AOL Is (Finally) Rolling Up Its Sleeves On App Monetization

At long last, AOL is really starting to make use of its 2015 Millennial Media acquisition.

On Tuesday, Verizon-owned AOL rolled out self-serve functionality for its mobile supply-side platform, One by AOL: Mobile. It’s basically AOL’s answer to Google’s AdMob or Twitter’s MoPub.

AOL beta tested the capability for several months before launch with several partners, including Glu Mobile, publisher of the “Kim Kardashian: Hollywood” game.

AOL’s SDK, which has a footprint of around 70,000 apps and sites, will allow advertisers and developers to manage their own ad serving, ad formats, network mediation and RTB, run reports on demand sources and pull the levers on brand safety controls themselves.

Up until now, AOL’s offering was mainly a managed service, and that’s not really how most developers roll.

The really large app publishers are often looking for someone else’s hands on the keyboard, but the small and mid-sized devs, what Matt Gillis, SVP of publisher platforms at AOL, called the “body and tail of the app economy,” usually want to do it themselves.

“Effectively, we’d been a consultant to app developers to help them frame their ad experiences,” said Gillis, who joined AOL as part of the Millennial deal. “This now is about us being simpler to partner with.”

But AOL is a little tardy to the app monetization party. Although AOL is looking to steal business from the likes of MoPub and AdMob, which Gillis called “direct competitors,” those platforms have a decided head start.

The amount of revenue being driven through AOL mobile self-serve platform is “growing exponentially,” Gillis said, although he declined to share specific revenue numbers. But thousands of advertisers from more than 100 programmatic bidders are on the platform, he said.

Demand is where AOL will try to differentiate, he said.

“We bring the global sales force of AOL, which is out there selling to tier-one brands and agencies,” Gillis said. “That’s what we’re implicitly bringing to our publishers.”

AOL bought Millennial Media in 2015 for $238 million with the stated purpose of expanding its presence in the mobile ad space. Through the Millennial acquisition, AOL also got mobile ad network Jumptap and mobile SSP and exchange Nexage, which Millennial acquired in 2013 and 2014, respectively, for much the same reason AOL snapped up Millennial – mobile scale.

“This is not just AOL jumping in – it’s AOL plus Millennial plus Nexage, and together we have tons of experience in the ecosystem,” Gillis said. “This is like a coming out party for the AOL brand in the app ecosystem.”

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