It’s time for new RPM terminology

As a creator, it’s safe to bet that “RPM” might just be your favorite acronym. Like the speedometer on your car, it provides that handy, at-a-glance depiction of performance. When each ad impression earns fractions of pennies, we need averages...

By Emily Burt

As a creator, it’s safe to bet that “RPM” might just be your favorite acronym.

Like the speedometer on your car, it provides that handy, at-a-glance depiction of performance. When each ad impression earns fractions of pennies, we need averages at a large scale to make things easier to understand.

Unlike the speedometer on your car, it’s not always immediately clear what “RPM” is measuring. To carry the analogy further, imagine that when you said you were going “60 MPH”, some people understood that to mean 60 miles per hour and some people thought you meant 60 kilometers per hour.

Over the years, that’s what’s happened with the term “RPM.”

At its core, “RPM” just means “revenue per mille” or “revenue per 1,000.” It doesn’t specify in itself exactly what you’re measuring.

At one point, most people in the ad and publishing industries understood and accepted that RPM was measuring revenue per 1,000 pageviews, and that’s what RPM has meant here at CafeMedia.

But then, other companies began to associate different primary metrics with RPM, like using it to refer to revenue per 1,000 sessions.

Session RPM versus Page RPM

In the past, we’ve used the acronym “RPS” to refer to revenue per 1,000 sessions.

Revenue per 1,000 sessions tends to be 20-25% higher than revenue per 1,000 pageviews because some people who visit your site visit more than one pageview in a single session.

Unless your site perfectly averages exactly one pageview for each session, revenue per 1,000 sessions will always be higher than revenue per 1,000 pageviews.

When different companies use “RPM” to refer to these separate metrics, it gets confusing fast.

So which is better?

Neither is inherently better. Both revenue per 1,000 pageviews and revenue per 1,000 sessions help you understand your ad earnings in different ways.

  • Revenue per 1,000 pageviews helps you understand the value of a view on your site or a particular piece of content.
  • Revenue per 1,000 sessions helps you understand the value of a visit (or session, in Google Analytics.)

The catch is that the more pages someone visits in a single session, the lower your revenue per 1,000 pageviews will be and the higher your revenue per 1,000 sessions will be.

When someone first lands on your site, advertisers compete to show their ad and the highest-paying advertiser wins. On the next page that person visits, the highest-paying advertiser has already shown an ad, so lower-paying advertisers compete. This continues for each pageview. Advertisers pay progressively less and less to reach that same person resulting in a lower pageview RPM, even though you earn more overall from that session.

So as you work hard to keep people on your site longer, consuming more of your fantastic content, revenue per 1,000 sessions becomes a more important metric to consider.

We’re updating our RPM terminology

When it comes to how we measure and report metrics for your ads, transparency is key. We’re updating our terminology around RPM to prioritize clarity and help you focus on the metrics that matter most.

Beginning next week:

  • Revenue per 1,000 pageviews will be called Page RPM
  • Revenue per 1,000 sessions will be called RPM and will be our primary way to talk about RPM moving forward

Nothing is changing with how we report your ad revenue, measure pageviews and sessions (these come straight from Google Analytics), calculate these two metrics, or how you find revenue per 1,000 sessions and revenue per 1,000 pageviews in your dashboard. You’ll still have access to both kinds of RPM like you always have!

The only thing that’s changing is how we refer to these two core metrics.

Why change now?

It’s the right time to rename “RPM” for three main reasons.

1. Reflect the fact that we are heavily investing in helping our creators grow the number of pages in each session

Tools like Slickstream encourage people to spend more time on your site – and when that happens, revenue per 1,000 pageviews might go down, but revenue per 1,000 sessions goes up.

We want to help you focus on the metric that matters most for user engagement, which is how much money overall you make from someone visiting your site. More pages per session are good for your overall revenue.

We’re only going to introduce more ways for you to grow your revenue per session in the future. It’s an exciting time to be part of CafeMedia!

2. Get ready for Google Analytics 4

In July 2023, Google is making a huge change from Universal Analytics to GA4, and with it, shifting focus to user engagement as a whole which involves a big mindset shift in how you view your analytics data.

Pageviews still have their place, but understanding how a user behaves on your site across their entire session is critical too. We love that user experience and engagement are becoming a bigger focus and are excited to reflect this in our products and help you keep this perspective on your business.

3. Maximum clarity for creators joining CafeMedia from other ad providers or comparing RPM with friends

Comparing RPM is confusing enough with all the different pieces that dictate how much advertisers spend for your readers and your unique ad layout – you don’t need different definitions thrown into the mix across different ad providers.

We welcome apples-to-apples RPM comparisons because the data shows that sites that join CafeMedia enjoy higher RPMs however you define the metric – revenue divided by 1,000 pageviews or sessions.

We’ll always define exactly what we mean by “RPM” and “Page RPM” to help improve transparency across our industry.

What’s next?

Expect to hear a lot more about sessions going forward as we look at all the ways we bring you the most helpful metrics, reports, and insights in our dashboard and other resources.