The SDK Equation: Four Questions for Restarting the Conversation on Publisher Integration

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When it comes to SDK integration and publishers, mobile marketing all too often encounters one point-of-view: just serve us the ad. Publishers say they’ve listened to the pitches, they’ve integrated a software development kit and then either the CPMs weren’t what marketing said they would be, or the fill was not what they were told it would be, or maybe the technology slowed down their app and the user-experience suffered.

The consequences add up. Call it SDK fatigue.

Among Android devices, for example, per a recent SafeDK study, 80% of app publishers build advertising SDKs into their products but many of them end up not using the SDK once it’s installed. According to the same report, location SDKs — central to the tools that acquire basic information about mobile-device coordinates — aren’t seeing anywhere near the popularity as other types. Only 31% of the surveyed publishers have added them to their apps.

And so, given that the state of affairs is challenging, how can mobile marketing restart the conversation around SDK integration with publishers, industrywide?

Let’s start with distinctions and empowerment — key ways that the industry can arm publishers with the knowledge they need to evaluate a good SDK while detecting the badly built versions that negatively impact apps. For mobile marketing, it’s time to pick up the conversation again.

  1. Identify Essential SDK Features — What are the key functions and features that mobile marketing can help publishers look for? What details will help them ensure they’re getting a solid SDK that’s worthy of integration? The basics every publisher can identify include the ability to support standard ad sizes, standard operating systems, and all the regular, available, current standard interfaces in their own ecosystem. However, publishers also want to look for software development kits that go beyond those things, that expand on the basics to a degree that it’s clear the vendor is serious about the SDK’s ongoing development.
  1. SDK Size Should Reflect Key Industry Benchmarks — Publishers should also steer clear of software development kits packed with unnecessary graphics and piled-on functionality. An early question mobile marketers can recommend they ask is what’s the size of the SDK? Does it fall within the range of established and leading industry standards? (Hint: AdMob’s SDK and MoPub’s offerings are good rules of thumb in terms of size.) If something is several times bigger than one of those benchmarks, then publishers should question whether the SDK is burdened with unneeded features. Point is, efficiently built SDKs won’t slow down apps when integrated; these are the types publishers want to integrate.
  1. SDK Update Frequency: Proactive, Not Hyperactive —Publishers should look for proactive developers that balance new releases with reliable version stickiness. And, since mobile marketers know that publishers need time to test and work with an integration over time, there’s no sense in updates that happen so frequently that an SDK becomes obsolete before the testing is complete! Publishers should look to developers for a dedication to progress without the chaos of hyperactive updates.
  1. What is the State of the SDK Documentation? — Start with the notion that a well-documented SDK means a publisher can access release notes and information without additional assistance. Marketers should steer publishers toward documentation that provides answers to frequently asked questions and supports those answers with clear examples. A best-case example also adds responses to queries as part of an ongoing process in real time (i.e. without requiring publishers to track down numerous e-mailed versions).

Differentiating between good and bad software development kits starts with looking for essential contents, critical features, and forward-leaning approaches.

The job, as mobile marketers in this conversation, is to keep education at the core of how the industry presents the value of SDK integrations. We need to reach those publishers who’ve decided, based on previously challenging experiences, that they don’t want SDK integrations in their mix.

We need to supply them with the assurance — the industry grows when marketing, brands, and publishers successfully move the conversation beyond just serve the ad. That’s how we restart mobile marketing’s conversation with publishers about the value of SDKs.

rajnijjar-headshotRaj Nijjar is Vice President of Engineering at Verve. Prior to his current position, Nijjar served as Vice President of Engineering and Product Development at Capture Code, and as an architect and a senior technical manager at AOL.

verve_andrew-slater-headshotAndrew Slater is Vice President of Publisher Services at Verve, where he oversees and grows Verve’s direct premium publisher-facing business.