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Cost per impression (CPI) refers to the rate that an advertiser has agreed to pay per 1,000 views of a particular advertisement. A website that serves ads based on CPI doesn’t need the user to click on the ad – each appearance of the ad in front of a user counts as one impression. The advertiser agrees to pay the website a certain price for every 1,000 impressions the ad receives.
Cost per impression is also known as cost per thousand, or CPM (the letter "M" is the Roman numeral for 1,000).
A CPI arrangement is more common with large websites that represent a branding opportunity for advertisers. CPI follows a pricing model that is closer to the print style of ad sales, with advertisers paying a set price just to show their ads. The website’s ad server monitors the number of impressions and usually adjusts the display rate to match a given advertiser's desired spend on a monthly or quarterly basis.