I’ve had a good number of sites on AdThrive (AT) for years. In January 2022, I started a mass website migration from AT to Mediavine (MV). All my sites have been with MV since Feb 11, 2022.
Why did I switch from AdThrive to Mediavine?
I was very happy with AdThrive for many years. It’s an outstanding ad network. I did very well by them as you can see in the various AdThrive revenue screenshots below. If I were still with AdThrive, I’d be doing well.
If I was so happy, why did I make the switch to MV? What happened? What didn’t happen?
What’s required to join these networks?
- AdThrive: 100,000 monthly pageviews.
- Mediavine: 50,000 monthly sessions. It used to be 25,000. They’ve become more difficult to get into.
On the face of it, AT seems the harder ad network to get into but not always. If you have a site that gets 25,000 monthly sessions but averages 5 page views per session, you qualify for AT but not MV.
Three developments resulted in nudging me to test one site with MV and then move all sites to MV. They were:
- Fat Stacks Forum discussion: In Q4 2021 many of the RPM numbers MV pubs were earning was insane. I’m talking $50, $60 and even $70+ ad RPMs with MV. That blew my mind. I was earning $35 to $40 with AdThrive.
- Loyalty and traffic bonus: Then I learned from members on my forum that MV was rewarding pubs an extra 1% rev share for every year they were with MV. On top of that, some pubs with high traffic and earnings were getting up to 90% rev share. With AdThrive I was getting 75%. I asked AdThrive for a bump to 90% rev share. They said no. The writing was on the wall at that point.
- User Experience: Lastly, with all this MV chatter going on, I took a look at some sites with MV ads and really liked the layout, how they displayed and the fact there were no above-the-fold ads. The ads loaded fast. Overall, I just got a good feeling on the sites with MV ads.
After I discovered all those tidbits about MV, by late Q4 I had decided to move one site over to MV to test it out. I applied and was quickly approved. I gave AT 30 days’ notice for that one site. MV launch date was set the second week of January 2022. I decided to get a real sense of MV’s performance, I’d have to move a site over with some decent traffic. I moved over my then second-largest site with around 210,000 monthly visitors.
For the first site I moved to MV, revenue was higher with MV than AT (based on January 2022 AdThrive revenue). I was excited. I decided to move the rest of my sites from AT to MV.
30 days later all my sites were with MV. All sites were on MV as of February 11, 2022. It’s now been 2 full months. Here are the results.
1. Revenue compared: AdThrive vs Mediavine
November 2021 (Site 1 AdThrive)
December 2021 (Site 1 AdThrive)
January 2022 (Site 1 AdThrive)
March 2022 (Site 1 Mediavine)
November is typically the highest earning month. March isn’t terrible but it’s typically not as high as November. The fact MV’s RPM in March is nearly the same as AT’s November RPM tells you something.
Another site compared:
November 2021 (Site 2 Adthrive)
December 2022 (Site 2 Adthrive)
February 2022 (Site 2 Mediavine)
March 2022 (Site 2 Mediavine)
As you can see, there isn’t a huge difference in revenue. I should caution you though that comparing revenue is almost impossible because there are so many variables. For instance, early Q1 is worse than later in Q1. I moved from AT to MV from early Q1 to mid Q1 so the very nature of increasing ad rates industry-wide will skew results.
My biggest site, which was the site I was hoping would have a huge increase, didn’t really increase all that much and that was with a 90% rev share. It increased a bit but nothing huge.
Was I disappointed? Overall, no I wasn’t. My smaller sites earn a bit more with MV. I really did expect to have a sizeable revenue bump with my biggest site due to the 90% revenue share.
Winner: Mediavine but not by much
2. Ad Layout compared
While revenue is super important to me, so too is ad user experience. I like my sites to be a decent experience for visitors. Ads are necessary but visitors can’t be totally put off.
With MV I do not have the large above-the-fold (ATF) header ad. I had that with AT and it was annoying. AT said I could turn that off but I suspect my revenue would have dropped a fair amount. MV actually suggests not turning the ATF header on. I love that. Aside from the top of the sidebar on desktop, there are no ATF ads with mediavine.
I also like how with MV I don’t have the large video player in the content. AT had that which triggered the small sticky video player. I always found that huge video player in the content super annoying. I don’t have that with MV. MV is pure content with ads every couple paragraphs.
That’s about it in the UX department but those are two biggies so I have to give this UX to MV.
3. Additional features
I appreciate how AT and MV are adding bells and whistles to their platform. AT offers Topic content optimization software for free.
MV offers pubs its own Theme (Trellis) and the Grow platform. Trellis costs money. Grow platform is free. Grow is in the early stages. I believe Grow has some real promise. Right now you get an email sign-up form, related posts widgets and sharing buttons. It’s very, very good. I use it on all sites. You get a lot of additional website features without compromising website speed. I know MV has big plans with Grow which is great.
4. Customer service
The customer service with both ad networks is astonishingly good. My rep with AdThrive was such a great guy. So helpful all the time. Almost always he responded same day.
My experience is the same with MV. She is incredibly helpful often replying in great detail. She also proactively makes suggestions to me to improve things.
5. Customer appreciation
This is a no-brainer. The fact MV rewards pubs an extra 1% rev share for each year (it caps out at some point but I’m not sure where) plus offers higher rev share for bigger sites makes MV by far the ad network with better customer appreciation measures in place.
I was pretty disappointed AT didn’t take my request for 90% rev share more seriously. It was rejected quickly. That rejection definitely nudged me to MV.
6. Ad Revenue Reporting
If AT and MV disappoint in any way, it’s their revenue reporting. It’s really, really bad especially if you’ve ever had the pleasure of Ezoic’s revenue reporting. Before AT I was with Ezoic. The revenue reporting Ezoic offers pubs is incredible. You can figure out revenue for any URL, device, country and traffic source. It’s incredible. I don’t miss Ezoic but I do miss Ezoic’s reporting.
Mediavine reporting is at best, just okay. You get revenue for only 300 URLs. That’s nothing considering I have several sites with more than 300 posts.
AT’s reporting wasn’t any better.
Winner: Tie (both are bad)
7. Selling Sites Policy
Many pubs sell sites. Some sell sites routinely. Some wait and go for the big exit. I do both. I build and sell. I also build and hold. The site selling policies of an ad network can make a big difference with a publisher who has a large portfolio of sites like I do.
Recently, I learned the hard way that MV’s policy is draconian and very much anti-selling to some extent. Here’s what happened. I have a site on MV that gets 30K monthly sessions. It’s short the 50K sessions required. It earned $800 last month. I have a partner on this site who wants to cash out. At current revenue, it’s a nice chunk of cash for both of us and will net us a decent ROI. FYI, it’s the only site I own with a partner. I asked MV if the buyer could keep the site on MV. MV said no, they couldn’t. The buyer would need to grow the site to 50,000 monthly sessions. That is throwing a huge wrench in my plans to sell. There’s basically no market open to me. I either sell at a lower price or have to keep it and grow it.
Now, to be fair, MV let me onboard this site when it doesn’t meet the threshold thanks to my higher traffic sites so they did cut me some slack there. If this were my only site, it would not be with MV so I have to keep that in mind, and I do.
All I’m saying is that AdThrive was super cool about selling sites and offering buyers the opportunity to transfer the AdThrive account to the buyer. I did this when I sold 7 smallish sites. AdThrive honored it for all buyers. I thought that was super cool.
Winner: AdThrive (by a country mile)
8. Loss of Third Party Cookies Outcome
One area of uncertainty and concern is how pubs will fare revenue-wise when Google Chrome drops the third party cookie. I know both AT and MV are very aware of this and are doing what they can deal with it. After all, both earn from pubs’ ad revenue. If pubs lose money, AT and MV lose money. They have big stakes in this.
At this point we don’t know how much of a revenue impact this will have. We also don’t know which ad networks will fare best. It’s really a wait and see situation right now.
Winner: Tie because we have no idea what’s going to happen
On the whole, I’m better off with Mediavine. I’m staying put.
I’m not saying I’ll never go back to AdThrive. You never know in this business what’s going to happen. Maybe some new ad network will come along and earn pubs even more. I always keep an open mind and I never sign contracts with ad networks.
At the end of the day you can’t go wrong with either network
I earned incredible sums with AdThrive. I currently earn well with Mediavine. You really can’t go wrong with either. This entire AdThrive vs. Mediavine analysis is splitting hairs when it comes right down to it.
Jon runs the place around here. He pontificates about launching and growing online publishing businesses, aka blogs that make a few bucks. His pride and joy is the email newsletter he publishes.
In all seriousness, Jon is the founder and owner of a digital media company that publishes a variety of web properties visited and beloved by millions of readers monthly. Fatstacks is where he shares a glimpse into his digital publishing business.