iAd's Hopefully Long Future

Following Tim Cook’s appearance at the D10 conference I’ve heard murmors questioning the future of iAd. Specifically Tim was asked by a Google exec about Apple’s advertising business, he replied that it wasn’t one of the legs of Apple’s stool. You could take this in a variety of ways, one of which is that iAd is viewed as non-essential to Apple and so its future existence isn’t certain.

I certainly hope iAd stays around. After a very bumpy start it has stabilized into a very solid platform that serves its intended goal of providing a native mechanism for making money in free apps. In fact, the performance of iAd has grown so solid over the past 6 months or so that I recently dropped all other advertising platforms from Audiobooks (previously I’ve integrated with MobClix, Admob, and Adsense).

I did this for two simple reasons:

  1. The quality of the advertisements that appear in my app are consistently better with iAd
  2. iAd consistenly performs better financially than any other platfrom ### Quality

Quality is a bit of a subjective measure but I’ve yet to see an iAd placement that I wouldn’t feel comfortable showing in my app. Apple screens and manages its advertisers with what appears to a be a high level of control.

With the other 3rd party ad-networks you never know what you are going to get. I’ve often seen non-retina optimized, gaudy placements sometimes even promoting products and services I’d rather not be associated with.

Related to this is the fact that I don’t have to include massive, closed source libraries in my app that have the potential to do all manner of nefarious things with my user’s data without my knowing. Potentially putting my app and my users at risk.

Financial Performance

In the early days of iAd it appeared to be massively oversubscribed. There were simply too many developers trying to use it compared with the pool of advertisers. This lead to notoriously low fill rates and thus relatively poor financial performance. It is hard to pinpoint the exact point where things changed. I have seen a gradual, but consistent drive towards better performance.

Over the last 30 days (May 1 - May 30, 2012) here are my average performance stats:

  • 6.0M requests, 4.2M impressions
  • $1.14 Revenue per thousand impressions (eCPM)
  • $0.79 Revenue per thousand requests
  • 91% fill rate from eligible devices
  • 71% total fill rate

For comparison my typical performance on competing platforms hovered around $0.45 per thousand requests. iAd has consistently out performed the competition even when accounting for their still not 100% fill rate.

Bottom Line

I sincerely hope that iAd has a long future on the iOS platform. It isn’t perfect but it solves a real need in a way that could almost be considered classy (which is quite remarkable for an advertising platform). I wouldn’t expect it to ever make Apple much money but I think they will keep it around because it improves the user experience in a tangible way.

If you are a developer of free apps who was turned off by iAds initially bumpy start I’d strongly recommend giving it a second chance.

David Smith