If you’re a blogger or webmaster who isn’t doing it just for the kudos, then you’re probably running ads on your site. But if you’ve had to deal with more than one advertiser and/or more than one website in less than a few days or weeks, you know it can quickly cut into your limited time.
For that reason, you should have or use an ad server. Beyond the initial setup time, adding, deleting and modifying ads will take much less time with added time-saving features such as automatic expirations, ad rotation, tracking and even automated selling of ad space.
We recently decided to replace OpenX with another ad serving platform, and quickly narrowed down our choices to OIO Publisher and Google’s DFP Small Business. We captured our research and thoughts on the matter.
Out with OpenX
There are a number of options out there, and until recently we used OpenX (formerly OpenAds). OpenX is very powerful and the self-hosted version is free and open-source. But with power comes complexity. And that complexity demanded time.
As we were trying to cut down on the time we spent managing functions such as these, we went hunting for an alternative. Additionally, we found that serving up ads from OpenX slowed down our sites, and we didn’t have the time or inclination to search for a solution to that major problem.
As we run WordPress predominantly, we went searching for plugins that could serve up ads. However, most had one glaring missing feature – the ability to serve up ads on non-Wordpress websites, and we didn’t want to be caught without that capability in the future.
So we did some ‘show HTML source’ type investigations into WordPress sites that we liked that also ran ads and found OIO Publisher used quite frequently. OIO not only came in as a WordPress plugin, but in a standalone ad-serving version. So it immediately went to the top of the list.
Our 2nd option was from a vendor that was on the flip side of OIO in terms of size – Google. The big “G” had just finished polishing up their integration of DoubleClick’s ad platform into their own set of products and re-released their ad serving platform as Google DFP (DoubleClick for Publishers) Small Business. [Incidentally, you would probably have your own army of advertising folks if you qualified for the larger offering, so don’t worry about it!]
Google was an obvious choice. They were very successful and reliable when it came to hosting services in the cloud and certainly knew advertising. Their product was also free, unlike OIO Publisher.
The Pros and Cons
So now we were faced with the big decision – OIO or DFP? Free or Paid? Cloud-Hosted or Self-Hosted? The best thing to do was create a pros-and-cons list.
- Google run – reliable and backed by a huge company that isn’t going away anytime soon.
- Fast serving.
- Ability for advertisers to see stats on their ads.
- Can sell all types of ads (CPM, CPC, CPD).
- Inventory forecasting.
- Complicated as hell to learn and use, unless you’ve been an advertiser/in advertising for a while.
- It approaches OpenX’s complexity, but with a better interface.
- Does not do order fulfillment (Google does not accept payment for you). OIO would save you a lot of time on this point.
- Well-established software run by many big-name bloggers.
- Sell ads directly with payment via multiple vectors (Paypal, Google Checkout, 2Checkout, etc.).
- Manages and sells text ads (even with choice of ‘nofollow’ tags).
- Can even sell products using OIO.
- Can be run either as a WordPress plugin or standalone.
- Can serve up ads on any # of blogs/sites that you have.
- Much simpler to learn and set up (and that was one of the main reasons for migrating away from OpenX).
- They have an associated marketplace where you can list your sites to potential advertisers.
- OIO currently costs $47. Look around and you can probably get a $10 discount.
- While advertisers can see stats, they’re not as slick and sophisticated compared to what Google offers.
- Would need to run it on one of your servers (so you just need to make sure that the server is fast enough).
- Can currently only sell CPD ads (cost per time), but roadmap for v3 has CPM ads in mind.
- Ad backfill capability isn’t as sophisticated as DFP, but much simpler.
- No forecasting like DFP, but I think that’s really for the ‘bigger’ boys.
The Final Decision
In the end, we went with OIO. The ability to sell inventory directly was very compelling and DFP’s complexity was a turn-off. Despite OIO’s small operation, we’ve noticed that the main developer is very active and very responsive to his customers and even has a roadmap for where he would like to take OIO, so they certainly appear to have a bright future.