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Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Doubles Revenue and Boosts CPMs Over 400%


  • JSOnline partners with an SSP, but receives very low CPMs, creating extra work and delivering modest revenue.
  • JSOnline tested the OpenX Ad Exchange in a 30-day trial, sending the exact inventory it previously sent to its SSP.
  • CPMs leaped from $0.75 to $1.30. Leaderboard CPMs soared to $1.29 – a 400% increase.

A city newspaper with a regional voice

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel is a city paper with a large voice. As the official newspaper of the Green Bay Packers, its readership goes beyond Milwaukee city limits, serving readers throughout Wisconsin and the U.S.

The web version of its site – JSOnline – also enjoys wide readership. Each month, 567,400 unique readers visit the site, generating over 24 million page views within the Milwaukee DMA alone. Nationwide, JSOnline receives over 1.5 million monthly visitors.

Supply-Side Platform (SSP) delivers disappointing CPMs

JSOnline was disappointed with the yields they were seeing on inventory sold through SSPs and exchanges (“non-direct sold”). In an effort to streamline the ad ops team workload, they had partnered with an SSP. While the SSP improved efficiency, CPMs plummeted.

“Across the board, our CPMs were $0.75. On our bottom leaderboard, the CPMs were really low, in the $0.20 to $0.25 range,” explained Toni Sampson, Digital Sales Director for JSOnline.

Losing ad ops efficiency

These low CPMs led Ms. Sampson on a search to find ways to make up the revenue. As ad networks approached JSOnline with one-off deals, Ms. Sampson felt compelled to accept campaigns that offered higher CPMs than the SSP.

“Invariably, the networks start off offering big campaigns, and we’d jump through hoops moving tags around. Then, they’d test the campaign for a few days, complain the click-through rate was too low and cancel.” Ms. Sampson explained. Needless to say, the ad ops efficiency they hoped to gain with the SSP did not materialize.

JSOnline takes OpenX Market for a test drive

In mid 2012, JSOnline began a review of other monetization solutions, with an eye towards replacing its SSP. OpenX Market, a global ad exchange in which advertisers compete for inventory via real-time auctions, was one of three solutions selected for a trial.

“Initially, we said let’s just do a 30 day trial of OpenX Market, using the exact same inventory to see if it had an impact on our revenue. We wanted to know, will OpenX Market actually make a difference?” explained Ms. Sampson.

OpenX Market doubles revenue, boosting CPM’s for certain placements by over 400%

When OpenX Market was added into the mix, almost immediately JSOnline revenue from non-direct sold business doubled. Overall, CPMs jumped from $0.75 to $1.30. Bottom leaderboard CPM’s skyrocketed from $0.24 to $1.29 – an increase of over 400%!

“We doubled our revenue without any effort on our part,” Ms. Sampson said. “We just plugged OpenX Market into our process. The revenue boost came naturally.”

A welcome return to ad ops efficiency

With high CPMs holding steady on OpenX Market, assessing the numerous oneoff deals from ad networks is a lot easier.

“OpenX Market sets a higher bar for the other ad networks. If they want to test our site, they have to beat the revenue I’m getting from OpenX Market. Now I can demand a minimum CPM and a minimum revenue commitment. And if they don’t want to commit, I tell them they’re free to test our site by pushing their ads through OpenX Market,” Ms. Sampson said.

“A huge relief!”

“OpenX is a huge relief. We’re going into the busiest time of year with some of our biggest direct accounts scaling back their digital buys. But since we’ve partnered with OpenX, we’re able to get that revenue back by better monetizing our non-direct sold inventory. It took the pressure off of some losses here and there,” said Ms. Sampson.