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GeekTyrant’s Quest To Satisfy Users On Mobile

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GeekTyrantMobile apps are way faster than the mobile web, and that’s a serious problem for publishers.

“I work really hard to make the mobile web load as quickly as possible, but it still takes about five seconds,” said Free Reyes, the co-founder, editor and COO of movie site GeekTyrant. Fifty-five percent of its traffic comes from mobile, up from 30% a couple of years ago.

While readers wanted GeekTyrant to develop an app, Reyes didn’t think the development costs would match the payoff. It used the startup DWNLD to appify its desktop site and build in monetization strategies like affiliate links, iAd mobile ads or subscriptions.

DWNLD CEO and co-founder Alexandra Keaton has bet that publishers want mobile apps for their readers but don’t have the resources to do things like size images differently for strong and weak mobile data connections.

Since officially launching in market a year ago, it’s signed up 2,000 publishers to its platform – including bloggers like Design Sponge and Joy the Baker, larger media properties like Nylon and Thought Catalog and celebrities like Kristin Cavallari and Molly Sims. In September, it raised $12 million in Series A funding.

Reyes looked at DWNLD when it was in alpha and beta, but didn’t jump because he couldn’t make the app’s design mimic its distinctive look on desktop. But a year ago he took another look, and this time all the parts he needed were there.

The app pre-loads the content so it loads in milliseconds, and users have praised the quick load times.

GeekTyrant’s app has attracted 10,700 downloads since it released an iPhone app last November. A piece of script that directs mobile web viewers to download the app significantly ramped up the pace of downloads.

The 10,000 users who downloaded the app use it frequently, Reyes said. Although that’s just a fraction of the 2 million unique visitors the site gets a month, the outlay for the app was low.

It just took a few hours of work to set up the design, and Reyes took advantage of the opportunity to plug in iAd. DWNLD charges only for premium analytics function as well as a rev share for the advertising backfill it provides to publishers.

Reyes said he suspects that the iAd partner DWNLD uses monetizes better than non-premium ads on its mobile web experience, although it’s hard to make proper comparisons: He can only see app downloads, not page views, making it difficult to back out to a CPM.

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The quality of the ad experience is higher in-app, Reyes said. For instance, mobile websites often attract bad actors who use an ad to hijack the page and force a redirect to an app download page.

In-app ads also work better, and are unblockable for the moment. Reyes guesses about 40% of GeekTyrant’s young male demographic use ad blockers, so the app is better at monetizing that audience.

GeekTyrant plans to continue to create apps as it expands. It officially launched a sister site focused on gaming, GameTyrant, in October. As soon as that site gets off the ground, it will get its own app too.

When GeekTyrant’s desktop and mobile web advertising sales partner, Complex Media, starts providing ads in-app, it will keep 100% of the revenue from the ads it sells, consistent with how other platforms have set up revenue shares.

But for Reyes, the biggest reason to do the app was to provide a better user experience to his best readers: “The people who download the app stay really active.”

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