Sports publisher GiveMeSport has spent the last year culling underperforming ads from its site.

The digital native sports publisher has cut all six ads from its homepage, four ads from each article page, and all ads from its vertical pages, which include football, boxing, cricket and tennis. Its NBA vertical still features ads from the league. Nick Thain, CEO of GiveMeSport parent Breaking Data, said the removed ads accounted for millions of monthly ad impressions and failed to meet the minimum viewability standards, which require 50 percent of the ad to be in view for a minimum of one second, according to the Interactive Advertising Bureau.

The publisher has also replaced content-recommendation widgets with links to its own content. Publishers have struggled to wean themselves off of third-party content-recommendation widgets at the bottom of article pages, which boost revenues but hamper user experience. GiveMeSport believes it will boost the visibility of its own content and encourage people to return more regularly to the site by removing ad clutter and the widgets.

Since making this change, users now return seven times a month on average, up from four times a month, according to Thain,  and it’s seeing up to a 13 percent increase in pageviews per visit. “We’re trying to show there’s a way to make higher yields with fewer impressions available,” he said. “It’s a slightly more medium- to long-term view, rather than the shorter-term view of maximizing revenue for this quarter.”

Six weeks ago, GiveMeSport also ditched full-page, high-impact ads, which the Coalition for Better Ads is trying to root out. These ads were making the publisher a “significant” amount of revenue, Thain said. Since these overlay formats don’t cover the standard display ads underneath them, display-ad viewability is now 85 percent, and the video pre-roll view-through rate is 70 percent. Shedding full-page, high-impact ads has also sped up page-load times, but the publisher wouldn’t share by how much.

Thain said culling ineffective ads, removing widgets and adopting header and server-side bidding has led GiveMeSport’s digital ad revenue growth to jump from 50 percent in March to 72 percent in September.

That’s critical, given the majority of GiveMeSport’s revenue comes from programmatic advertising, with the rest coming from direct deals and branded content. Since the publisher integrated Google’s Exchange Bidder in July, it has increased page yields by 30 percent, without incurring page latency. GiveMeSport has a pilot site that allows it to test changes to its ad tech stack on 10 percent of its live traffic. If something doesn’t work as planned, it can revert back to the original version in 15 minutes.

“We’re more like a tech company trying to solve the challenges of the publishing world than a newspaper publisher gone digital,” Thain said.

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