Five Things You Didn’t Know About Pocketnow

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This might be your first time on Pocketnow, or you might be among our regular readers, having kept an eye on the site for many years. Either way, there’s a lot that goes on behind the scenes that makes this all possible: to generate 25 pieces of content per day takes a tremendous coordinated effort; to be able to pay the salary of five full-time and two part-time employees requires revenue; to be able to review the latest and greatest handsets requires solid relationships with a dozen OEMs and carriers, plus some cash for times when we must buy units. Ever wonder how it all works? Here’s a look inside.

We have a system in place for everything

Through a combination of weekly editorial calls, shared Google Docs with schedules and future content ideas, and weekly progress reports on the past week’s content, we plan feverishly so that each and every day, you have a reason to come back to Pocketnow. Our news team is set up with separate shifts so that we provide Pocketnow readers with near-24-hour news coverage.

Pocketnow has been around since 2000

We’re proud to be still here after twelve years, as not many websites you visit today can make that claim. The site was founded by Derek Snyder, who you might remember from the KIN and Windows Phone Mango keynotes. While he now works for Microsoft, he was our first Editor-in-Chief. The second Editor-in-Chief was actually my brother, Jared Miniman.

We all work remotely

While Pocketnow is technically based near Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, our editors are located all around the world, and most of us have never met (though we’re trying to change that!): we hail from Romania, Honduras, Utah, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York.

We both buy and borrow devices to review

We’re lucky to have relationships with all major carriers and OEMs. When new hardware is released, they lend us review units for a period of time to allow us generate coverage. Some readers might wonder if we ever feel obliged to write a positive review because of this. The answer is always “no”. We are unbiased, and as many regular readers of Pocketnow know, if a device is deserving of a low score, it will receive one. We have an implicit obligation as journalists and critics of this industry to help push the industry forward.

Now, in the case of international phone releases that aren’t tied to a particular carriers, we sometimes buy handsets from overseas in order to get them earlier.

Pocketnow is made possible by ads

Just like [name your favorite print magazine or newspaper], we’re funded by advertising. We know, they can be annoying, but without them, we wouldn’t be able to exist. Every time you visit a page on Pocketnow, you see several ads. Even if you don’t click on the ads (and if you like the product being advertised, clicking is a reasonable thing to do), we still generate revenue from just the views. More specifically: ads are billed a cost-per-thousand impressions, or CPM. Company X wants to pay $2 CPM for ads shown on Pocketnow. That rate will move up and down depending on ad size, frequency, and certain demographic and geographical filters. Thus, if that ad is shown 1,000 times, we earn $2. Or, if we have three ads per page and they’re all $2 CPM, we earn around $6 per 1,000 pageviews.

Now you might be wondering…who buys advertising on Pocketnow, and how? Well, fortunately, we have a third-party firm that goes out and sells our advertising, plus the advertising of most mobile sites on the web. This company is NetShelter. By contracting with a third-party firm, Pocketnow can focus on what we do best: generating great content. This happens while NetShelter can do what it does best: sell advertising. To get more advantageous rates for publishers, NetShelter will pitch Pocketnow along with a basket of other similar sites. It just so happens that NetShelter manages the ads for almost every mobile-focused site on the web.

You might be thinking “Wow, you Pocketnow guys must make out like bandits if all you have to do is get lots of pageviews to earn lots of dough!” Well, dear reader, like in any business, there are big challenges, and big expenses. There are a lot of expenses associated with running Pocketnow: wages and taxes, server costs, legal fees, development and design costs, and more. And, as mentioned, there are some challenges relating to advertising. Here’s a look:

1. Traffic. There’s a huge wildcard in the online publishing industry, and it’s called Google. With a change of their algorithm and the de-prioritization of our content, we could lose 30%+ of our traffic overnight. It hasn’t happened in 12 years (fortunately), but there are stories of this happening to other sites. To prevent this, we comission a (rather costly) search engine optimization firm that keeps us up to date on best-practices to stay as high as possible in Google search results.

2. Ad performance. While you don’t necessarily have to click on an ad for us to earn revenue (unlike Google AdSense which is entirely cost-per-click), many advertisers want to see a high clickthrough rate because at the end of the day, they want people to buy a product, sign up for a service, or be exposed to a brand. Ad placement, time of day, and attractiveness of an ad can all impact its performance. If we fail to deliver good enough ad performance for a particular campaign, the campaign is pulled from Pocketnow.

3. Demographic filters. This is probably the biggest pain-point for CPM-advertising. While we might make $6 per 1,000 pages in the previously mentioned example (if you’re following the math), that’s only on the best traffic, that is, traffic from the USA. If you view our site from Romania, you’re likely to see lower-tier ads that often pay far less than $1 CPM, sometimes as low as $0.05 per 1000 pages. It’s very difficult to monetize international traffic.

Priority Number One

In the end, generating high-quality content that YOU want to read is the most important thing we do. Despite all of the aforementioned talk on earning revenue and creating systems to make sure we run like clockwork, the most important thing is and always will be generating high-quality content. Every editor on Pocketnow loves this stuff…we’re all phone and tablet enthusiasts, and it’s a joy and pleasure to be able to help our readers navigate the exciting (and sometimes confusing) world of smartphone and tablets. It’s tremendously humbling that you spend your precious time reading our content, watching our videos, and listening to our podcast. Thank you!!

So…what else do you want to know?

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About The Author
Brandon Miniman
Brandon is a graduate from the Villanova School of Business, located near Philadelphia, PA. He's been a technology writer since 2002, and, in 2005, became Editor-in-Chief of Pocketnow, a then Windows Mobile-focused website. He has since helped to transition Pocketnow into a top-tier smartphone and tablet publication. He's so obsessed with technology that he once entered a candle store and asked if they had a "new electronics" scent. They didn't.