After a tumultuous 2015, Arkadium returned to its core business of providing games that can be embedded in the websites of media companies. During the last year, it added 300 publishers for its games, bringing its total to 450.
The company has also launched Asky, a quiz and poll app that journalists can use to embed interactive content in their websites.
Asky lets publishers create custom quizzes and polls that can easily be embedded on their pages. It is the first of several new in-article content solutions that Arkadium will introduce this year, said Jessica Rovello, the CEO and cofounder of New York-based Arkadium, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Rovello said that Arkadium had a disastrous year in 2014 and 2015. In the spring of 2014, the Russians invaded Ukraine and took over Crimea, where Arkadium had more than 100 employees.
Then, at the end of 2014, the Obama administration declared sanctions, making it a crime for U.S. companies to do business in Crimea. Rovello found that her studio was now an illegal business. Instead of shutting it down, she and her husband and cofounder, Kenny Rosenblatt, asked the employees what they wanted. About half of them decided to continue working, and they wanted to be part of Russia. So they relocated the studio across the Russian border, in Krasnodar, and reopened in a place where they weren’t subject to sanctions.
Within the course of a few months, Arkadium lost about half its people, going from 150 employees down to 75. Rovello said the company decided to stop making free-to-play mobile games, where it was just one competitor among a million. Mobile seemed like the future, but it was too hard to get traction with the smaller team.
So Arkadium refocused on its core business, including its flagship white-labeled Arena games offering, and it staged a comeback in 2016, Rovello said. It focused on signing up hundreds of publishers during the past year.
Now it is adding Asky, the self-serve quiz and poll technology, to help publishers shore up their metrics, such as time spent on-site, session duration, and user retention.
“Platforms like Facebook are increasingly cannibalizing media content,” Rovello said. “As a result, publishers are demanding tools that help their editorial teams build contextual interactive content that engages readers and keeps them on-site. Asky delivers on that need, making it easier than ever for them to build and embed quizzes and polls.”
Editorial teams can use it to create custom quizzes and polls in support of their articles. Asky’s content is interactive, highly visual, and easily embedded – complete with publisher branding – on a page. Asky improves monetization and comes with a growing library of more than 200 journalist-written quizzes and polls that can be used out-of-the-box or customized as needed.
These quizzes and polls are guaranteed to be brand-safe, copy edited to Associated Press style, and with rights-cleared images. They are developed by Arkadium’s expert editorial team, which includes current and former contributors to publications as diverse as The New York Times, Bleacher Report, and TMZ. New quizzes and polls are published every week, free for Asky users.
“Publishers know that visual and interactive content is the key to audience engagement,” said Ben Widdicombe, Arkadium’s editorial director, in a statement. “But creating that content at scale is challenging without the right resources in place. Asky completely changes that. It is an easy-to-use, self-service solution that helps editorial teams quickly add winning content to their pages.”
Asky quizzes and polls are live on the websites of hundreds of top publishers worldwide. Northern & Shell, a U.K. publishing giant, has embedded Asky custom quizzes and polls on its article pages to dramatically increase audience engagement.
The publisher has already cited an average click-through rate of 8.43 percent. Some custom content —such as a quiz created for the U.K.’s Daily Express around last year’s Brexit vote — has seen a click-through rate above 11 percent.
“Asky is unique,” added Rovello. “It was created by journalists, for journalists, with the features a modern newsroom needs to innovate. Publishers are hungry for innovative tools that make their pages more interactive, more visual, and which monetize effectively. Asky delivers on all these needs.”
Arkadium hired more than 30 people to help deal with growing demand and to launch Asky. Arkadium also has a team maintaining its games for Microsoft, such as Solitaire, on its Windows platform.
New clients include TMZ properties, Sports Illustrated, and New York Daily News. In 2016, users engaged in more than 223 million sessions, up 13 percent from the previous year. Game starts grew to 522 million, up 10 percent. Rovello anticipates that 2017 will be even stronger than 2016. In June last year, Inc. Magazine put 15-year-old Arkadium on its cover for “best places to work.”
“Everything we’ve been able to accomplish this year is because of our amazing staff in New York and Russia,” Rovello said.