The Mobile-First Reality For Publishers

This article was originally published on DCN on 1/18.

As publishers strive to reach revenue targets, the open programmatic market has cast a shadow over publishers’ ability to nurture their audiences. With the continued rise of mobile-first and in-app advertising, revenue growth in 2023 requires that media companies take a new approach that views advertising as a means to enhance consumer experience, rather than distract – or detract – from it.

Sticky Audiences

In an age where audiences are inundated with content, publishers and app developers struggle to create “stickiness”. Here, stickiness refers to when users choose to stay with your product in a competitive environment because of the value it offers.

Mobile app stickiness is a metric that measures user engagement with an app. “Stickier” users mean lower churn rates, greater opportunities for upselling and cross-selling, higher customer lifetime value, and more customer referrals. Your audience will stick with you as long as there’s no compelling reason for them to stray. Irrelevant, offensive, or off-brand ad experiences are all reasons that users lose interest.

The key is demand optimization. It ensures brand suitability, ad relevance, and builds effective feedback loops that put audiences’ needs first.

Getting to the heart of churn

The lines that define a safe and engaging ad experience have never been clearer. One poor ad experience is all it takes to result in quick app abandonment. However, publishers rarely hear from 96% of their users. For every complaint logged, there are countless users who quietly slip away to explore competitors’ offerings.

Malicious ads, unwanted ad content, and disruptive formats cause a drop in engagement and a disconnect with brand identity. These issues manifest differently from app to app, even the offerings of a single publisher.

Most app publishers (93%) report that bad ads lead to negative reviews of their apps in the app store, and 71% of publishers say low-quality ads have driven users to uninstall their apps altogether. The impact is especially felt by gaming app publishers, with 57% sharing that bad ads have caused players to stop playing for good.

The need for flexible controls

The question remains: What can publishers serve to ensure long-term audience engagement?

Engaging, brand-suitable ads look different from app to app. Sites and apps that cater to teens have vastly different brand suitability standards than those for adults. Even among adult audiences, ad content standards vary greatly. What’s acceptable on a dating app may be damaging on a finance or gaming app.

When it comes to ad quality, it is crucial to have the autonomy to craft and fine-tune one’s guidelines. The ability to exclude certain content is a must-have for any publisher who wishes to maintain control over their ad experience.

Not only are many ad experiences offensive and disruptive, they are increasingly less relevant, as they are based on assumptions about audience preferences. Publishers must implement a sustainable feedback loop with audiences to efficiently tailor ad policies to user feedback. Publishers can turn to AI powered technologies to keep up with user preferences and constantly shifting expectations for in-app experiences.

Preserving publishers’ power position

Silent churn echoes louder than a scream. After enduring too many poor ad experiences, users simply opt for an alternative app. Publishers require visibility into the ads that appear in their apps, along with controls to ensure ads are relevant and engaging.Ultimately, the stickiness of your app is a powerful engagement metric that indicates long-term mobile app health. Appropriate, engaging ad experiences are the key to attracting stickier users who are more likely to become brand loyal. The result is a sustainable monetization strategy that will empower and benefit publishers and their audiences alike.


Tobias is an experienced marketing leader and Chief Business Officer at GeoEdge. He believes success in business is fueuled by a passion for the product and purposeful messaging. Connect with Tobias on Linkedin to discuss strategic business development.

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