My company, Gladly, has a unique perspective on the ad industry as both an ad network helping publishers monetize their audience, and as a publisher of our own small/medium website, Tab for a Cause, that sees roughly 40MM monthly banner ad impressions. In our experience, small publishers in particular will see the most benefits from the newest monetization trend, header bidding.
In October 1994, the Internet experienced something groundbreaking: the first banner ad appeared on hotwired.com, now WIRED.com.
The ad was sponsored by AT&T and aimed to promote seven art museums. According to its creator, Joe McCambley, the ad experienced a 44-percent CTR—proving nearly 260x more effective than today’s average of 0.17 percent.
Instead of bombarding users with messaging, early banner ads were a part of a brand’s overarching advertising campaign, playing a role in fully immersing consumers in an ad experience. But as more people joined the Internet, albeit at a painstakingly slow speed, a massive industry was born. Seemingly overnight, scores of ad tech firms popped up, offering advertisers new ways to put their brands in front of consumers.
With the end of summer (or winter, depending on which side of the equator you live on) comes the beginning of a new school term. To get you all pumped up, we’re thrilled to announce our second annual Back-to-School Charity Challenge!
Last year, we raised enough money to build a book-filled library in Vietnam through Room to Read, and we’re stoked to partner with them again to bring a much-needed library to a community in India!
While in college five years ago, Kevin and I set to create giving to charity accessible to anyone, regardless of their financial situation. After months of brainstorming and learning how to code, Tab for a Cause was born. In those five years, we’ve seen the Gladly community grow from 0 to nearly 200,000.
We’re thrilled to announce that Gladly has now raised over a quarter of a million dollars for charity through Tab for a Cause and Goodblock! It is truly amazing to see the collective impact of the tiny everyday actions Gladly users dedicate toward charity. We started Gladly with the goal of making giving accessible to anyone, and this $250K-raised milestone shows that our goal is shared by a growing and dedicated community.
We launched Tab for a Cause in 2011 as a way to turn everyday Internet browsing into a charitable act through online ads. As word spread about how easy and enjoyable it is to be a Tabber, we have consistently grown both our number of supporters and the amount of money we can donate to our amazing partner charities (we are only weeks away from surpassing $250K!). In recent years, that growth has meant we could support larger scale and unique projects such as building a library in Vietnam.
When we began, we were two students who worked on Tab for a Cause on Saturday afternoons. We gave 100% of revenue to charity, because we were personally able to cover the staggering $8/month in server costs As the number of Tabbers grew, a few things changed: our server costs rose beyond what we could personally contribute, Tabbers began asking for more features and bug fixes than we could get done in our spare time, and we realized Tab for a Cause could be even more impactful than we had imagined.
In Q4 2012, we began reinvesting 50% of our revenue into growing Tab for a Cause. We used this money to cover server costs, pay for design help, and eventually to pay for Kevin and me to work full time on the project. It was a difficult decision, because we were afraid of “wasting” money that could go to charity, and we were proud that Tab for a Cause had given every dollar to charity when it first launched. However, in order to make Tab for a Cause impactful, we knew we needed a product, team, and infrastructure that was good enough to appeal to a large audience.
Looking back, we know we made the right decision. We’ve grown the money we give to charity by over 20x since 2012, built strong partnerships with the charities we support, and recruited over 50,000 Tabbers.
To continue to have a meaningful positive impact, we must continue to invest in innovation and growth.
Tab for a Cause is fighting against considerable outside forces
In a wonderful world, Tab for a Cause would simply continue to effortlessly grow, and in a few years, we would be raising millions for charity each quarter. Sadly, it doesn’t exist in a bubble and must stay relevant in a rapidly changing online ecosystem. For our mission, the biggest challenging trends are the slow degradation of online advertising coupled with an astounding increase in the amount of time we all spend staring at our mobile phones.
As a result of those two forces, a very rare thing caught our attention: Tab for a Cause raised less money for charity in one quarter versus the previous quarter (Q1 2016 vs Q4 2015). Even though the total number of Tabbers has continued to grow, the revenue from our banner ads have been consistently falling, each user on average is opening slightly fewer tabs per day, and our growth has slowed as mobile phones have begun to take over our Internet browsing time.
What we are doing to adapt to these forces
- Increase in the use of mobile phones instead of laptops for internet browsing
- We are building a mobile app! Soon you will be able to raise money for charity as easily on your phone as you do on your laptop. We recently did a survey that showed over 80% of our Tabbers are interested in using a mobile app that allows you to view ads to raise money for charity. (As I write this, I am listening to Raul and Kevin code our first Gladly mobile app, so it should be available soon!)
- The degradation of online advertising
- In November, we launched the Goodblock ad blocker, which is an ad blocker that let’s you opt in to beautiful ads that raise money for charity. For us, Goodblock is much more than an ad blocker; it is our vision for the future of online advertising as a whole. We have seen firsthand the proliferation of banner ads, followed quickly by their inability to provide value to users or advertisers. We believe online advertising will only work when users are in control, which is what Goodblock accomplishes: choose when you see ads, what those ads are about, and where the ad revenue goes (hint, a portion of every ad should go to charity!)
What does this all mean?
To date, growing Tab for a Cause has been very economical, so we’ve been able to maintain a 50/50 split of ad revenue between charitable donations and operating costs (servers, salaries, office rent, fun competitions). However, the online world is changing quickly, and we need to invest in innovation—as we did back in 2012—if we want to have a long-term positive impact.
To support innovation and growth, we have decided to move to giving 30% of Tab for a Cause ad revenue to charity (down from 50%). The additional money will support our upcoming mobile app and growth of Goodblock. Ultimately, we believe this investment will result in a much greater charitable impact for each of us and for our community as a whole . It is not a decision we take lightly, but we are confident that it is correct as we look toward the future.
There are a lot of exciting new things coming, and we will work hard to ensure that these efforts result in Gladly growing our impact by another 20x in the next 3 years. For Gladly to continue to be a force for good in this world, we rely on feedback, support, and enthusiasm from our community; so leave a comment below or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Last October, Gladly collaborated with Room to Read to promote their #ThanksToEducation initiative through our Back to School Charity Challenge.
On Tab for a Cause, over 500 middle and high schools around the world competed to see who could open the most tabs for charity. After weeks of fierce competition, the Raffles Girls’ School of Singapore coming out on top.
Construction of the library and the delivery of over 900 books were completed months ago, and we’re thrilled to announce that the plaque dedicated to the Raffles Girls’ School has just been installed at the Long Thuan Primary School in Vietnam!
Back in March, the Interactive Advertising Bureau released a guide for publishers on how to D.E.A.L. with ad blockers, as part of the organization’s growing efforts of thwarting the rising adoption of ad blockers.
While the advice makes up a witty wordplay, just who is benefiting from this deal? Publishers or the users? The answer: A broken ad tech system.
Gladly kicked off its second annual #MarchGladness tournament several weeks ago, in which we pitted groups on Tab for a Cause and our Goodblock adblocker against each other. For four weeks, college groups and online communities knocked each other out to see who could raise the most money for charity, which was highlighted in the Huffington Post.
Update: Thanks Nerdfighters for choosing The Foundation to Decrease Worldsuck as the recipient of the $8,000-donation for #MarchGladness! The charity will receive the donation at the end of the quarter. Stay tuned for a wrap-up of our tournament!
Original post: Congratulations Nerdfighters on winning the #MarchGladness online community bracket! Whether it was by tabbing on Tab for a Cause or choosing to view an ad on our charitable Goodblock adblocker, you swept the competition!
As winners of the tournament, you get to decide which charity will receive ALL of the money raised during the tournament: $8,000! Here’s how:
- Post a link to your favorite charity in the comments below. Be sure to provide a description on the cause and why you think it’s awesome.
- Whichever comment receives the most upvotes will get a donation from us in the amount we raised during the tournament at the end of the quarter.
- Deadline is Monday, April 18 at 3pm PDT.
Don’t know which charity to nominate?
Thanks again for everyone who participated in #MarchGladness and for raising money for charity through Tab for a Cause and the Goodblock adblocker.
Don’t Forget To Be Awesome,