Long story short, I run a website where users upload their own content. Photos and videos. Everything is posted directly to an AWS S3 Bucket, then propagated out to a CDN. I have users all over the world...telling me their content loads fast. Good.

Until recently I was getting a few tens of thousands of requests per day on my CDN. Then I saw a spike in traffic and my CloudFront CDN cost exploded to over $120 per month. I only recently put ads on my website and they earn me about 2 cents per 1,000 impressions. This does not add up.

I've heard that Youtube actually loses money but Google uses it to produce original content and collect advertising data, so it's worth it to them.

How does any other site function like this, without getting major sponsors or deals? Is Imgur profitable? Vimeo? Reddit?

If you have any light to shine on my problem, I'd love to hear you out.


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    If you are getting bids for 2¢, then bidders are not seeing the value of your website. Part of this is the ability to attract motivated users. For example, a site dedicated to wine will see higher bids from businesses that can benefit from the content specifically. In cases where bids are low, there is little to no content that attracts likely buyers for an ad sponsor. It is that simple. Bids for ads can easily be in the dollars range including bids nearing $100 or more. It all depends upon the content.
    – closetnoc
    Feb 27, 2018 at 2:32
  • The truth is my website has a bunch of places where users upload NSFW content. That makes it exponentially harder to secure good advertising and I knew that going in. But hey, Porn sites make money too. Let me ask you if you know: once my Ad Partner finally registers the change in traffic (these things can lag for days) is it more likely that I will get better advertising bids?
    – TRose
    Feb 27, 2018 at 2:37
  • I cannot say. I used AdSense. But now I don't do any advertising.
    – closetnoc
    Feb 27, 2018 at 4:31
  • You have overlooked the fact that using CloudFront reduces the charges you would otherwise pay for data transport outbound from your actual content origin (S3) to the browser to $0/GB. Without CloudFront in the path, your S3 charges would be substantially higher than they are, now -- potentially even higher than your total cost for CloudFront, depending on circumstances. Especially for large files, and depending on the location of both the bucket and the viewer, the combined cost of S3 + CloudFront can easily be a few percentage points lower than the cost of using S3 by itself. Feb 27, 2018 at 6:12

1 Answer 1


I have some experience running a video platform and finding out how hard it is to maximize rpm. Video sites aren't targeting any specific profitable niche. And so add networks have to display a general click through camain and hope that your traffic leads to sales. Though I do think you can get your rpm up much higher than the 2 cents. It may be difficult for this number to go much over $1/1000 unless you're running video ads in between watch duration.

If you do have loyal users though, that means they're willing to spend their money with you. They trust your brand. Perhaps you'll have to figue out hope to monetize them.

The server costs of running a video site can certainly get out of control if you're hosting the video files.

One of the first things a site like yours has to do is solve server costs or you could crumble. You have one of the highest server requirement type of websites on the web.

  • Thanks for the reply Michael. I'd actually be thrilled with $1 per 1000 impressions. Heck, I'd be happy with 25 cents. At my current rate of pageviews, I'd break even on just about $3.00 a day in revenue. Do you have any general advice for raising that RPM? My ads work exactly like you say, a network that has a bunch of generalized filler ads with the option for advertisers to spend more and specifically buy space with your site.
    – TRose
    Feb 27, 2018 at 2:54
  • I spent a lot of time trying to raise my rpm. If you want to, pm me with your domain and monthly traffic and I can look into running ads on your platform and raising your rpm
    – Michael d
    Feb 27, 2018 at 6:07

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