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Tue, 27 Mar 2012

Some success...

So I have had a little bit of success. In December of 2011, I was on one ad network, Admob, and made $6.66 for the whole month from them. I am now on three ad networks (Admob/Adsense, Millennial Media, Inmobi), and I made $7.62 from them in the past two days, more than the whole month of December. I would like to increase that in the future, but for now, $100 a month coming in is great. Of course, I want to roll as much of that as I can back into the business.

The breakthrough happened in late January. I have written Android apps from scratch like Bouncer and Love Poems, and I ported an open source Java library to Android with Panacea Database. Looking at a full-fledged open source Android project, FBReaderJ, I noticed some modifications I could make to it to improve it, and that would be for an audience without much overlap with the existing FBReaderJ audience. FBReaderJ is GPL licensed, which worries some people, but myself less. Anyhow, I released my version of the app, "Free books to download & read" on January 24th. By the last day of January, 2425 installs a day were happening, by February 5th, 11000 installs a day were happening. Daily installs ranged from over 8000 to over 11000 a day until February 20th. The install rate is still over 2000 a day. As is normal, the active installs in percent has been going down over time, but it is still over 35%. It currently has over 119600 active device installs. There is currently one ad - right before someone goes to a book - it has been requested from 13000 to 23000 times a day over the course of the past two weeks.

Having had success with modifying an open source project, I doubled down, and on February 12th I released a modified version of OI File Manager, another open source Android project. I chose it because it was open source, because I had thought of doing a file manager for a while, and because it had a wide appeal - it is not a niche product like Panacea Database or Bouncer, many people can find it useful. I wanted to release another app with wide appeal to ride the wave of Book Reader. And it did so, it has over 4239 active device installs, which for my five apps is second to only Book Reader. And has been achieved in six weeks, while I have been working on apps like Bouncer for ten months.

I do have my eye on one more Android open source project, but I have turned back to doing an original project. It uses Andengine, but is actually an app, not a game. It is original as far as I know, nothing else on Android does it in the manner mine will, which is much better than the handful of existing ones that are related to this app. I have to see how much work I am going to do on it before releasing it. It is more toward a niche product than a general one, but it is not a small niche. Anyhow, much work to be done on it, although I already have a decent prototype for one implementation of it.

Book Reader was making over $20 a day when the downloads were first flying. Also, I had an ad on the page seen when the app was opened for the first time, which I now do not have - although I may put that back. Anyhow, I rolled $100 of that Admob money into ads. While I was running my ads, Admob dropped their minimum ad bid to $0.01 a bid. So I dropped my bid to that. The money went mainly to buying ads in Brazil for the File Manager. Ads seem to boost downloads from the target market, even when they're not running, don't know all the variables which cause that although I can guess some of them. Anyhow, I know have over 1000 active users from Brazil for File Manager that I probably would not have had any how. Were they worth ten cents a head? Well, the initial buys were overpriced before Admob's price drop. Also, it was something of a test. Also, I want to roll my profits back into the business and couldn't think of a better thing to spend it on. Even with that $100 spent, I'm still getting over $350 from February Admob profits for Book Reader. Those kind of dollars came from the initial pop, I'm now more at the $100 a month level, as I said before. Although if I had more ads in the Book Reader app, I could probably make more. Although I want to avoid having ads over the actual book, as that is annoying.

In terms of running Admob ads - you can choose the devices to target, the SDK version, the country (and sometimes more specific location), whether to target mobile, wifi or both, gender and age group. Transfers of $50 or over from money I was owed to running ads gets you a small bonus of free ads. Each campaign is $10 a day minimum. Minimum bid nowadays is 1 cent a click. You can see conversion rates for app installation for app download ads.

The annoying part for Admob is the approval process. First you have to get approved to be able to transfer money from your balance to ad campaign budget. Then campaigns have to be approved. After I was approved for balance to budget transfers, I transferred $50 and submitted a campaign. A week later it still sat unapproved, so I sent them an e-mail, then it was approved. Contrast this to Millennial Media, who approved a campaign for me recently within hours. You'd think Admob would be more responsive to me wanting to give them my money.

So on that Millennial Media campaign - I noticed a few days ago that the paltry sum I made in February from Millennial Media had been put into my balance. The sum was paltry because I was not even signed up with Millennial in the beginning of February. Anyhow, I took the dollar or two and put it into a campaign in Norway for File Manager. It was approved within hours, which was the good part. One downside was the minimum 5 cent bid - 5 times what Admob does. Also the targetting is not as precise for kinds of device and such. You can target to country though, which I did. I wonder if "Android" goes out to Kindles, Nooks and the like, I hope not as it would be wasted money. Anyhow, my $1.20 daily budget was filled and I got 24 clicks. I'll probably do a bigger one next month for MM when my March money clears, maybe for different countries. Another nice thing about MM is I'm not stuck with $10 a day campaigns! But unlike Admob, MM keeps the money you earn for two months plus instead of one month plus, so I may as well roll the money back into ads.

I signed up for Inmobi as well, but you have to talk to them or something to get approved to transfer money from balance to budget. It's not worth it at this point.

I also might do Adsense for mobile ads. I'll have to see. I should get the $350+ by the middle of next month, so I have some ideas for the money. I might spend some money for a contractor to do some work on Book Reader - which I plan on using myself and sending back to FBReaderJ as well.

I had used Admob as my sole ad network prior to January. One reason I chose them is they were known to be reliable about sending checks - in fact, they already sent me one last year. Also, they have a low check sending threshold - if you make $20 in a month, which I'm now easily doing. They also send the money within one month plus. If I made money on ads on January 1st, or January 30th, that money would get sent to me on March 1st and would arrive, usually around March 15th in Paypal. For Millennial Media and Inmobi, the amount of time is longer.

But anyhow I wanted other ad networks. For the sake of redundancy for one - if there was some problem with Admob, I'd still have two other sources of income. Also, perhaps I'd get some better deals, or extra functionality, which I have gotten. Also, I like the idea of keeping some competition open for the ad networks - it benefits developers to have a few competing ad networks out there. I read a report which said the top Android developers usually have as the top four packages includes - Adwhirl, Admob, Inmobi and Millennial Media. That dovetailed with what I had heard already so I went with Inmobi and Millennial Media.

Inmobi seems to do everything manually, and even over the phone. My app approval seemed to be in limbo until an e-mail back and forth. Then I had a phone conversation, where the rep said they wanted me to push up the number of requests I was getting as they thought it was too low. This conversation happened a month ago. I said my Book Reader got a lot of hits so submitted that. It was pending, then they said they wanted more info on my address etc., so I put that in and it is still pending. Not that I mind much, I submitted the app at their urging, to some extent. As I said before, to be able to transfer earnings balance to an ad budget requires manual intervention as well. Well, Admob and Millennial Media are more responsive without hassle, so I'll deal with them more in terms of buying and selling ads for the time being. Inmobi is still the primary target for File Manager ads though, with MM and then Admob as fallback, and 80% of traffic is directed to Inmobi via Adwhirl right off the bat. Aside from responsiveness, I'd need to make $1.67 a day from Inmobi to get a monthly check from them, and right now that is more like 28 cents a day, so I haven't even hit that minimum yet with them (or Millennial, which is about $1.03 a day).

I suppose eCPM, RPM, CTR, etc. are important in differentiating ad networks, but one overriding thing is fill rates. Admob and Adsense integration has been increasing as time goes on, other than it taking a day for clicks, CTR, eCPM and revenue to update (but not impressions or fill rate), the two are very integrated. And for normal apps, the fill rate for this is usually over 98%, if not 99%. As opposed to this, Inmobi has had a 21-54% fill rate for me over the past two weeks. Millennial, which is getting a fraction of the direct File Manager traffic Inmobi gets, but which does get its run off, has had a 77-86% fill rate for the past 9 days. The major slackoff from them is for countries like Brazil and Poland, they don't have the presence Google can afford there yet. But for the US, France, Germany, Japan etc., their fill rates have been on par with Admob's. With Adwhirl, lower fill rates are not as big a deal, but it takes seconds for Adwhirl to miss an Inmobi ad, and the Millennial ad, and then maybe even an Admob ad before putting up an Admob "Adwhirl" ad, and by that time the Activity with the ad may have been clicked off.

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