Gangnam Style Insights, Chartboost Tips, CPI Trade-Offs

by Carter Thomas

“True popularity comes from acts of kindness rather than acts of stupidity. ” – Bo Bennett

November and December have been busy! Man oh man. I’m up to 78 apps live in the store now with 9 more in production (much bigger apps) that should roll out in the next two months. As my growth slowly began to compound, I had some really cool stuff happen. A whim of launching a Gangnam Style app, changing a few things in Chartboost, and setting up some new deals has really changed the game for me. Having the opportunity to speak at Chad Mureta’s App Empire event was also a highlight and has shown me how much passion and fire there is out there. All great stuff.

In proper fashion, I wanted to share all of this with you guys. Well, as much as I could at least. Sometimes I think that it’s impossible to get all the ideas and findings down onto paper, but the AE event really got me in gear to start helping everyone more.

So, here’s what’s up.

Gangnam Style Runner – The Little Source That Could

Looking at my apps page and you probably see that a bunch of my games are around the runner source code I have. Some of them have done really well (Tiger, Panda, Elephant) on their own, but definitely nothing outstanding. I consider an ROI of 200-300% a really good investment. I think some people are looking for 2000% returns in the mobile market and that’s why they get so disappointed.

The news came out about Psy’s video beating out Bieber (thank God) for the top YouTube video of all time. Knowing that YouTube is the world’s second largest search engine, I was willing to bet that people were searching the app store as well. I had my guys whip something up in a few days and I published it. Shit, I didn’t even bother making screenshots because I thought it was a joke!

I decided to release it in most countries outside the USA just to see what would happen. Even though I knew this was kind of a longshot, I thought it might blow up like others had. I was right. The first night it went out in most countries except the top 8 and collected more impressions on RevMob than I had on all other apps combined that day. Woah.

I released it the next day to the masses and things went bonkers. 150K impressions on both Revmob and Chartboost each day, and revenue to match. Check out what my CB account looked like! I hadn’t really used Chartboost much before (only made  me $200-300 a day) but what this exercise taught me was very important.

What’s even more crazy was that the Flurry analytics basically showed me that people were playing this game 5-6 times. This wasn’t a game that people picked up then dumped – or if it was, they got their fill beforehand.

So here’s the interesting part.

I was getting a lot of five star reviews and a lot of one star reviews.

Some people thought it was pretty cool or funny or whatever that I made such a ridiculous game, and gave my an iHighFive with a good review. Others cried foul, specifically about the ads. The biggest complaint was definitely about too many ads and them popping up in weird places.

Now, when I released this game, I figured I’d make some money but nothing crazy, so I loaded both Revmob and Chartboost at the same time. Like at the start of the game, it would show Revmob, then Chartboost right behind it. I do this on all my other games and it works out well with little to no repercussions on the review side of things.

But with this, people were getting pissed. They saw this hot new app that skyrocketed to the top of the charts so they wanted to see it. When they opened it, they saw lots of ads. The psychology was “I want to be part of this cool new hot app but this guy is just trying to rip me off or take advantage of me.” Whereas when my other apps went out in the middle of the pack, the psychology was “Hey, this guy is just trying to make a buck.”

That’s also why my eCPM on my mid-level games is $15-20 and it was close to $2 on this app (both RevMob and Chartboost). In fact, I talked to the guys who made the other Gangnam Style apps and they had the same results – high eCPM on their lower traffic apps, low eCPM on this.

Made me realize something very important as we all grow as appreneurs – be sensitive to your volume. Monetization strategy changes dramatically as your popularity increases. If you’re not prepared to adjust, you’re going to lose all that ranking volume from negative reviews.

So I tried turning off Revmob. The result? Less people feeling violated about Ads. And a lot less money for me.

But I was buying myself another day that I would probably stay on the top of the charts. Classic opportunity cost and one that was VERY hard to control since I knew I could make a killing if I just let Revmob go nuts.

Now I had a ton of volume on Chartboost and back to regular on Revmob (which still makes me more money, surprisingly).

What does one do when they now have 300-400K impressions a day to mess around with?

Well, here’s what I did that gave me a 25% bump in revenue.

Chartboost Tips – Control The Machine and Force The Intelligence

Yeah, dramatic title I know, but that’s basically what I did. We all go into ad networks with the same assumption – the marketplace serves up the highest paying bids first, when those run out, the next come in, then the next, etc. This all happens at lightning speed and naturally makes us the most money, right?

Well, not really.

I’ve talked candidly with some big advertisers and they have basically said that it’s impossible to buy enough installs, no matter what your bid. Trust me, if they could, they would. Even at $5-6 a pop, advertisers want the organic rankings bad enough…but they just can’t get it.

So I start thinking. If advertisers who pay all these premium prices are literally flooding the market, why do I ever see a $0.50 CPI ad? Or anything under a $1 for that matter? Now, I’m not saying I know all the nuances of how this works, but I have to imagine that it’s because the marketplace just can’t handle the serving well enough to understand all this. Meaning the low price stuff will always be serving, then it gets trumped by the higher stuff, not the top down model. It’s a better business model to start, but it would also use less CPU power, I assume, help fill rate, generate more advertisers, and incentives for up-bidding the price.

This isn’t good for the average developer/publisher who just wants to display their ads and get the best possible eCPM.

Ever notice this option in the Chartboost dashboard – called Priority?

This is the manual way to do what the marketplace should be doing for your already. It was originally built for Prioritizing Direct Deals, Internal Cross Promotions, and regular Publisher Campaigns, but I figured I might as well test out creating CPI limits of 4 campaigns and then creating priority levels accordingly.

Level 1 – $0.50+ CPI, Low Priority
Level 2 – $1.00+ CPI, Medium Priority
Level 3 – $1.50+ CPI, High Priority
Level 4 – $3.00+ CPI, Highest Priority

What this means is that I am forcing the opposite of what I think the ad networks want to serve. Not perfect, but it’s another way for me to control the ads my apps receive. The top campaign looks for anything with a premier bid, then it moves down from there.

The result?  A 25% increase in my eCPM over the next week. I could attribute this to increase bidding during the holidays, but I honestly think it’s just because more of my installs were coming from higher paying advertisers. I was kind of doing the Revmob model on the Chartboost platform (FYI that’s why RM eCPM is way higher – they do this so well). In fact, the eCPM was very clearly highest at the top tier Level campaign, with the eCPM the lowest on the Level 1 campaign.

So I have  my campaigns optimized. I have a lots of impressions. What’s next?

Intra Network Snake Oil – Build Your Army For Advertisers

During all this Gangnam Style hoopla, I released Jolly Journey – an awesome (in my opinion) kids game for the holidays that I really enjoyed making. It’s my first step towards creating games that have higher lifetime value built on in-app purchases and not on advertiser dollars.

One of my immediate reactions to the Gangnam success was that I would have the ability to drive my own installs now. You may have heard marketers talking about the “power of building your network” for a while now. The idea being you build a portfolio of apps that you can re-direct at any moment to drive installs for your own game for FREE. The sexiness of this lies in the ability to control rankings, etc.

Of course I thought this would be amazing. I had my entire Chartboost account ready to go. I was going to point all my apps at Jolly Journey for a rankings bump and also to get users in there.

But then I stopped for a minute.

I was making over $1,500 a day on Chartboost by selling installs that made me anywhere from $0.50-3, averaging $1 or so.

The minimum bid for installs I could buy on CB is $0.50.

Using my own network to drive my app installs would COST me $0.50!

Now, the assumptions may be that the users would be more likely to download another game by the same publisher, which would make my overall install # higher and thus make my per install opportunity cost drop, but there is almost no factor I can think of that would make up for $0.50.

Having your own cross-promo widget/popup is a solution to this (instead of using Chartboost), but that also means you will be giving up the install revenue even further from residual loss.

And therein lies the rub of it – building your app network is not about being able to drive installs to your other games. It’s about having more revenue positive assets that can be re-invested into more revenue positive assets so that you can buy cheaper installs on the open market and monetize your traffic with the rich advertisers. That’s just how the markets work, at least for now.

In a nutshell, because there are so many rich gaming companies out there willing to spend $5-6 CPI, it drives up the average eCPM for all publishers.

A lesson learned, saving me thousands of dollars.

Final Thoughts

1. Gangnam Style Game (Free and Paid to date, launched 12.1.12) – 925 Paid/192 in-apps in Paid version / 623,344 Free, $2,674 in-apps and iAds,  $17,380.12 on Chartboost / 4.9M impressions on CB / $1,223 on RevMob (this was only about 3 days) / 782K impressions Revmob / eCPM $2.01 for all / 2.0% install rate

2. Jolly Journey HD Free (iPad version launched 12.6.12) – 4,860 free sales / $280 in-app / $277 MoPub & TapIt (banners) / 2.5M requests for banner serve.

The reason I’m putting these out there is to show a few insights I am seeing in the app world:

1. iPad is going to crush iPhones in terms of monetization over the next few years. I’m going all tablet by the end of 2013. Every one of my games that is iPad makes WAY more money. The volume is lower but the market is much less saturated. Plus, I can design way better for iPad.

2. Though the JJ revenue numbers pale in comparison, they’re growing steadily every day. And look at the impression ratio – I have almost 130x more downloads for Gangnam and only 2x more impressions!! People play the Jolly Journey game for an average of 8 minutes. Crazy.

There are four versions of the game, all of which make money, but this one has the most potential. It’s compounding as people play day over day. This is a MUCH BETTER long term strategy.

In my App Empire presentation I discussed how development is the key to user retention. This is a case in point. BTW – working on getting that video for everyone to watch. It’s all about flipping apps and people seemed to dig it.

 

Happy Holidays to everyone! If you’re not a Facebook fan yet, please Like my page and Follow me on Twitter to stay up to date!

Keep rocking.

Carter

 

{ 86 comments… read them below or add one }

Carter Thomas December 28, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Thanks man. Good luck to you! I am dying to go fly fishing in Slovenia at some point. Looks amazing there.

Carter

Andrej December 28, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Jeah Slovenia is peaceful, little country with very nice nature.
You re are welcome! If you need any information you can always contact me.

Wish you a good day.
Bye.

Charles December 29, 2012 at 1:21 am

Great post!

In regards to your comments about Chartboost, I would suggest only using 3 priorities — Low, Medium, & High. This will leave the Highest settings for Direct Deals or any other type of cross promotions you want to do.

Matt January 2, 2013 at 8:31 pm

Hey Carter,

Really awesome job man!! Those numbers are mind blowing! Did the Gangnam Run cause that big spike in revenues? Are most of the games you’re doing now in the $500-$1,000 range to develop? Keep inspiring in 2013!

Matt

Max January 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm

Chartboost is only for games?

Carter Thomas January 9, 2013 at 6:59 pm

Yes.

Apps 4 Fans January 12, 2013 at 2:01 am

Hey great post! Thats my app Hair Color Mirror Highlighted in the top paid list. I am a 24 yr old appreneur with zero coding knowledge and your blog has been beyond a resource for me, especially the appmakr and outsourcing guides. This has been my only job for the past 2 years and I wouldn’t change the freedom it gives me for anything! anyways i have few questions.

What network do you recommend for banner ads? Using the paid for install method.

How many installs where you seeing off of 150k impressions with the chartboost network to get upwards of $1000 a day?

Thanks for your insight it is priceless, I look forward to hearing back from you.

Carter Thomas January 12, 2013 at 2:10 am

Right on man, thanks for reaching out.

1. Banner ads – try MoPub. It’s a mediator so it serves up the best paying ads at all times. I use them with iAds and a few other networks integrated.
2. Avg install was approximately $0.95

Good luck to you!

Carter

Matt January 12, 2013 at 5:26 pm

i am not sure i understood why cross promoting your apps would cost you 0.5$ if you do a cross to your users in your app shouldnt it be free?

Carter Thomas January 12, 2013 at 6:23 pm

Hey Matt,

See the above comments. It’s not a real cost, it’s an opportunity cost. Here is an example.

Let’s say I deliver 1,000 installs a day. If I deliver those installs on the Chartboost market, I’ll make about $1,000.

My other option is to send those 1,000 installs to my own apps for free. But, I’m GIVING UP $1,000.

If I went to Chartboost as an advertiser and bid $0.50 per install, I could buy 1,000 installs for $500.

So – I can either cross promote and make no money and get 1,000 installs OR I can sell my $1,000 and then buy the same # for $500.

Thus, I would lose $500 on the cross promotion.

Hope that helps

Carter

Namit Gupta January 13, 2013 at 7:18 am

Hello Carter, thanks for sharing with us your valuable experiences. These are really helpful and brings to us new insights about the app world. Congratulations for the success of your Gangnam app. However I wonder, if Revmob was performing better than why did you turn it off and choose Chartboost instead?

P.S. I too developed an app on Gangnam Style. Its a simple app which teaches how to perform this amazing dance style. :D https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/learn-gangnam-style/id581321538?ls=1&mt=8

Carter Thomas January 13, 2013 at 8:25 am

Namit –

I address this in the article. Revmob was causing more negative reviews at high volumes. That’s why I turned it off.

Carter

max January 14, 2013 at 8:52 pm

Hi Carter your blog is amazing. Could you tell me how add a nag screen (request a feedback for my app) I’ve seen this in your application.

Thanks

Carter Thomas January 14, 2013 at 10:28 pm

Thanks Max. Check out the SDK Appirater. Works out well and it’s a free SDK.

https://github.com/arashpayan/appirater

Lisa January 15, 2013 at 4:01 am

Hi Carter,
Not sure if you still check your older blog posts, but got a quick question. I’m currently using Chartboost’s More Apps feature. In this case, when I’m customizing which campaigns to add to the More Apps page, should I be adding all Highest Priority campaigns only, or mix them up (with Highest being on top, Lowest towards the bottom of the page?).

Carter Thomas January 19, 2013 at 8:50 pm

Hey Lisa,

MIx them up. Sometimes the highest priority campaigns won’t have full inventory and the slot will be blank. Adding multiple campaigns will make sure you always display something.

Carter

Brett January 21, 2013 at 12:08 pm

Nice post Carter. I’ll be giving this a try : )

Gerald Lum January 22, 2013 at 5:04 am

Hi Carter,

Have you ever try this method – Player need to download a free game (TapJoy) in order to unlock one of the game stages?

Gerald Lum

Carter Thomas January 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm

I have never used Tapjoy in my own games but am starting to use them for buying installs (as an advertiser). Because the install bids are pretty low for Tapjoy, the payouts aren’t usually as high as non-incentivized actions, such as Revmob and Chartboost.

max January 28, 2013 at 10:26 am

Hi Carter
Thanks for SDK Appirater. Do you know another SDK to add “more apps”
Thanks

Hiro Lee February 7, 2013 at 8:25 am

Hi Carter,
Thank you so much for your sharing. I don’t know if you are using some method to control ads frequency in your game or not, I thought I would share this tips I’ve come up with, if you can make use of it that’s wonderful!

This will allow you to change how often to show ads in your game without having to submit an update.

Both Chartboost and Revmob have placement ID. For those who doesn’t familiar with Chartboost placement ID, it is set up different than Revmob. You will set up the placement ID inside your project, then Chartboost server will recognize the placement. For example, in your code to show a Chartboost Interstial you use [cb showInterstitial:@"Game over"];, then Chartboost server will recognize a placement called Game Over and allow you to set up show ads or not at this placement.

So, for example You want to have the option to show ads once every 1 round, 2 rounds, and 3 rounds for the placement called game over, here’s what you can do:
Example for Revmob:
Create 3 placement ID: Game over 1, game over 2, game over 3. Then use something like this:

if(++[GameData Instance].gameoverCounter %1 == 0)
{[GameMain Instance].fullscreen = [[RevMobAds session] fullscreenWithPlacementId:RevmobGameoverId1 ];
[GameMain Instance].fullscreen.delegate = [GameMain Instance];
[[GameMain Instance].fullscreen showAd]; }

if(++[GameData Instance].gameoverCounter %2 == 0)
{ [GameMain Instance].fullscreen = [[RevMobAds session] fullscreenWithPlacementId:RevmobGameoverId2 ];
[GameMain Instance].fullscreen.delegate = [GameMain Instance];
[[GameMain Instance].fullscreen showAd]; }

if(++[GameData Instance].gameoverCounter %3 == 0)
{ [GameMain Instance].fullscreen = [[RevMobAds session] fullscreenWithPlacementId:RevmobGameoverId3 ];
[GameMain Instance].fullscreen.delegate = [GameMain Instance];
[[GameMain Instance].fullscreen showAd]; }

So what this does is: For position 1: show ad once every round. Position 2: show ad once every 2 round. Position 3: show ad once every 3 round.

Now, in Revmob, if you want to show ad once every round, then you leave placement Gameover 1 on, turn off position 2 and 3.
If you want to show ad once every 2 rounds, then leave position 2 on, turn off the other 2.
Similar with the third option.

hope to hear more from you! Keep rocking man!

Regards,
Hiro Lee from InstaFunApp

Mike February 20, 2013 at 9:12 am

Hey Carter,

So do you mean you were giving close to 1500 installs a day to generate $1500 on chartboost per day? Did you try direct deals?

Also, how many downloads was your game getting daily in order to generate $1500 on chartboost?

Cheers
Mike

Carter Thomas February 20, 2013 at 9:15 am

Hey Mike,

I tried Direct Deals but I was a little late. That was a big learning for me. At my peak I think I was getting like 70K a day in downloads. That was 2000-2500 on Chartboost + 2000 or so on Revmob + IAP stuff. I honestly dont remember.

If I could go back and re-do the CB direct deals, or even optimize it a little bit, it would have been a much bigger rev number.

D’oh!

Carter

Steve June 5, 2013 at 11:29 pm

Hey Carter,

I am totally new at apps. I recently re-skinned a free game app and is ready to upload. I want to add Flurry, PlayHeaven, and Tapjoy. My question is: will they charge me for lauching my app for one of this ad networks? I don’t know about “daily budget” what does it exactly mean?
I thought they will pay me when people download or see ads in my free app.
I would appreciate your information.

Thank you,
Steve

Carter Thomas June 6, 2013 at 12:09 am

Hey Steve,

Congrats man, nice work. No, you wont be charged for anything. For Tapjoy, that’s if you want to promote your app by buying installs from other apps. You would deposit $100 and could buy 1,000 installs if you purchased for $0.10 each.

You will get paid when they download your app and see ads, correct. You’ll get paid way more when they click on the ads and install that app. Tapjoy is both an advertising platform and a publishing platform, thats why you see both options there.

Hope that helps.

Carter

Steve June 6, 2013 at 1:38 am

Thank you Carter.

Steve

Joe July 22, 2013 at 12:41 am

Hey Carter,

Thanks for the article!

I recently released Unreal Speed 3D ; iTunes connect is telling me I’m doing about 2500 installs per day. What type of CB and Revmob campaigns should I consider?

Shark July 29, 2013 at 3:37 am

How can i make the more app page only just show other my App?
I just see one men can do this

Bhatt August 14, 2013 at 2:14 pm

Hi Carter

You have a great resource here. Lots of good stuff, keep up!

I have an education-reference app that I am offering as Freemium. In-app purchase to remove ads. Do you think this is viable?
Also which network do you seem the best fit if it were your app? Sorry for an open-ended question but I read somewhere some of the ad networks don’t allow apps?

-Bhatt

Karen August 23, 2013 at 11:26 pm

Err Carter, I’m having such a hard time understanding this whole eCPM, CPI, interstitals stuff. I’ve had about 2000 game downloads but still $0 revenue. I have Chartboost. I don’t know what I’m doing wrong because I’ve set up Chartboost. Is there something special I need to do in Financial Settings or any other tricks to generate revenue?

Karen August 23, 2013 at 11:27 pm

Any site or material I can read regarding this stuff for beginners/dummies (for people like me)

Pravin September 30, 2013 at 8:28 am

i hav integrated chartboost in my game.. i exhausted 20 attempt of displaying chartboost demo ads.
bt i want to know that this are test ads, so how the live ads will come in my game and when?

Ross October 5, 2013 at 10:18 pm

Hi Carter,

Thank you for all your free information. Im new to the app world and I was struggling to find useful/genuine information before I came across your site. I am taking your advise and I’m in the process of reskinning my first app using one of Brian’s source codes. Fingers crossed.

I just have a question about your Gangnam app regarding copyright. Did you need permission from Psy , ‘Mr Gangnam Style’ or anyone else to make the app? Or what way does that work for future reference?

Thanks a million,

Ross.

Karen October 6, 2013 at 10:19 pm

Ross: Carter got lucky with Apple approving that game. These days Apple reviewers are very very strict about it and reject the game. I recently did a celebrity app and it just wouldn’t get approved. Even when I deleted the app and created a completely new one. I had to change names, titles, metadata around for it to finally get approved. There’s no way Gangam or any other celebrity who will give permission for these apps. You’re pretty much taking the risk on your own. Worst case scenario if you do get a letter from their attorney, just delete the app. Not sure what Carter’s take is on this. Good luck!

Dm3 February 6, 2014 at 12:35 am

if my active user around 100K
how mouch can i earn if i use admob or iad
just banners

Henry March 11, 2014 at 4:44 am

Hey Carter, I’m confused. Do you use RevMob or AdMob? They are different I think…

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