Mediavine vs AdThrive: Which has higher RPMs? Which is the better ad agency? We've tried both and we love both for different reasons. Read this in-depth article comparing Mediavine vs AdThrive so that you can choose the best ad agency for your site.
Table of Contents
- What are Mediavine and AdThrive?
- Mediavine Quick Facts
- AdThrive Quick Facts
- Our Switch from Mediavine to AdThrive
- Who has higher RPMs?
- Who has a better publisher experience?
- Other Ad Management Services
- The Future of Mediavine vs AdThrive
- More Articles From Brett
- Mediavine vs AdThrive FAQ
What are Mediavine and AdThrive?
Mediavine and AdThrive are leading full-service ad management companies. Full-service ad management companies help publishers (bloggers etc) earn as much as possible from the ads that are placed on their website by determining the optimal ad layout and facilitating the ad auctions that determine which ads show on the site.
In exchange for managing your ads, both Mediavine and AdThrive take 25% of the revenue as their fee.
Mediavine Quick Facts
Number of Publishers: 7,500
Payment Schedule: Net65*
Minimum Pageviews or Sessions to Qualify: 50,000 sessions
Average RPM: $13-15 [source]
Mediavine takes 25% of ad revenue as their management fee. But they offer a 1% loyalty bonus for each year a publisher stays with Mediavine, topping out at 5% after year five. In year five, their fee would drop to 20% and you would earn 80%.
*Net65 means that publishers get paid 65 days after the end of each month.
AdThrive Quick Facts
Number of Publishers: 2,600
Payment Schedule: Net45**
Minimum Pageviews or Sessions to Qualify: 100,000 pageviews
Average RPM: $13-15 [source]
AdThrive takes a 25% of the revenue as their management fee.
**Net45 means that publishers get paid 45 days after the end of the month.
Our Switch from Mediavine to AdThrive
AdThrive is our current ad management agency for The Conscientious Eater, but Mediavine will always have a special place in our hearts! Mediavine was our first major ad agency and they helped us 5X our Income in 3 Months back in the summer of 2018!
In early 2020 we hit the 100,000 pageviews per month minimum to be an AdThrive publisher. We were super-hesitant to switch away from Mediavine because we had such a good experience with them. But we were lured away by a few factors:
- AdThrive claims every publisher earns more per pageview and impression
- the two food websites we look up to most (Pinch of Yum and Minimalist Baker) are with AdThrive
- we figured we could probably switch back to Mediavine if we didn't like AdThrive
In July 2020 we made the plunge and switched to AdThrive!
See what happened after we switched below!
Who has higher RPMs?
Mediavine vs AdThrive: Who has higher RPMs?
This is the question that is on most publisher's minds. We all want to earn as much as we can from the traffic that we are getting without annoying our readers with too many ads. But before we answer the question of who has higher RPMs, let's make sure we're all up to speed on what RPM is:
What is RPM?
RPM stands for Revenue Per Mille, which is another way of saying Revenue Per 1,000 Pageviews in the advertising industry. Mille is a Latin word that means thousand, as in millipede.
The chart below shows the daily RPMs on The Conscientious Eater before and after we switched from Mediavine to AdThrive.
Based on the daily RPM chart above, who do you think has better RPMs - Mediavine or AdThrive?
At first glance, it would appear that AdThrive is the clear winner! But let's zoom out even further, ask a few more questions, and take a closer look before we make our final conclusion.
Detailed Mediavine vs AdThrive RPM Analysis
I included September thru December 2018 in the chart above so that we can compare the Q4s of 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Why is Q4 so important?
Q4 (Oct-Dec) is when advertisers spend the most money to lure in holiday shoppers through ads.
Below are the average RPMs for 2018 - 2021 for the The Conscientious Eater...
2018 Q4 Mediavine Average RPM: $10.25
2019 Q4 Mediavine Average RPM: $10.71
2020 Q4 AdThrive Average RPM: $19.14
2021 Q4 Update
We added a video player in 2021 and that helped boost our 2021 Q4 RPM to $31.35! December's RPM was over $38.
See our 2021 RPM by month chart below...
If Mediavine would have kept increasing RPMs at the same rate that they did between 2018 Q4 and 2019 Q4, we would have seen an $11.17 RPM with Mediavine in 2020 Q4.
But AdThrive crushed it in 2020 Q4 by averaging an RPM of $19.14!
The Conscientious Eater had about 250,000 pageviews in Q4 of 2020. 250,000 pageviews with an $8 difference in RPM equates to an extra $2,000 in earnings or $667 per month by switching from Mediavine to AdThrive.
But is that a fair comparison? What if Mediavine crushed it in 2020 Q4 also?
After Mediavine's RPMs bottomed out in April and May of 2020, they started rebounding quite nicely in June. Would Mediavine have continued that trajectory through the end of the year?
At first I thought it would be impossible to answer this question, but Mediavine published their general RPM trends for 2020, so that will give us a strong clue of how Mediavine finished the year.
Similar to AdThrive, it looks like Mediavine had a very strong finish to 2020!
The question I want to answer, though, is did Mediavine's RPMs pick up at the same pace that we saw with AdThrive's RPMs. Answering that will be our best chance at an apples to apples comparison.
Mediavine's 2019 RPMs are the gray bars behind 2020's colored bars. You can see that RPMs dropped off in March of 2020, stayed low in April and May, started to rebound in June, then outperformed 2019's RPMs starting in August all the way through the end of the year.
How much did the end-of-year 2020 RPMs outperform 2019?
This chart will give us an even better clue:
August 2020 saw an average of 10% growth in RPM compared to 2020. Not bad!
In August 2019, we had an average RPM of $7.34. That means that if we saw the same year over year RPM growth of 10%, we could have expected an average RPM of $8.07 if we would have stayed with Mediavine into August 2020.
But with AdThrive in August 2020, we had an average RPM of $11.04! And that was even with site outages on 4 days where we only saw $4 RPMs (our fault, not AdThrives!) That $11.04 RPM is a 50% increase compared to Mediavine's 10% increase!
Comparing the first two weeks on September yields similar results.
Mediavine's average year-over-year RPM growth was 13% for the first two weeks of September.
We had a $6.96 RPM in the first two weeks of September 2019 with Mediavine. A 13% increase would have led to a $7.86 RPM in that same time period in 2020.
But our average RPM for the first two weeks of September with AdThrive was $14.17! A 104% increase!
Summary Comparison of Mediavine and AdThrive's RPMs
August 2019 RPM with Mediavine: $7.34
August 2020 Projected RPM with Mediavine: $8.07
August 2020 Actual RPM with AdThrive: $11.04
September 1-14 RPM with Mediavine: $6.96
September 1-14 Projected RPM with Mediavine: $7.86
September 1-14 Actual RPM with AdThrive: $14.17
RPM Winner: AdThrive
Comparing Mediavine's food and drink industry RPM data and our actual RPM data with AdThrive, it looks like AdThrive's RPMs are anywhere from 25-75% higher depending on the month.
The Conscientious Eater's RPM trends tracked very tightly with Mediavine's Food and Drink RPM chart from January 1, 2020 until we switched from Mediavine to AdThrive in mid-July, 2020. With that, I have confidence that we would have continued to track tightly with Mediavine's RPMs through year-end.
Who has a better publisher experience?
Mediavine vs AdThrive: Who has the better publisher experience?
This section will take a look at the following topics:
You can tell that both Mediavine and AdThrive have been around for a while because both of their onboarding experiences were very professional and streamlined.
Mediavine Onboarding Experience
It has been 2.5 years since we onboarded with Mediavine, so my memory is a little fuzzy about the experience. I remember it took some time to get the site ready and sign the forms, but I'm guessing that whatever extra time we spent in the onboarding process was simply due to us being newbies at the whole thing.
It was a little scary signing over control of the ads for 90 days, but looking back we had nothing to be afraid of! Mediavine was great!
AdThrive Onboarding Experience
Even though our onboarding experience with AdThrive was only 6 months ago, I barely remember it also because it was so quick and easy! I was familiar with everything that was going on, too, so that made it extra smooth.
Onboarding Winner: Tie
Logging into AdThrive's publisher's dashboard was a bit of a disappointment after switching from Mediavine. AdThrive's dashboard definitely feels a bit outdated in the design, especially after Mediavine did a big dashboard upgrade in April 2020.
We don't dive too deep into the analytics on our publisher dashboard, so the data that Mediavine and AdThrive provide is the same to us. Both Mediavine and AdThrive provide data on
- Earnings by day
- Earnings by month
- Pageviews by day
- Pageviews by month
- RPM by Page
- Video Player data
- Payment History
2022 Publisher Dashboard Update - Topic!
Just in time for Q4 2021, AdThrive announced that they have partnered exclusively with Topic to bring their SEO Content Optimization tool into the AdThrive ecosystem!
We have found Topic to be very helpful in creating outlines for new content and "grading" our existing content. Check out Topic's website to learn more about it!
Publisher Dashboard Winner: Mediavine
Similar to the onboarding experiences at both, so far we've only been impressed with both agency's customer service.
Mediavine has full customer service staff 7 days a week.
AdThrive's website says they are only available Monday thru Friday normal business hours, but they do have limited staff to help with website emergencies on the weekends.
Customer Service Winner: Mediavine (slightly)
We might not think so, but many of us would prefer to be overcommunicated with. There is something that is comforting about people who communicate frequently and know what they are talking about that builds trust that they will take good care of you.
Mediavine frequently communicates with their publishers about what they are working on, why they are working on it, and what is coming down the pike.
AdThrive communicates about trends in the industry, but not near to the level that Mediavine does.
May 2022 Update
Maybe I'm noticing it more since I published this article or maybe AdThrive has picked up on their communication (or maybe both!), but it does seem that AdThrive is communicating more. AdThrive is consistently posting helpful resources and hosting webinars!
I'm sure Mediavine is doing the same, but I can only speak for AdThrive now.
Communication Winner: Mediavine
Mediavine's scrappiness was never more apparent than when we let them know we were planning on switching the AdThrive.
And I loved it!
I love companies that have a deep sense of pride in what they do, know their strengths, and fight to keep their customers.
When we communicated that we were planning on switching to AdThrive, Mediavine reminded us that we were about to get a 77% revenue share once we entered into our third year with them because publishers get a 1% increase after each year.
Mediavine also went into more detail about how RPM can be calculated by impressions or pageviews. Their case was that AdThrive could have higher RPMs by pageview, but not by impression because AdThrive shows more ads per page on average.
Read Mediavine's article: Thinking of Changing Ad Managers? Here’s What You Really Need To Know
But ultimately, we only had one way to find out whether we could earn more with AdThrive... make the switch.
Mediavine is growing quickly. Maybe too quick. That may be what is behind them doubling the minimum requirement for sessions from 25,000 to 50,000 in 2020.
They've also been expanding into new products like the Trellis framework, Create Cards, and Grow Social which all certainly have their value. But each of these have also had their share of development challenges and delays.
Are these additional products a value add? Or a distraction from the greatest value add for publishers: higher RPMs? I guess only time will tell.
Read: 2022 Mediavine Roadmap
After being with AdThrive for about 6 months, my first impression is that they are just focused... focused on delivering the highest RPMs in the industry.
Publisher Experience Summary
Mediavine's front-end website is better:
Mediavine's Publisher Dashboard is better.
Mediavine spends more time communicating with their publishers.
- the Trellis WordPress Framework
- Create Cards for recipe cards, how-to's and lists (which we still use)
- Grow Social Sharing
There are a lot of things that Mediavine does well.
In comparison, AdThrive's website is simple, their publisher dashboard is simple, they don't offer any extra product offerings, and they don't communicate as much.
But the one thing that AdThrive does deliver exceptionally well on is RPMs.
Publisher Experience Winner: Mediavine
Other Ad Management Services
If you haven't qualified for Mediavine or AdThrive yet, you also may be looking at Google AdSense, Gourmet Ads (for food blogs), Monumetric, or Ezoic. Here is a little information about each of these other ad management services.
Before we learned about Mediavine and AdThrive we tried managing our ads through Google AdSense.
It was... ok.
It was nice earning an extra $75 per month, but there was a steep learning curve in figuring out how to place ads on our site and we simply didn't want to master that skill. That's probably why we only had a $1.67 RPMs with AdSense.
IMHO the money you will make from AdSense isn't worth the headache and the decreased page speed.
Gourmet Ads is an ad company for food publishers, but they are not full-service like Mediavine and AdThrive. That means that you still have to manually place the ad units on your site.
Gourmet Ads has also been known to slow down sites which will negatively impact your sites SEO rankings, decreasing the traffic that you need to qualify for Mediavine or AdThrive.
Number of Publishers: 2,200
Payment Schedule: Net60
Minimum Pageviews or Sessions to Qualify: 10,000 pageviews
Estimated RPM: $1.50
Monumetric rebranded from The Blogger Network back in 2016. We've never used Monumetric so we can't speak from experience about their service. Based on online reviews and reddit threads people have mixed experiences using Monumetric.
Number of Publishers: ???
Payment Schedule: Net60
Minimum Pageviews or Sessions to Qualify: 10,000 pageviews
Estimated RPM: $7-$10
Setup Fee: $99 (for less than 80,000 pageviews)
We've never used Ezoic so we can't speak from experience. Based on online reviews and reddit threads it has mixed reviews depending on whether the reviewers are affiliates of Ezoic.
Number of Publishers: 12,000
Payment Schedule: Net30*
Minimum Pageviews or Sessions to Qualify: 10,000 sessions
Estimated RPM: $???
The Future of Mediavine vs AdThrive
It's impossible to predict the future, but here are some questions and factors to keep in mind.
The Death of Third Party Cookie
Both Mediavine and AdThrive are ramping up their communication on their plans to pivot once 3rd party cookies officially go away from all web browsers.
3rd Party Cookies are what help advertisers know what sites you have been to so that they can serve up the most customized ads. But these cookies are going away due to privacy concerns. This shift will dramatically shift the online advertising industry.
Mediavine is taking an aggressive approach to get ahead of the curve with Grow, which has a suite of features aimed at reducing the impact of eliminating 3rd party cookies by encouraging people to login to your website.
- Spotlight Subscribe - this has been well received!
- Grow.me - favorite recipes across sites, enhanced search, and more
Read Mediavine's First-Party Data: Why It’s Crucial, and Why Grow.me is the Future
AdThrive is taking a more measured and cautious approach. After all, the death of the cookie isn't happening until the second half of 2023 and the conversation could shift dramatically by then. They don't want to have their publishers unnecessarily implement something that is annoying for readers, only to have to pivot a few months later.
AdThrive is proactively researching and testing solutions behind the scenes, but likely won't release an action plan until they know they need to.
Read AdThrive's The Death of the Cookie
Who has the better approach to the death of the 3rd party cookie?
I tend to agree with AdThrive here.
One year is a long time in the digital world. As a publisher, I wouldn't want to implement something before it is really known what the best solution will be.
When the time comes for the death of the 3rd party cookie and one or multiple solutions are revealed, readers will be more aware and comfortable with those solutions and more likely to consent to whatever that solution is.
Products vs Higher RPMs?
Will Mediavine expand into too many complicated products that will distract them from producing the highest RPMs in the industry?
Or will they deliver on their promises and offer a well-rounded service of quality products and the highest RPMs to publishers?
Again, only time will tell.
Mediavine vs AdThrive: Who is the winner?
Mediavine and AdThrive are both excellent ad management companies with strong track records of customer success. They are head and shoulders above other ad management solutions, such as AdSense, Gourmet Ads, and Ezoic.
While Mediavine does have some great "value add" products to go along with their ad management service, the greatest value add an ad manager can provide is the value of the ads themselves.
AdThrive clearly had higher RPMs for The Conscientious Eater in 2020 and they have had higher RPMs historically.
Further, all of the products that Mediavine offers can be used or purchased as standalone offerings:
Grow (used to be Social Pug)
Anyone can purchase the Grow Social Sharing plugin for $34 per year.
Best Alternative: Social Warfare
Trellis Images will create compressed .webp versions of your images.
Best Alternative: ShortPixel
Spotlight subscribe highlights a sign-up form as the reader scrolls down the page. It is much less intrusive than an annoying pop-up!
Best Alternative: SlickStream has the ability to enable this function
Mediavine is a top notch ad management service. They provide an excellent publisher experience, they have customer service that goes over and above, and they provide valuable products in addition to their ad management service.
But if you just want to earn the most money from your web traffic, the best ad manager is AdThrive.
If your website has over 100,000 pageviews (~80,000 sessions) and you want to earn the most money from your traffic, the best ad manager is AdThrive.
If you have less than 100,000 pageviews, the best ad manager will depend on your current web traffic:
0 - 10,000 sessions
Focus on building traffic by creating quality, original content and getting yourself out there so that you can qualify for an ad management service.
10,000 - 50,000 sessions
You have two options:
- Try Ezoic or Monumetric
- Keep building traffic while you wait for Mediavine to release their new solution for publishers with less than 50,000 sessions. See section "New Publisher Offering and Application Process" in their 2021 Roadmap.
50,000 - 80,000 sessions
Apply at mediavine.com.
Join or switch to AdThrive. (80,000 sessions should be about 100,000 pageviews).
More Articles From Brett
If you enjoyed this article from Brett, you might also like:
- How I 5X'd My Blog Income in 3 Months
- How To Diversify your Food Blog Income (January 2021 Income Report)
- Mailchimp to ConvertKit: Why We Upgraded
- Bluehost vs Hostgator vs Flywheel
- How To Start A Food Blog
Mediavine vs AdThrive FAQ
Mediavine began in 2004.
AdThrive was started in 2013. In 2016 they joined forces with CafeMedia.
50,000. In June 2020 Mediavine doubled the minimum required sessions from 25,000 to 50,000 sessions.
Mediavine measures sessions instead of pageviews. Mediavine requires 50,000 sessions per month, which is around 60,000 pageviews per month.
AdThrive requires 100,000 pageviews per month, which is around 80,000 sessions.
AdThrive requires 100,000 pageviews to become a publisher with them.
A typical RPM (revenue per 1,000 pageviews) for publishers with Mediavine is $10. If you have 50,000 pageviews per month that would be $500.
A typical RPM (revenue per 1,000 pageviews) for publishers with AdThrive is $15. If you have 50,000 pageviews per month that would be $750.
It depends on what you're looking for. Mediavine offers a more hands-on experience and more products like Trellis, Grow, and Create Cards. But AdThrive continues to be the industry leader in RPMs (revenue per 1,000 pageviews).
Historically, AdThrive has had higher RPMs than Mediavine.