Goodbye, OpenX (Or Why You Should Leave, Too)

Dear OpenX,

When we crossed paths in 2007, you were everything I wanted: a free, open-source ad serving platform with a strong community. Within hours of meeting, I was serving our first real ad campaign. The future spread out in glorious possibilities. I saw the potential to grow my favorite hobby, building a community and helping people, into a full-time career.

When Google Ad Manager launched in 2008, I’ll admit that I took a peek. But you shared compelling reasons to say no to Google. Control. Independence. Flexibility. I believed then – and I do now – that there is a danger to giving Google complete access to your inventory and pricing data. Sure, they had some fancy reports. But I believed in your vision.

For the next two years, little changed. You did what I needed. In hindsight, there were warnings. I would often give campaigns an artificially early end date to get them to serve all of the ads on time. Sometimes we would under-serve, and I wouldn’t know why. But more or less, everything worked. I watched you launch your hosted platform and OpenX Market. And I was happy for you that you were developing a viable business model.

Then disaster almost struck on April 12. Hackers exploited a security whole and gained access to our system. Unlike other OpenX 2.8.2 users, the hackers did nothing malicious to us. We lost a month of stats, but no malware was served. We were able to undo the damage and upgrade to the latest version, 2.8.5.

The next week was launched two major campaigns and they under-delivered horribly. We triple checked our setup, played around with settings, and then started reading the forums. We were surprised to discover that the Campaign Delivery Engine was completely busted and had been for over six months.  The support forum was packed with months of complaints and zero (zero!) developer responses.

Then the sad truth hit me: you are an ad serving platform that cannot deliver ads! So what could I do but break up with you?

On Monday, I moved to Google DFP. It was frustrating to update our ad codes, setup our campaigns, and leave our historical stats behind. But my relief has been palpable. The ads are going out on time and with the right priority. We can finally properly forecast inventory availability. And for the first time, I can set a campaign to run and not worry about whether it will fail to deliver.

It saddens me to go. But I confess that my anger is stronger. How could you abandon your product without a hint of apology? I, like so many others, believed in you and the free ecosystem that you represented. I only hope that others can see what’s happening and jump ship before it sinks.

Goodbye, OpenX.

Regretfully Yours,

Average CTR on Banner Ads

For years, I’ve been wondering whether our banner click-through rates on are low or high. I want to be able to look our advertisers in the eye and say: “Boy, do we have a great deal for you. Check out these numbers and imagine the return on your investment!”

We have many ad spots with click-through rates above 1%. These are undeniably great. But what about the skyscraper ad on the right side of our forum? It has been averaging a .15% click-through rate during the past two months. Granted, we have regular advertisers and regular customers, so there is a certain amount of ad blindness. But isn’t that a bit low?

MarketingSherpa has posted this fantastic graph showing the average click-through rate of different banner ads sizes. And it looks like our “low-potential” forum spots are actually over-performing.

Average CTR on banner ads
Next time I pitch to an advertiser, this chart will be at the top of my mind. How are your ads stacking up?