CONTEXTWEB (formerly ADSDAQ) is an ad network with an interesting twist. They ask you to set the CPM (cost per 1,000 impressions) rate that you want to receive and they pay you exactly that – and only that. Nothing more, nothing less. If they don’t have any ads to run where they can pay you that amount, then they will serve a default, sending the traffic to an ad network or creative of your choosing.

Many ad networks will offer you a CPM floor or a floating default where you can set a CPM and effectively say that you don’t want any advertisements below that rate. And then they will serve only ads that pay that price or higher. But, CONTEXTWEB is different because you receive exactly what you ask for for any ads they can serve.

Why I Like It

Some issues (see below) aside, I really like CONTEXTWEB. I view it as a top tier network. I put in a rate that is at the high end (or above the high end) of what I receive now for my inventory. And then CONTEXTWEB does what it can at that rate and sends the traffic to my remaining ad networks.

This takes a bunch of traffic off of the bottom tier and the lower end rates and, instead, gives it a higher end rate. So, I view it as the first line. I don’t want CONTEXTWEB to suck up all of my traffic, but I want them to give me a highly competitive rate and then shoot it down the line.

Their site is easy to use and it’s easy to install backup tags for when they can’t serve any ads at the price that you set.

Experimentation is Key

As with most ad network related things, experimentation is major. Select a price level, let it run for a while, and then analyze the data, try something else and repeat. You have to experiment to find an ideal price level. I’ll give you an example.

On one of my sites, I started the 300×250 advertisement at a $0.40 CPM. After some time had passed, I checked and found that CONTEXTWEB was able to fill 48.18% at that level. So, I changed it to $0.60 and found that they were able to fill 41.48% at that price. They filled less, so isn’t that bad? Actually, no, it’s better, because 41.48% of $0.60 is more than 48.18% of $0.40. So, I actually made more money with less impressions.

I continued and moved it to $0.80. The fill rate dropped to 34.46%. But, again, I made more money because the higher price made up the difference. And so I moved it to $1.00 and they filled 31.67%. The fill rate dropped once again, but I made even more money.

Let’s compare. At the $0.40 level, for 1,000 impressions, they filled 48.18% or about 482 impressions. For those 482 impressions, they paid me 48.18% of $0.40 – or $0.19. At the $1.00 level, they filled 31.67% or about 317 impressions. But, for those 317 impressions, they paid me 31.67% of $1.00 – or $0.31.

Now, those numbers by themselves are not large, but when you look at it from a percentage perspective – I raised my income from $0.19 to $0.31. I made 63% more, while giving them about 34% less of my inventory! That’s a big deal. That extra 34% is given to the other ad networks I work with and that inventory, I am paid for. So, I actually made even more than that on the impressions that I would have still served to CONTEXTWEB if I was still on the $0.40 level.

Issues I’ve Had with CONTEXTWEB

My time with CONTEXTWEB hasn’t been without some problems. First, it took me a long time to get my account. I signed up in March of 2008. But, it would never take my account credentials when I tried to login. I attempted to contact support, but did not receive a response.

Thanks to Twitter, I finally got a hold of someone and received access to my account. And that’s when I started using it. My support experience with them has been mixed and their forums do not appear to be terribly well maintained. But, since I have gained access to my account, I have been able to get responses through e-mail and my overall experience has become a positive one.

In all, though, I definitely recommend giving CONTEXTWEB a try. Their unique model makes them an attractive option in the upper tier of your ad network lineup.

Note: The links to CONTEXTWEB above are affiliate links, which lead to me earning some revenue if you sign up and use the service.

Update (March 18, 2011): CONTEXTWEB has changed it’s name and no longer uses the ADSDAQ brand. I have updated this post to reflect this fact and to utilize their new refer a publisher program.