When Docstoc was launched in 2007 as an online destination to help small businesses grow, advertising was the only source of revenue. As the company grew, the business model evolved to include premium subscriptions. We recently spoke with Jason Nazar, CEO of Docstoc, on the impact of advertising on their e-commerce business.
Jason says that as subscriptions grew, there was significant internal debate at Docstoc on whether ads were distracting users and limiting subscriptions. A strong believer of testing and making data-driven decisions, Jason removed all ads across the site for a single day to see if this created uplift in subscriptions.
With more than 600,000 daily visitors, the results of the experiment were definitive: removing ads did not have a noticeable impact on subscription conversions. In fact, user engagement metrics like time on site and page views per user didn’t improve either, debunking the myth that ads were alienating users.
Jason concluded that there could be a harmonious balance between running an e-commerce business and having ads on the site because a site’s audience isn’t homogeneous. In Docstoc’s case, while some people are looking for the high quality content behind the pay wall, others want quick information. When Docstoc is unable to provide information to users in the second group, contextually relevant advertising helps answer their questions – thus, Docstoc is able to earn revenue from users who are unlikely to convert to paying subscribers. Users invested in the service and the content sign up for the subscription service even with the AdSense ads. “From an overall revenue standpoint, we’re clearly much better for having both advertising and e-commerce on the site,” he says.
Jason advises publishers to be aggressive about testing any product they use on their site and to make decisions that are driven by data, rather than subjective opinions and whims. “If you’ve got a content site with a lot of traffic, AdSense and products like it are a fantastic way to drive revenue, even if you have opportunities like lead gen, e-commerce and subscription, you shouldn’t be taking off the ad products - you should be figuring out how they can live together in harmony, because you’ll make more money for it.”
Read the full case study on the ‘Success Stories’ section of our Help Center. Have you had similar results on your website? Share your story with us on the Google AdSense +page.
This blog post is part of “PubTalk”, a series of conversations with publishers.
Posted by Yamini Gupta, Product Marketing Manager