Research

App Monetization, Research

Header image - the SOOMLA mobile monetization report for Q2 2017 is full of insights about ad revenue in mobile apps

We are super excited to announce our insights report today. We started this practice in 2015 with reports that were more focused on in-app purchase based monetization but this one is all about insights related to monetization through ad revenues. The report explores domains that have never been explored before so lots of interesting insights on this one.

You are welcome to download the report through this link or via the banner to the right.

Would also be great if you can help us spread the word by sharing my post on Linkedin.

Linkedin post about mobile monetization report - q2 2017

 

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Analytics, Research

Mobile Attribution 101 - the complete guide. Header banner.

For a while now the business of advertising apps have zoned in to one standard business model – cost per install (or CPI). The CPI business model has pros and cons like any other business model but it proves less fraudulent than clicks, less risky for the advertiser than CPM and more uniform compared to more advanced CPA models. With that, measuring installs and deciding which sources they came from became a highly significant part of any marketing campaign. For the advertisers, it’s not only about fair business models but also about measuring marketing effectiveness. Attribution of installs to a sources, is a key ingredient in understanding which marketing activities and campaigns are the profitable ones. For the ad-networks, being able to receive the post-backs and post-install conversion data is an important feedback loop that allows them to optimize their campaigns and maximizing yield as well as returns for the advertisers.

3rd party attribution vs. in-house

There are a few companies that tried building attribution solutions in-house. Sure, the technology is quite complex but app companies are technologically capable. Especially the gaming companies tend to prefer in-house infrastructure when it comes to analytics. The ones that did figure out how to build their own attribution solution soon realized that there is not much use for it. The most prevalent business model between app advertisers and ad-networks is CPI. Since advertisers pay the ad-networks based on installs – both sides needs to agree about the number of installs so when the advertisers build their own attribution, they soon realize that many ad-networks are not willing to trust it’s measurements. Instead, they request that a 3rd party partner will be in charge of keeping the score.

Facebook’s attempt to become a player

In 2015, in light of the growing market, mobile advertising giant, Facebook also made an attempt to become a player in this market and own a bigger piece of the end-to-end marketing solution. The market, however, rejected the move. Publisher demanded that a 3rd party will be in charge of the measurement.

The battle of the attribution providers panel at Casual connect where the only agreed upon topic was the lack of legitimacy of Facebook as an attribution provider

In the picture (credit: Venture Beat): the battle of the attribution providers panel at Casual Connect where the only agreed upon topic was the Facebook move legitimacy (or lack of).

How did this market get so big?

The 4 big attribution providers track about 18 billion dollars in ad spend worldwide. This is based on various points of information showing that Kochava measured 3 billion dollars in 2015 and Appsflyer measured 6 billion dollars in 2016. We can estimate based on the pricing of the providers that the attribution fees reached about 1% of that – 180 million dollars in 2016. The market is already big and is expected to double it’s size by 2020 reaching over $360M. Some of the driving forces behind this growth are the ad-networks themselves. Each attribution provider supports hundreds of networks and each ad-network has a lot of people in the field, meeting customers on a daily basis. Thousands of people going to every show, attending every conference and talking about CPI campaigns. Once ad-networks agreed that 3rd party attribution is a must-have, it was only a matter of time before the customer accepted that.

Attribution methods and approaches

Since the early days of attribution, there have been people saying that the models are not accurate. We live in a world where each user is being exposed to dozens of advertisements every day, often across different mediums. By the time a conversion, an app install, has occurred, the user is likely to have seen an ad for that app more than once and sometimes even as much as 10 times. Despite that, attribution models always give credit to a single source, single campaign and single ad-group. The credit is always given to the last click if such a click happened recently and if there is no click, it will be given to the last impression if it happened recently. It’s always the last one. Critics say rightfully that this is an inaccurate way to do it and there are better models. However, this is one of the areas where the delicate balance between ad-networks and advertisers mandates a simple model that is easily decide and so last-click attribution, while not perfect, is the best we have and will stay the attribution model going forward.
Last click, view thru, first click and other methods can compete but the winner is last click

The evolution of click fraud detection and IAP measurement

Being a key ingredient for measuring marketing returns or ROAS (return on ad spend). The attribution providers got pulled into providing more analytical services. The attribution dashboard became the go to screen for understanding install volumes from different sources. As the industry became more aware of the issues around traffic quality, attribution providers got pulled in to provide additional reports.
One direction in which attribution providers evolved is the area of post-install metrics such as retention tracking and conversion to payers via in-app purchases. Publishers also started using post install metrics reported by the attribution providers to set goals for user acquisition channels. It’s common these days to see an IO (Insertion Order) with traffic quality criteria. Beyond measuring the in-app purchases, attribution providers also developed the ability to distinguish real purchases from fake ones.
The other direction in which attribution developers were asked to evolve is install fraud detection and prevention. While generating fraudulent installs is much harder than clicks, publishers have a lot of motivation to do so and methods were developed to manufacture installs. All big 4 attribution providers today have developed mechanisms to detect such activity and remove it from the reports. By doing so, they are providing more value to the advertiser who only pays for real installs.

The top 4 mobile attribution providers

appsflyer logo - mobile attribution provider

Appsflyer is the most VC backed provider out of the bunch. They hold an impressive share of the top 200 companies and have the biggest penetration in far east countries. They are based in Hertzelia, Israel with offices all around the world. Their unique pricing model allows app companies to start for free which makes them highly attractive for smaller companies. Appsflyer started in the Microsoft Accelerator and is still rumored to be using Microsoft cloud infrastructure – Azure.

Name Appsflyer
Headquarters Hertzelia, Israel
Employees (by Linkedin) 208
Market Share (by Mightysignal) 12% of Top 200 Apps
Notable Customers Hulu, Cheetah Mobile, The Weather Channel
Funding raised $83M
Founded 2011
Supported ad-networks 2,148 (as of 1/1/2017)

logo image of adjust, the mobile measurement partner

The Berlin based provider has made itself a name in quite a short time. They are an official measurement provider for Facebook and pride themselves as being the leader among the top 200 apps. Adjust is leveraging their own private cloud infrastructure rather than a hosted one which also allows them to be the best at protecting user privacy.

Name Adjust
Headquarters Berlin, Germany
Employees (by Linkedin) 127
Market Share (by Mightusignal) 17% of Top 200 Apps
Notable Customers Spotify, Zynga, Rovio, Miniclip
Funding raised $29M
Founded 2012
Supported ad-networks 700+ (as of 1/1/2017)

Tune Logo - among other marketing and analytical services, tune also offers attribution solutionTune is a popular attribution choice. The company had two products going by separate brand: Has Offers and Mobile App Tracking. They are the only one of the four that is not focused completely on attribution and are also not an official Facebook measurement partner. To overcome this problem, Tune provides a solution for Facebook attribution leveraging deep linking.

Name TUNE
Headquarters Seattle, US
Employees (by Linkedin) 371
Market Share (by Mightysignal) 11% of Top 200 Apps
Notable Customers Uber, Lyft, Supercell
Funding raised $36M
Founded 2009
Supported ad-networks 1,062 (as of 1/1/2017)

kochava logo - attribution company catering to big media companies and others

Kochava is the only bootstrapped provider out of the top 4. They made themselves a name by attracting top tier media companies such as ABC, CBS and Disney as well as the mobile gaming giant – MZ. The company recently launched a new product called Kochava Collective to help their customers reach relevant audiences and also started offering a free version of their platform under the name – Free App Analytics

Name Kochava
Headquarters Sandpoint, US
Employees (by Linkedin) 82
Market Share (by Mightysignal) 11% of Top 200 Apps
Notable Customers MZ, ABC, CBS, Bigfish
Funding raised  Bootstrapped
Founded 2011
Supported ad-networks 2,800 (as of 4/15/2017)

Mid market solutions with an attribution feature

The 4 top providers mentioned above are highly focused on attribution and cater to customers who often build their in-house analytics and use the API offered by these providers to pull the data into their own BI or data warehouse system. However, there is a group of companies below the top tier that are relying on 3rd party analytical tools rather than a tool that is built in-house. These companies are preferring a full-solution approach that includes both analytics as well as attribution. This opportunity is considered the mid market of the mobile attribution space and there are companies who are starting to cater for it. Here are 2 providers in this category:

  • Tenjin – provides analytics solution with built in attribution
  • Apsalar – provides analytics, attribution and audience building under the same roof

The ability of companies to simply add attribution as a feature on top of something else is a result of the maturity of the market. The connections with the ad-networks became standardized and there are now also tools to attribute Facebook traffic with no need to get their official blessing. This is the reason why we also see companies like Singular adding attribution into their marketing and cost aggregation platform.

It’s important to note however, that these solutions are often lacking in terms of how many ad-networks accept them as an authority to counting installs. One of the key features of the attribution providers is the ability to serve as an unbiased 3rd party that is accepted by both sides when it comes to discrepancies in install counts that impact how much is paid by the advertiser to the ad-network.

Free attribution – what are the options and what’s the catch

Publishers might be surprised sometimes by the fees for the attribution service. Take Appsflyer for example – they recently tripled their price from $0.01 per install to $0.03 per install. Furthermore, if a certain app has a low volume of installs, the price is even higher. Tracking 100,000 installs for example will cost $4,000 per month. Quite a high fee for apps that are just starting out. This is part of the reason why many publishers are looking for alternative free solutions.

Option 1 – Branch Metrics deep linking

Branch offers a free deep linking solution. This means that every time an ad is shown a savvy marketer can provide a dedicated click url with additional parameters and those parameters will magically find their way to the app. Unlike other deep linking solutions, Branch takes the extra step to report these parameters back to their own dashboard and present it for the marketer to monitor the performance of each channel.

What’s the catch:

  • Ad-networks that get paid based on CPI might not agree to trust this solution
  • Advanced features like: postbacks and fraud protection are not available
  • Not scalable – every new ad requires generating additional links and passing them through to ad-networks

Option 2 – Facebook and Google attribution

For apps that only buy media on Facebook and Google, this might be a good enough solution. Both companies have an SDK that allow the app to report post install events. The impressions, clicks, installs and post-install conversions will be shown in a dashboard along side the cost. This means that marketers can calculate ROI on each campaign very easily and take action right away without leaving the dashboard.

What’s the catch: Facebook and Google are not neutral. They actually have an interest to attribute installs to themselves and given Facebook’s history with reporting errors one might be worried about putting all his faith in them. In addition, installs might be reported twice as there is no 3rd party overseeing both platforms.

Option 3 – Free App Analytics by Kochava

This is an interesting option for app publishers. Free App Analytics offers the same features as the main Kochava solution and is using the same infrastructure and reporting interfaces with one major difference – it’s completely free.

What’s the catch: Publishers most provide Kochava with a license to use the data in Kochava Collective. This means that advertisers will be able to apply more advanced targeting for these users but the ads might not necessarily appear in the app that is using the Free App Analytics solution. Might be a small price to pay for saving a few thousands of dollars a month.

In addition to these 3 options, we have also heard the names – Attriboost and DCMN as potential free attribution vendors.

How to compare between different providers

With so many options to choose from, it’s easy that some companies are finding it hard to choose. The first question to ask yourself is – do I have an in-house analytics solution. The answer to that will tell you if you are looking for a point solution for attribution or a full solution that includes both attribution, analytics and flexible visualization system that allows you to create dashboards focused on different aspects of the data.

If you want to take the scorecard approach for comparing providers that’s a good approach according to Saikala of SpaceApe. Here is her free template for comparing attribution providers with a spreadsheet. She is also giving her opinion and tips how to use the spreadsheet in this article.

Where is the attribution market headed next

One of the areas that is still unresolved is the single ROAS view. Advertisers are surprised that even after years of evolution in marketing measurement tools, there is no single provider that allows them to see a per source/campaign/ad-group view with the following components:

  • Cost of the marketing activity
  • Returns on the marketing generated via in app purchases
  • Returns on the marketing generated via in app advertising

This is the very fundamental view that allows marketers to evaluate the business merit of each marketing activity. However, today it is still very hard for marketers to get this view generated. Attribution providers realized this problem is an opportunity for them to provide a more complete solution and are now looking into two areas of expansion:
Aggregating cost data from all the different ad-networks and bringing them to the same view that summarizes the install counts and in app purchase revenues. While Singular was the first company to offer this type of aggregation, attribution providers identified the value for the marketer is far greater if he can get both elements from them rather than using an additional provider.
Assigning ad revenue to users and attributing them back to marketing activities to complete the ROAS picture. This area is gaining a lot of momentum as apps are expected to increasingly rely on ad-revenue according to industry forecasts. The first company to provide a solution in this field is SOOMLA but attribution providers are now working to add these capabilities by partnering or building in-house.

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Industry News, Research

Facebook is the app publisher to top App Annie's top 52 mobile app publishers

Last month, App Annie released it’s annual index of the top App Publishers in the mobile eco system. This is a tradition that App Annie has been going at for 3 years now. The winners not just get recognition but are also getting a very nice present. You can find the full list for 2016 in the image below as well as in the table where I also added some revenue numbers based on the companies financial reports.

App Annie used IAP revenue as the criteria for the list

There are obviously many ways to compare between companies and App Annie had to select one. Based on my analysis, App Annie is using revenues as the index in this list. This means that a publisher with 4.5B total downloads to date is not in the list while Miniclip is closing the list with a reported downloads number of 500M across all titles. That’s a fair decision, revenue is more important than downloads in the eyes of most people.

The other choice that App Annie made is a bit odd in my opinion. App Annie is ignoring ad revenue and is only measuring IAP revenue for the Index. It seems that Supercell and MZ are high on the list without any advertising revenues while companies who relay only on ad monetization are not on the list at all. Sure, the industry has been focused on In-App Purchases as the main monetization model but even App Annie reports that this is all changing.

App publishers who monetize with ads like Facebook were ignored

The one app publisher that is clearly missing from the first spot is Facebook. They are obviously the #1 app publisher in the world. In 2016, the company made $22.5B from mobile advertising revenues out of their total $27.6B. One might say that Facebook is a tech giant that shouldn’t be on the list but if you look at the company who currently holds the first spot on the list – it is Tencent. Tencent has almost twice as many employees and a similar size user base on it’s messaging and social networking apps as Facebook.

Here are a few companies that should have made the list based on publicly available information:

Company Headquarters IAP Revenue Ad Revenue Total Mobile Revenues
Facebook United States - $23B $23B
Twitter United States - $1.8B $1.8B
Cheetah Mobile China $61M $500M $561M
Snapchat United States - $348M $348M

Another company that would probably make the list but we couldn’t find public revenue number is Outfit7. The company was recently acquired for $1B which suggests an annuarl revenue of at least $250M based in industry benchmarks such as the acquisition of King.com with a multiplier of 3.3x ($2B reported in 2015 and valuation of $6.6B).

Google would also easily make this list with mobile apps such as YouTube, Chrome and the Search app. However, they are the operators of the Google Play App Marketplace and are also in the business of selling Android based phones such as the Nexus and the Pixel so they should be excluded from this race.

The top 52 publishers according to App Annie

Below you can find the table of App Annie’s top 52. I added the revenue stats for some of the public companies so you can see what are the thresholds for different spots in the list.

# Publisher Headquarters IAP Revenue Ad Revenue Total Mobile Revenues
1 Tencent China $15.7B $3.9B $21.9B
2 Supercell Finland $2.3B - $2.3B
3 NetEase China $4B $0.3B $4.3B
4 MZ United States
5 Activision Blizzard United States $1.6B - $1.6B
6 Mixi Japan
7 Line Japan $840M $360M $1.2B
8 Bandai Namco Japan
9 Netmarble South Korea
10 Niantic United States
11 GungHoOnline Entertainment Japan
12 Square Enix Japan
13 Electronic Arts United States
14 Sony Japan
15 Elex Technology China
16 COLOPL Japan
17 GAMEVIL Sourt Korea
18 Ceasers Entertainment United States
19 CyberAgent Japan
20 DeNA Japan
21 Zynga United States $443M $157M $600M
22 KONAMI Japan
23 Chrchill Downs United States
24 InterActiveCorp (IAC) United States
25 Spotify Sweden
26 SEGA SAMMY Japan
27 IGG China
28 Perfect World China
29 Kabam United States
30 NEXON Japan
31 Time Warner United States
32 Playrix Russia
33 Happy Elements China
34 Snail Games China
35 Netflix United States
36 Glu United States $160M $40M $200M
37 Baidu China
38 Scientific Games United States
39 GREE Japan
40 International Game Technology United States
41 Scopely United States
42 gumi inc Japan
43 Marvelous Japan
44 Microsoft United States
45 Klab Japan
46 Aristocrat Australia
47 G-bits China
48 Vivendi France
49 Kunlun China
50 Long Tech Network China
51 Ateam Japan $207M - $207M
52 Miniclip Switzerland

This table is also available as a google spreadsheet here

Here is AppAnnie’s original list in an infographic format.

App Annie Top 52 Publishers of 2016: Tencent, China Supercell, Finland NetEase, China MZ, United States Activision Blizzard, United States Mixi, Japan Line, Japan Bandai Namco, Japan Netmarble, South Korea Niantic, United States, GungHoOnline Entertainment, Japan Square Enix, Japan Electronic Arts, United States Sony, Japan Elex Technology, China COLOPL, Japan GAMEVIL, Sourt Korea Ceasers Entertainment, United States CyberAgent, Japan DeNA, Japan Zynga, United States KONAMI, Japan Chrchill Downs, United States InterActiveCorp (IAC), United States Spotify, Sweden SEGA SAMMY, Japan IGG, China Perfect World, China Kabam, United States NEXON, Japan Time Warner, United States Playrix, Russia Happy Elements, China Snail Games, China Netflix, United States Glu, United States Baidu, China Scientific Games, United States GREE, Japan International Game Technology, United States Scopely, United States gumi inc, Japan Marvelous, Japan Microsoft, United States Klab, Japan Aristocrat, Australia G-bits, China Vivendi, France Kunlun, China Long Tech Network, China Ateam, Japan Miniclip, Switzerland
As well as in a text format:

  1. Tencent, China
  2. Supercell, Finland
  3. NetEase, China
  4. MZ, United States
  5. Activision Blizzard, United States
  6. Mixi, Japan
  7. Line, Japan
  8. Bandai Namco, Japan
  9. Netmarble, South Korea
  10. Niantic, United States,
  11. GungHoOnline Entertainment, Japan
  12. Square Enix, Japan
  13. Electronic Arts, United States
  14. Sony, Japan
  15. Elex Technology, China
  16. COLOPL, Japan
  17. GAMEVIL, Sourt Korea
  18. Ceasers Entertainment, United States
  19. CyberAgent, Japan
  20. DeNA, Japan
  21. Zynga, United States
  22. KONAMI, Japan
  23. Chrchill Downs, United States
  24. InterActiveCorp (IAC), United States
  25. Spotify, Sweden
  26. SEGA SAMMY, Japan
  27. IGG, China
  28. Perfect World, China
  29. Kabam, United States
  30. NEXON, Japan
  31. Time Warner, United States
  32. Playrix, Russia
  33. Happy Elements, China
  34. Snail Games, China
  35. Netflix, United States
  36. Glu, United States
  37. Baidu, China
  38. Scientific Games, United States
  39. GREE, Japan
  40. International Game Technology, United States
  41. Scopely, United States
  42. gumi inc, Japan
  43. Marvelous, Japan
  44. Microsoft, United States
  45. Klab, Japan
  46. Aristocrat, Australia
  47. G-bits, China
  48. Vivendi, France
  49. Kunlun, China
  50. Long Tech Network, China
  51. Ateam, Japan
  52. Miniclip, Switzerland
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Marketing, Research

Singular ROI Index symbol with a banner saying best ad networks over a blue background

About a week ago Singular released a very interesting study ranking different traffic sources or user acquisition channels according to how much return on ad spend they bring for companies using them. Return on ad spend (ROAS) or marketing ROI has been a critical KPI for marketers in the mobile ecosystems. It allows decision makers to compare marketing activities not only by the amount of received installs but also by how much dollars were received from users who arrived through the channel and compare cost vs. return on each channel sperately.

The Singular ROI index

The study can be downloaded via this link – Singular ROI Index. It ranks the top 20 ad-networks in terms of ROAS for Android and the top 20 for iOS. It also draws some interesting insights about the differences between these two ecosystems. It finds that despite higher CPIs on iOS the ROI is 1.3x when compared to the ROI for the same app on Android running via the same ad-network. This is partially due to higher average payout on iOS.

What about Ad Revenue

The report is lacking in one aspect – it only accounts for In App Purchase revenues for ROAS calculation. A more complete view on ROAS today would consider 3 elements for each channel:

  • Cost for that media channel
  • IAP revenue made by users who came through the channel
  • Ad revenue generated by users who came through that channel

Factoring in the ad-revenue generated from in-app ads in the ROAS calculation is becoming more and more important as the change in the mobile monetization landscape continues. This means that ad-networks who bring users who don’t convert to payers but do convert into ad-whales are under indexed in Singular’s report and networks who brings users who convert to payers but don’t contribute any ad-revenue are over indexed in the report.

Your own ROAS should also consider ad revenue

If you are using Singular for calculating your own ROAS, your decisions may be subject to the same measurement errors. Fortunately, there are already solutions for attributing ad revenue and completing your ROAS picture such as SOOMLA TRACEBACK consider using them and connecting them to Singular.

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Research

Top grossing games have been complementing their game monetization with ad revenue

The past few weeks we have been working hard to conduct an important game monetization research and are proud to show the results today.

The typical profile of a top 100 grossing game

There are number of platforms that allow you to find out the top 100 grossing games. We used mostly AppAnnie for that. The top gorssing games are typically ones that select IAP as their game monetization model. The games often come from proven genres like Casino, Match-3 and Hard-core Strategy. Many of the use external IP from movies, TV or console games. The companies behind most of these games have significant investment in BI, analytical infrastructure based on data warehousing and CRM that allows drilling down to the single user level. These companies typically have annual ad budgets of over $10M to acquire users for their top grossing games since they are able to see ROI on their ad spend.

For a full list of the top 100 grossing games in the US see these links – iPhone & Android.

Ad pentration is over 50% among top grossing games

In a previous post we revealed that Zynga makes 30% of it’s game monetization from ads. The gaming giant is not alone and many other companies are following the trend. While top grossing games by definition excel in IAP based monetization, the ad penetration in this group is higher than you might expect. 52% of the Android games had Ads in them and 59% of the iPhone games. The higher penetration in iPhone games might also surprise some readers as Android is associated more with ad-based game monetization compared to Apple which is considered more premium.

Game monetization choices of the top 100 grossing games in both iPhone and Android. Over 50 percent has ads.

Penetration is lower in the top 10 and grows from spot 11 and after

The second thing we wanted to check was the impact of the store ranking on the likelihood of the game to have ads in it. We had a feeling that the furthest the game will be from the 1st spot the bigger the ad penetration will be. This assumption was proven true in a high level but the trend was more of a step function than a linear trend. The games in ranks 1-10 only had 5% ad penetration while games from rank 11 to 100 were at around 60%.

Ad penetration is stronger in ranks 11-100 in the top 100 grossing games

Simulation genre is leading the ad revolution

Obviously, not all genres are created equal when it comes to game monetization of the top 100 grossing titles. Before we analyzed this aspect, we considered a slightly different definition of genres that is more specific to the top 100 grossing games:

  • HC/MC Strategy – these are strategy games where you build a kingdom or an empire and compete for world domination
  • Simulation – includes simulations of many kinds: city, farm, dragon, cooking and celebrity life
  • Racing – high end raching games
  • Sports – high end sports games such as Madden NFL
  • Fantasy cards – games where the player collects cards and compete PvP against others
  • Real World Card/Dice/Board – these games are based on real world games – Poker, Solitaire, …
  • Action RPG – role playing games where players build charachters and battle against each other
  • Match-3 and Bubble – Games with this specific gameplay of matching 3rds or shooting bubles
  • Casino – games like Slotomania, Heart of Vegas and others

As you would expect the Hard-core and Mid-core strategy games which include titles like Game of War, Mobile Strike, Clash of Clans and Vikings by companies like MZ, Supercell and Plarium are the least likely to adopt ads. The Casino games and Match-3 & Bubble had around average adoption. The genres the lead the adoptions are two:

  • Simulation games
  • Real World Card/Dice/Board

Simulation games and card/dice games are leading the revolution with close to 80% ad penetration in the top 100 grossing games

Ad penetration is increasing over the last 12 months

When we set out to determine if the trend in game monetization is towards ads or away from ads we had a feeling that more and more companies are warming to the idea of in-game ads. The results confirmed our assumptions. While the adoption is growing on both App stores the trend on the top-100 grossing iPhone games is very strong towards adding ads.

The trend is up and to the right as more and more successful titles discover ad based game monetization

 

If your company also have top games with in-game advertising it’s important to know the Advertising revenue per user. Check out SOOMLA Traceback – Ad LTV as a Service.

Learn More

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Research, Resource

global gaming investor map shows investments in gaming companies by investors all around the world

While I was working on raising a round for SOOMLA I came across a post on local media that showed a map of all the Israeli angel investors. This map was based on a croudsourced spreadsheet that was first initiated by Eden Schochat at Aleph.vc. I thought that it would be really nice if someone made a resource like that for gaming investors.

Why did I create the Global Gaming Investor Map

Gaming investment is a polarizing topic – some investors love gaming and some hate it. There are very few investors that are in between. From this reason, just knowing what investors invest in gaming is super valuable. Beyond that, investors rely on their network for intros so knowing the investments of each investor allows gettting an intro through a portfolio company which is considered a strong intro. The map also shows what investors often invest together and pinpoint hubs of connections that could be key people to know.

the gaming investor map itself contains so much information that it can't be presented as an image and requires a special tool to be useful

A few notes about the map

The map above contains a lot of investors, venture firms, partners, companies and executives but it’s not complete. Surely I missed a many data points. I also know it has duplicates so it’s not perfect. The colors have the following meaning:

  • Green – VC that invests in gaming
  • Blue – Games company
  • Grey – Everything else which is mostly Executives, Partners, Angels and non-gaming companies.

To view the map you need to use mindmup.com or the mobile app.

Note that the map is given with full edit permissions – please don’t use it in ways that will make me regret it. Respect others and help build this resource futher.

 

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App Monetization, Research, Resource

the top 6 mobile ad mediation platforms compared and reviewed in great detail. The image includes the logos of Ironsource, Mopub, Fyber, Appodeal, Heyzap and Admob
Following the success of our recent posts comparing ad-networks, offer wall providers and push notification platforms I’m happy to provide you this research about the leading mediation platforms. We reviewed many candidates and only included platforms with demonstrated market traction and selected to include only platforms that have at least one thing that is unique and great about them.

I highly recommend reading this list alongside our post about the difference between ad-mediation, SSP and ad-server.

We reviewed each of the different providers from a few aspects:

  • Do they mediate on the client side, server side or both
  • Platform and Game Engine support
  • Ad format specialization – video, banner or interstitials
  • Monetization technique – do they charge a fee or place their own ads in return for a free service
  • Reporting user interface – can you understand what needs to be done for optimization
  • Ad network support – how many ad networks from the top 20 they support and are there any big providers missing
  • Special features worth mentioning

We ended up with two lists: one for video mediation and one for banner and interstitial mediation. Here are the top 3 in each category.

Video Oriented Banner Oriented
Fyber Admob
Heyzap Appodeal
Ironsource ( formerly Supersonic) Mopub
 

FREE REPORT – VIDEO ADS RETENTION IMPACT

 

the logo of fyber, an ad mediation platform for mobile apps with a focus on mobile games and rewarded video

Fyber

Fyber took a strategic decision to put gaming publishers at the focus of the company. Their mediation platform definitely deserves a premium spot in the top 6 list. They focus mostly on SDK level mediation and support every meaningful video ad provider with the exception of Supersonic / Ironsource. Their list for banners and interstitials on the SDK side is a bit shorter but they can source these ads by making the inventory available through their SSP platform. Fyber’s hodling company RNTS recently bought Heyzap and Inneractive but so far they seem to be keeping the brands and the platforms separate.

Fyber’s monetization technique is to make the inventory available to their ad-network. This is the most popular method today but it creates a conflict of interest for the mediation providers who can’t maintain neutrality

Fyber’s reporting interface is easy to use and include important KPIs and metrics. It includes information about active users that is important for publishers to track impression frequency but it fails to track the opt-in ratio and doesn’t provide a good way to track the waterfall optimization. The ability to view performance by segment is also lacking.

Their Unique Advantage: Best coverage for video networks and best coverage for top 20 ad-networks

Platform support: iOS, Android, Unity, Adobe

Ad networks supported out of top 20: 13

Total ad networks supported: 16

the logo image of mediation provider heyzap, the company was recently bought by RNTS who are also the owner of fyber

Heyzap (Acquired by RNTS/Fyber)

Until recently Heyzap was an independant provider with no ad-network affiliation but since the begining of the year they are in the same family as Fyber and Inneractive and they are all held by RNTS. Their video network coverage is excelent and is done mostly on the client side through SDK adapters. They also have a nice support of interstitial and banner providers.

Fyber monetization technique is to place ads from their own ad-network which is mostly coming from placing the inventory for RTB. They also added demand from Fyber as a default setting in waterfall.

Heyzap’s reporting dashboard is very graphic and includes good visualization of the waterfall configuration alongside the historic eCPM and fill rates. It’s a bit lacking on the metrics and doesn’t include any data on unique users so it’s impossible to analyze ad frequency, opt-in and segments.

Their Unique Advantage: Waterfall visualization and interface simplicity

Platform support: iOS, Android, Unity, Adobe, Cordova, Buildbox

Ad networks supported out of top 20: 9

Total ad networks supported: 12

Ironsource (formerly Supersonic)ironsource mediation platform came to the company via the acquisition of supersonic. The platform is focus on rewarded video and doing well especially in the gaming sector

Supersonic mediation started as a rewarded video platform but since the acquisition by Ironsource the company have added interstitial and banner support. However, their focus still remains on mediating video through SDK adapters and the only provider not supported on that front is Fyber (and vice versa).

Like Fyber, the mediation technique here is also by placing ads from both Supersonic and Ironsource own demand sources.

The reporting interface is not as shiny as others but still effective. It includes 2 important metrics not supplied in some of the other platforms:

  • The number of active users – this allows to optimize the ad frequency
  • The number of “engaged users” – these are users who engaged with the rewarded video (opted in)

Another cool feature is that the management section indicates the historic eCPM of each ad-network and makes it easy to make waterfall management decisions. The platform is still missing a good visualization that includes fill rate alongside eCPM and the priority that the algorithm gave the ad-networks. Another miss is the lack of breakdown to segments in the reporting dashboard.

Their Unique Advantage: Reporting per user and indication of historic eCPM in auto-pilot mode

Platform support: iOS, Android, Unity, Adobe

Ad networks supported out of top 20: 12

Total ad networks supported: 13

admob by google is a popular ad mediation platform with great network coverage

Admob by Google

Like the ad-network, Admob’s mediation is better for banners and interstitials and not as good for rewarded video. Their coverage on the video side is lacking Mediabrix and Tapjoy but for banners and interstitials they have the best coverage for both SDK based integrations as well as S2S.

Their monetization method is to place their on ads in the bidding mix. These ads are coming from advertisers on Admob and from Adsense as well so their backfill sometimes includes text ads that might look very random in the context of your app.

Their reporting interface is not good. Google’s line of visually boring reports is a topic on it’s own but on top of that there are some serious challenges in getting the information you will need to see in order to understand what actions to take. The only hope is that Firebase is going to fix all that but we will have to wait and see.

Their Unique Advantage: The widest ad-network coverage

Platform support: iOS, Android, WP7

Ad networks supported out of top 20: 12

Total ad networks supported: 43

AppodealAppodeal are an up and coming mediation player with nice features and great features for small developers

Appodeal is a fast growing startup who already made a name for itself in the mediation space. The company doesn’t have an attached ad-network so can maintain unbiased position and focus on helping the publishers. It support all ad-formats and covers all the important players for banners, interstitials and native ads. On the video side they are missing Fyber, Mediabrix and Supersonic Ads.

One of the unique features about Appodeal is the ability to create custom segments and apply a different logic in this segment. For example, you can decide that females will see less ads or that people with older devices will not get video ads. Another important feature that is not available in all other platforms is the ability to define house ads for cross promotion or direct campaigns. There are also some great features for small developers like auto-registration and advanced payment.

The way Appodeal makes money is by brokering your backfill inventory. This means that when there is no fill from the ad-networks you selected, Appodeal will allow place the inventory on an exchange and allow other networks to bid on it. From this revenue, Appodeal will take their commission.

The reporting interface of Appodeal is simple and effective but it’s lacking on a few aspects. The ability to see the number of clicks is an important feature that other platforms don’t have. However, there is no visibility to the actual waterfall configuration that was set up in a specific day. The ability to track impressions per user and to monitor opt-in ratios for rewarded ads is also missing.

Their Unique AdvantageSegmentation feature and other advanced capabilities

Platform support: iOS, Android, Unity, Adobe, Cocos2d-x, Cordova, Marmalade, tvOS

Ad networks supported out of top 20: 11 through SDK and 2 more through S2S

Total ad networks supported: 25

Mopubmopub mediation and SSP platform provides a combination of ad network optimization alongside access to RTB markets

Mopub are combining an SSP with mediation in the same SDK. The company was acquired by Twitter in 2013 so adding your SDK allows you to receive ads from Twitter advertisers like Facebook Audience Networks gives you exposure to FB advertisers. The platform focus is on banners and interstitials more than on rewarded video. On the video networks they are missing: Applovin, Fyber, Mediabrix and Supersonic and on the banner and interstitial side they are missing Flurry.

Mopub monetization method is to bundle their SSP along side the ad mediation so they get access to the inventory and can get their cut through the ads they are placing.

The dashboard offered for managing the ad-networks is good overall and makes all the main functions easily accessible. The reporting is pretty good but lacking a few features to understand what’s happening on a user level.

Their Unique Advantage: Best access to RTB ads

Platform support: iOS, Android

Ad networks supported out of top 20: 10 through SDK and 1 more through S2S

Total ad networks supported: 11 through SDK and 9 more through S2S

These are the top 6 but there are plenty of other platforms out there so feel free to explore and try others. One platform that was pretty close to getting included is Ampiri by Glyspa we recommend checking it out as well.

We also wrote up a full post on the comparison between ad networks here or download the full comparison spreadsheet below for free.

FREE AD NETWORK COMPARISON SPREADSHEET

 

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Analytics, Research

header image of 7 analytics platforms with ltv reporting

If you want to know your LTV and is using a free analytics platform you might find our online LTV calculators interesting. You can also see our guides for Calculating LTV with Flurry and with Google Analytics.

However, another approach is to upgrade to a paid analytics platforms that offers LTV reporting out of the box. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find this feature in any of the free analytics platforms so I guess the only way is to pay the premium. Below you can find 7 tools that offer this option and the following details about each one:

  • Depth of LTV reporting they offer:
    • Historic LTV – this is a report that summarizes the amount of revenue per install. If you wait 180 days
    • LTV prediction report – this is an algorithmic calculation that predicts the LTV early on in the user lifetime based on a formula such as this one
    • Guide for LTV prediction – Some providers offer a resource for using their reports to calculate LTV
  • Platform and engine support – Mobile operating system as well as app building tools and game engines
  • Popularity – based on number of apps that use the platform
  • Price for 1M MAU based on the pricing presented on the provider
Vendor LTV Reporting Platforms and Engines Popularity Price (1M MAU)
Swrve analytics offers ltv reporting out of the box in addition to many other features Historic LTV,  Guides for Prediction iOS, Android, Windows, Unity, PhoneGap Mid  Undisclosed
Historic LTV iOS, Android, Unity High $1,800
DeltaDNA do offer LTV prediction report Historic LTV,  LTV Prediction Report iOS, Android, Unity, GameMaker Low  $15,000
DevtoDev is a new player in the game but they are offering LTV prediction as one of their flagship features Historic LTV,  LTV Forecast Report iOS, Android, Windows, Unity, UE4, Adobe, PhoneGap Low  $2,500
Localytics is a popular platform that offers lifetime value reporting Historic LTV iOS, Android, Windows, Unity, PhoneGap High  Undisclosed
Kissmetrics provides ltv prediction based on the churn ratio Historic LTV,  LTV Prediction Report iOS, Android Mid  $5,000
Omniata offers 60 day and 90 day ltv prediction Historic and Predictive LTV iOS, Android, Unity Low  Undisclosed

Honorable mention goes to Upsight. The company is offering a very flexible solution and are trusted by some of the industry leaders. Before they merged and rebranded their Kontagent platform did have LTV prediction and while the current platform don’t support this feature I’m sure it will be added back in the future.

If you want to also analyze and predict the LTV for your advertising revenue – now there is a solution. Check out SOOMLA Traceback – Ad LTV as a Service.

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Industry Forecasts, Research

Zynga_s_Financial_ReportsOne of the things I learned a while ago but was recently reminded of by one of our advisors is that you can learn a lot from the financial reports of public companies. Lectures in industry events, blog posts and news articles are great sources of data but you never know the exact context and how accurate the data is. Financial reports are much more reliable.

Zynga’s ad revenue is growing

The motivation to check Zynga’s ad revenues came because in the past 3 months I’m suspecting that there is a growing trend in mobile games to rely more heavily on advertising revenues. Most of the data points I had, however, were based on unreliable sources so I wanted to check with a source I can trust as well – financial reports.

So here are the results. Zynga ad revenue grew from $74M in 2011 to $173M in 2015. 2.3x in 4 years while their in-game revenues went down 40%.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 5.51.47 PM

Moreover, the ratio of the ad revenue from the overall revenue is also growing dramatically from 7% to 23% in just 4 years. In their last reports Zynga released information that their Q4 and Q1 ad revenues accounted for 30% and 26% of their total revenues. Their Q1/16 ad revenue grew 41% compared to the Q1 revenues in 2015.

Screen Shot 2016-04-20 at 5.54.29 PM

What’s driving the trend towards advertising based monetization

There are many drivers for this trend. Here are a few that I’ve spotted:

  • Brand budgets are starting to go mobile.
  • Video ads bring high eCPMs from brand campaigns as well as app trailers.
  • App publishers are learning to integrate more ads in non-intrusive ways and are feeling more comfortable with increased ad exposure

The first driver is the most important one that will lead future growth in the next years. There are forecasts by eMarketer showing that mobile advertising will grow 3x in the next 4 years.

 

If your company also makes significant ad revenues it’s important to know the Advertising revenue per user. Check out SOOMLA Traceback – Ad LTV as a Service.

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Research, Resource

(1200x600) Push Notification Platforms

If someone asked you to single out the one, most important communication element of today’s smartphone, what would it be? Making a phone call probably isn’t, as more and more people use smartphones for a lot of stuff, but phoning isn’t one of them.

So, what else? According to various experts, Gigwalk CEO Ariel Seidman being one of them, it’s push notifications that take the crown. He calls it ‘tapping people on the shoulder’, and that’s a big deal because it’s virtually impossible to tap such a vast amount of people on the shoulder, basically at the same time.

Such an important feature which can be integrated into any mobile app or game deserves tons of attention, and in this article I will list some of the most popular and best mobile push notification platforms out there.

But before I proceed with the list, let’s first take a look at what push notifications actually are and how they’re being used today.

 

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What is a push notification?

There are two types of notifications on today’s smartphones, called push notifications and pull notifications. A pull notification is created when the user asks the server for particular information. To put it in simple terms, a user must be using a particular app, and ask for particular info, in order to get it from the app. For example, if you use an app to monitor football results and open it to refresh it to get the latest info – you’ll receive a pull notification because, as the name suggests, you pulled the info. Another example would be a weather forecasting app – if you open it and tap refresh to get the latest data on the temperature and the forecast, you’ll be getting a pull notification.

Example of a push notification. Credit: Eric Ritchey / Flickr

Example of a push notification. Credit: Eric Ritchey / Flickr

Push notifications work differently – users don’t necessarily need to use the app or game in that particular moment for it to send a notification to the user. Every time you receive a Facebook or Twitter message, or a breaking news story that appears on your locked smartphone screen, you’re actually looking at a push notification.

Users usually need to opt-in to receive such notifications, and options to control them are usually presented to the user just after an app is installed. Of course, every app allows for this feature to be turned off or back on at any particular time.

Problems with push notifications

This function, however, should not be as straightforward as it is today.

Siedman sees two distinct ways developers should communicate with the user – either through push notifications, or via email. He compares those two to tapping people on the shoulder or sending them actual mail. Out of that he draws one simple conclusion: what type of content deserves to be delivered by tapping people on the shoulder, and what should be sent via mail, to be consumed when there’s more time?

Privacy and intimacy vs annoyance and distraction is what is at play here, and a lot of developers don’t seem to notice the difference, pushing notifications for things that can wait, ultimately leads people to turning off the feature completely.

And just like that, you’ve lost an amazing way to communicate with your users, to send them notifications about any special offers and innovations you might have been offering at the moment.

The problem here lies in the way push notifications are handled – they can either be turned on or off, often there’s no middle ground. This is a shame because, as Siedman sees it, you don’t simply allow or prevent everyone in real life to tap you on the shoulder. Some people can do it, others can’t. Usually there are no push notifications for specific topics within a game or app, and that is something developers should have in mind before deciding to implement push notifications.

Now that we know what push notifications are, how they work and what the biggest obstacles to their proper functioning are, let’s take a look at some of the best platforms for the service you can find.

urban airship#1 Urban Airship

One of the oldest and most popular push notification platforms is Urban Airship. Founded in 2009, it is usually the first place where app developers in need of mobile app optimization go. It has tens of thousands of apps using it, and offers various types of pushes, including pushing to a particular platform (iOS or Android) or specifically tagged devices (tagged beforehand).

Its biggest setback seems to be pricing – many users claim they’re significantly more expensive than the competition. The first million pushes each month are free, after that – every push costs $0.001 and every rich media push costs $0.0025.

pushwoosh#2 PushWoosh

Push Woosh is a close second, and a real contender to the number one spot. Its most popular features include the localization option, which allows devs to send push notifications in different languages with one click, based on the language settings each receiver has on its phone, as well as the rich free plan. The free account offers support for five apps and a million devices, that can get an unlimited amount of notifications. According to Folio3, PushWoosh has the cheapest premium plan of the bunch, starting at €39.95 per month ($49).

onesignal#3 OneSignal

OneSignal is a relatively young platform, which first appeared in the wild back in March 2013. Besides being able to send push notifications to mobile devices, it can also notify users on PCs through its Web Push API. It supports all the biggest / most important platforms out there, including iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8, Windows 8.1 (no word on Windows 10 just yet), Chrome Native and Web Push (Chrome, Safari, Firefox). It even supported the now discontinued Amazon Fire. Its biggest advantage is that it offers a free tier that can be used by anyone, from the tiniest to the largest firms. It features per-user localization, segmentation, A/B testing and real-time analytics, just to name a few features. Some people have said they had a few issues setting the platform up, but have praised the support team and said that once set up, works like a charm. OneSignal works well with SOOMLA – game developers can discover potential payers with the GROW Insights API, and segment those users in OneSignal to target them later. You can find more details in this code sample.

carnival#4 Carnival.io

Founded in 2008 and headquartered in New York, Carnival is considered to be one of the most balanced mobile marketing platforms – one which dances perfectly between the needs of developers making the apps, and marketers, actually using both the app and the service. It doesn’t have a price list on its website, so you’ll need to drop them a line if you’re interested, but it seems as they don’t offer a free plan. On the other hand, some developers that have tried the platform say their basic plan starts at $250/month, which breaks down to some $0.007 – $0.01 per monthly active users, which is a pretty solid deal. Its key selling point seems to be good integration with big analytics providers which allows you to submit your events into platforms like Localytics or Mixpanel.

streethawk#5 StreetHawk

StreetHawk is having a hard time floating on top of search engine results as the American TV series of the same name keeps popping up. It’s selling itself as a complete mobile engagement platform which can help you increase the lifetime value of your users. It offers some nifty and rich actions without programming requirements, including rich media push notifications, advanced analytics, geofences and iBeacons. It offers three pricing plans, ‘Start’, ‘Engage’ and ‘Predict’, where Start is free for up to 10,000 users. The platform also offers free trial for the other two plans, but if you want exact prices, you’ll have to send them a nudge. Here’s where its downside also seems to be hiding, as some developers have called StreetHawk’s pricing plans “one of the more complicated plan structures out there”.

pushIO#6 Push.io

With a key selling point in the AutoPush service, Push.io aims to be the number one solution for businesses looking to automate a few features. Through AutoPush, users can automate both building and serving push notifications. Push.io is a B2B company founded in 2009, and acquired by Responsys in 2014. Soon after, Responsys was itself acquired by Oracle, which is why when you navigate to Push.io, you’re forwarded to Oracle’s Mobile Marketing sub-page. Its biggest disadvantage seems to be this website, which is a complete mess, and can discourage people from pursuing the service at all. It does not offer a free plan and seems to be on the expensive side, with a 30-day trial for $99. The same price goes for 25,000 push notifications.

airpush#7 Airpush

Airpush is more than ‘just’ a push notifications platform – it’s a full-blown mobile ad monetization network which also happens to offer push notifications, as well. The company boasts having more than 150,000 apps using it, and being ranked #2 on the Forbes list of Most Promising Companies in 2014. Besides offering the standard in-app monetization methods (banners, video ads, etc.) it offers push notifications and can trigger sign-ups anytime in app sessions. Many review sites out there claim Airpush is Android only, but the company says it works on iOS and mobile web, as well. It focuses its business around using push notifications for advertising, which is something you should keep in mind, together with the introduction to this article.

approxee#8 Appoxee

Appoxee is an Israeli start-up, founded in 2010 and acquired by analytics firm Teradata in 2015. For its push notifications service, it offers rich-text, preview support, audience segmentation, as well as rules and triggers support. It also offers in-app messaging, allowing you to send rich html messages to your customers from within a particular app. Considering all that tap-on-the-shoulder-vs-mail thing, this is a solid feature. These messages can contain images, coupons, special offers or videos. Another interesting feature is called “Best time to send”, which analyzes each user’s app behavior and learns when’s the best time to send a notification or a message. The only downside is that it doesn’t have a pricelist on its website, so you’ll need to drop them a line if you want to learn more. Folio3 claims a free account provides support for unlimited apps and up to 250,000 users, while the lowest premium plan costs $500/month.  

#9 Catapush

Even though it’s somewhat smaller than its competition, and a bit “rough around the edges”, Catapush offers an interesting and rarely seen feature which has earned it its place in this list. Besides the classic push notifications, Catapush offers SMS failover – when the user’s lost data connectivity, or in more extreme cases, deleted the app – users can send the push notification through SMS instead. Although this feature screams “How invasive can you get?!”, it’s an interesting one and deserves to be mentioned. Its analytics are integrated through an API, and are mostly centered around note delivery. A demo version is available online, and a free beta can be requested. As for pricing, it’s free for up to 100 recipients, while all above that needs paying. Being an Italian-based company, pricing is in Euro: €29/month for up to 2,500 recipients, all the way to €249/month for up to 25,000 recipients. Everything above that is custom tailored.  

batch#10 Batch

Batch can thank Parse for making its way onto this list as soon as it did. Truth be told, it would have probably squeezed its way in at some point, but with Parse out of the way, it’s that much easier. Batch is a very young company, with a lot of promise. If was founded in January 2014 and is headquartered in Paris, France. What sets Batch apart from other similar platforms is the feature which allows the user to index non-specific notifications and monitor what the competition is doing. As Batch co-founder explained here, it allows you to search through public notifications for keywords, effectively allowing you to track your competition and gain valuable market insights. It offers four different pricing packs, as well as a free trial for each one. Batch can be a good choice for both low-budget start-ups and big companies, as its basic pack is free of charge.

Runner Up: Parse Pushparse

Parse Push was originally the number three on the list, but as the company announced it’s shutting down, we decided to move it to the bottom. Parse Push used to be everyone’s sweetheart – one of the most loved and most stood for platforms out there. Two things are important when talking about Parse: first – it’s not a push platform per se – it’s a mobile BaaS (backend as a service), meaning it provides much more than just push services. Second, it was acquired by Facebook in 2013 for $85 million. It covers web, mobile and IoT (Internet of Things), and comes with a free one-month trial. Besides, it’s free for a million unique recipients a month, and offers scheduling, segmentation and A/B testing for free, as well. For every additional 1000 recipients, you’ll have to pay $0.05.

I used a couple of parameters when creating the list, including online reviews, publically shared personal experience from various developers, number of apps that use the service, features, company size and pricing.

In my humble opinion, this list includes the best of the bunch, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll be the perfect pick for your mobile game or app. There are countless others, including Google Cloud Messaging, Jeapie, MixPanel, MobDB, Amazon SNS, Quick Blox, PushWizard, Kahuna, AppBoy, Iterable, Pushbots, AppBooster, Notifica, and the list goes on and on. 

You can find the full post on the comparison between ad networks here or download the full spreadsheet below.

FREE AD NETWORK COMPARISON SPREADSHEET

 

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