Weird, wednesday checking our traffic and I found a new traffic source giving us 14.000 visits that day, mind you, with an average of 1.4 pv/visits. Seems that this traffic comes from adf.ly, a url shortening service owned by X19, a UK company residing in London. So why is this interesting? Well, besides the traffic they bring us Adf.ly seems to be the first URL shortener that actually pays people to use their service, and that made them grow fast, really fast up to the point where they’re bigger than for instance ow.ly. So, did adf.ly crack the code on big time monetization of URL shorteners or will they be nothing more than a one day f.ly?
Let’s start of by giving you an impression on the size of the main players in the URL shortening market:
So, as you can see, according to Alexa, adf.ly has become the 2nd player in the URL shortening market pretty fast, #661 and I’m not able to find anything besides an address and owner name of the company behind it. Nice detail not visible in the screenshot is that Adf.ly is most popular in Indonesia where it has #42 Alexa position.
So how did they do it? They pay their members (through Paypal and PayAlert) to use their service and get paid by showing an intermediate ad or even complete website from an advertizer. This is how it goes:
Clicking this link will show you something like this:
Next you have to do is press the button “skip ad” and you will be redirected to your original destination without any top or bottom frames and the person that posted the URL gets paid around $ 0.50 cpm. Now I don’t want to make this post a review of adf.ly but it seems, judging on the interface (mirror) and the forum posts I read, that adf.ly runs a solid and honost operation.
So, is this the egg of Columbus? Is this the model that justifies all the investments that haven been done in URL shortening services without any prospect of really monetizing? Well, they got the user side pretty much covered, I mean getting paid to use a URL shortening service will get many people excited and make them hunt for more Twitter followers with who they can share their links. Actually, this model is a whole new dimension in online advertising because basically it allows you to monetize everything, your blog, your Facebook, Twitter, your emails, your chats and just about everything else you can put a link in. Even though it’s pretty annoying to get served an ad page first before going to the original destination, I guess users can get used to it.
But there’s another side to it: the advertiser, the financial possibilities are only as big as the fill rate adf.ly will offer. Now here I think is the weak part of the setup, there seems to be a complete lack of context so it’s like someone shooting in the sky blind folded hoping to hit something. But on the other hand, taking a wild guess that cpm will be quite low (probably between $ 0.6 and $ 1.00) it’s definitely not impossible to find advertisers with a global and wide audience, like Grepolis. It will be interesting to see how this develops and if the other big ones will copy and tweak this model.