banner generates more brand awareness as well as product awareness, and so is e.g. inserting video in an add. Tapping to go the web site (or a specific landing page) is proof of a real interest in the product or service.


Hopefully this article can help you to optimize your ad revenues. If you would like to chat with us about this subject, don’t hesitate to get in touch