An Investigation Into Android In-App Ad Practice: Implications For App Developers

Boyuan He Zhejiang University, P.R. China
Haitao Xu Northwestern University, USA
Ling Jin Zhejiang University, P.R. China
Guanyu Guo Zhejiang University, P.R. China
Yan Chen Northwestern University, USA
Guangyao Weng Zhejiang University, P.R. China


In-app advertising has served as the major revenue source for millions of app developers in the mobile Internet ecosystem. Ad networks play an important role in app monetiza-tion by providing third-party libraries for developers to choose and embed into their apps. However, developers lack guidelines on how to choose from hundreds of ad networks and various ad features to maximize their revues without hurting the user experience of their apps. Our work aims to uncover the best practice and provide app developers guidelines on ad network selection and ad placement. To this end, we investigate 697 unique APIs from 164 ad networks which are extracted from 277,616 Android apps, develop a methodology of ad type classification based on UI interaction and behavior, and perform a large scale measurement study of in-app ads with static analysis techniques at the API granularity. We found that developers have more choices about ad networks than several years before. Most developers are conservative about ad placement and about 71% apps contain at most one ad library. In addition, the likeliness of an app containing ads depends on the app category to which it belongs. The app categories featuring young audience usually contain the most ad libraries maybe because of the ad-tolerance characteristic of young people. Furthermore, we propose a terminology and classify mobile ads into five ad types: Embedded, Popup, Notification, Offerwall, and Floating. We found that embedded and popup ad types are popular with apps in nearly all categories. Our results also suggest that developers should embed at most 6 ad libraries into an app, which otherwise would anger the app users. Also, a developer should use at most one ad network when her app is still at the initial stage and could start using more (2 or 3) ad networks when the app becomes popular. Our research is the first to reveal the preference of both developers and users for ad networks and ad types.

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