Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hybrid CPA Network "Turn" Launches

TechCrunch reports today:
"San Mateo startup Turn will unveil an interesting new advertising platform tomorrow at the Web 2.0 conference. It combines Cost Per Action bidding with a wide range of user, site and ad performance analytics. The company calls itself the world’s first automatic targeting, bidded CPA ad network."
I'm thrilled that CPA advertising is finally starting to hit a little more "mainstream" with guys like this and Jellyfish. For so many years I've felt that innovation has only been coming from inside our industry with very few new players taking a shot at making cost per action work.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Affiliate Search Engine Launches

Anik Singal over at Affiliate Classroom has utilized the new Google co-op search engine technology to build an affiliate industry specific search engine. You can check it out at Affoogle.com

You can see a full list of sites it pulls from here: http://www.affoogle.com/listed_sites.html and
it allows you to make suggestions as well. This execution reminds me a lot of Rollyo - a technology that lets you create your own search engine by combining several sites together.

John Battelle and Chris Anderson Discuss "The Long Tail"

About 185 people connected online at today's session of ecomXpo to hear John Battelle and Chris Anderson discuss the long tail of marketing.

Battelle is an excellent speaker and host and walked through the history of the book with Anderson and the impact the internet has had on how our behavior and shopping habits are changing. If you're not familiar with the book, I encourage you to check it out here:


I plan to post more about my thoughts on The Long Tale in the coming days.

Monday, October 16, 2006

I've launched a New Blog

I've decided to keep this blog focused on the online marketing space and move my salesforce.com related posts to a new site called SaleforceCollective.com.

The 4 days I spent out at Dreamforce were motivating and sparked numerous ideas. I realized that most of what I've learned to date about Salesforce has been through blogs like SalesforceWatch.com and Perspectives on Salesforce and I hope to contribute back to the community.


Friday, October 13, 2006

What the Heck is a Flog?

MediaPost recently posted an article about Walmart and their attempt to create a fake blog or "flog". The actual site is WalmartingAcrossAmerica, and the authors have already owned up to the situation, although they defend themselves by stating:

"We had heard that Wal-Mart's critics could be vicious in their attacks. Now we know those concerns were valid. And we kept our professional lives out of it, where we work and what we do for a living,— because this was not about the organizations we work for, I did this blog because I thought it would make a great story. Jim did this because we live together. We took vacation time in order to make this trip. We weren't out there as representatives of our employers, or anybody at all but ourselves.

So now we're being attacked. Why? Because we dared to write positive things about Wal-Mart. The people who hate Wal-Mart couldn'’t argue with anything we said,— we were writing about real people and telling true stories."

This isn't the first case of a fake blog, I found several interesting ones:

The Lincoln Fry - outed by: Strategic Public Relations
Gourmet Station - outed by: micropersuasion
Coke's Zero Movement - outed by Adrants.com

Amazingly someone at Walmart thought it would be a good idea, or maybe they just didn't think they would be caught. Debbie Weil, author of "The Corporate Blogging Book" said it best:
"This is so foolish on so many levels, it makes me scratch my head, everyone involved violated the basic rule: Be transparent. If you're found out, it comes back as a slap in the face."
I'm kind of puzzled myself that so many big companies would think this is a good idea. Trust is a tough thing for anyone to earn, especially in the consumer - corporation relationship. I guess the best we can hope for is that others just might learn from all of these mistakes.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dreamforce 2006 Day 4

This morning's 3 breakout sessions wrapped up this year's Saleforce.com conference, and these 3 that I attended were actually 3 of the better breakouts I saw all week.

First up was the business mash-ups session on the developer track. While I'm not a developer, I'm really interested in API's and webservices functionality, especially as it related to Salesforce. There was a great presentation from infopia, and examples of how they've gone out to dozens of API's and integrated them into Salesforce for their clients. Spanning Partners also talked about integrating Google Calendar functionality within SF.

The next session was the community building session that featured 2 of the best Salesforce bloggers Mark from Salesforcewatch.com and Scott from Perspectives On Salesforce and ArrowPointe Consulting. Also on the panel was Joseph from LeverageSoftware. I really think the folks at Salesforce have done a great job to embrace community, especially on through the Successforce blog and on the Idea Exchange.

The last session of the conference for me was the professional edition roadmap presentation. At this point we've already seen most of these ideas in previous presentations and through the idea exchange, but a couple of ideas / future rollouts grabbed my interest: marketing tracking enhancements including click tracking - for an ROI focused marketer like me, this is a big development. SF loves their Google adwords tracking product and I think they want to expand this into new areas. Yahoo search tracking, organic search tracking and more are being considered. Salesforce wants to enable users to understand the context in which customers are interacting with us and this is definitely a good thing. Other cool ideas include saved search history and tagging features, both of which would make it easier to find our key data.

A couple of more photos, all of which and more can be found on Flickr.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Dreamforce 2006 Day 3

Marc Benioff got us started again this morning with an interesting introduction to the featured keynote General Colin Powell. General Powell got a standing ovation and was an excellent speaker. He talked for a long time and held the audience for most of that time with interesting anecdotes and the importance of corporate philanthropy, a topic that Mr. Benioff likes to remind us is covered in his new book. Powell took us through some examples of how he uses technology, and I was impressed to know that he actually understands Salesforce and its implications on the business world and government and has a great grasp on how the internet is making things move and change at a pace that humanity has never seen before. I really enjoyed his speech, but I think Powell lost most of the audience's attention when he began to explain the current political situations with various regions around the globe. At this point we had been listening to Benioff and Powell for more than 90 minutes. After Powell left the stage, various product demonstrations by executives from Symantec, Deutsche Bank, F5 Networks, Corporate Express, and Skype. Since Benioff and Powell ran so long, the general session went over by 45 minutes and people were walking out. Most of these "demonstrations" felt like sales pitches, but I liked seeing the real-world examples.

I headed back down to the exhibit hall to catch up with some vendors and ask some Salesforce staff some questions, and I thought I'd take a moment here to point out some booth "good guys" I met:
  1. ModelMetrics - Thanks Adam for referring me to another vendor when I described the Salesforce customization I was looking for.
  2. Before the Call - Really good bunch of folks offering instant access to a free version of their product. They also gave away a pair of tickets to the Oakland game that sadly I did not win.
  3. Convenos - thanks for the Skype headset, and for clearly and concisely explaining your product without being pushy or salesy.
  4. Salesforce - I had a specific question about Apex that nobody seemed to be able to answer but within minutes of leaving the booth I was on an email chain that had multiple people trying to track down an answer for me.
The booth poor conduct award goes to Eloqua: their team of hyper-aggressive salespeople wouldn't let you past their booth without several calls of "can I scan you?" from multiple people. Sure you got my contact information and already sent me an email, but you left me with a poor first impression.

A couple of pictures from today, all photos can be found on Flickr, tagged as Dreamforce2006. Other folks have added pictures to the dreamforce pool.

Finally, a special thanks to Kingsley Joseph of The Successforce Blog for reaching out to me and inviting me to a have a beer with some other Salesforce Bloggers.

Dreamforce 2006 Day 2

Marc Benioff certainly has a flair for the dramatic.

Just before 9am this morning thousands of attendees were anxiously awaiting the gates to lift so they could enter the keynote speech and opening remarks. As the gates lifted we were greeted by a live band playing "crazy" and signs warning us that strobe lights would be used during the presentation. Sure enough, Benioff didn't disappoint and he had our full attention. After a presentation on The Business Web and some recycled material from the roadshow presentation I attended a couple of months back in NYC, Benioff brought up former eBay COO Maynard Webb. Nothing too exciting here, and the real fun began when Chief Marketing Officer George Hu came up to present highlights of the Winter 07' release. Although George looked like he was 12 years old, he was very funny and charismatic and had the crowd on his side with numerous jokes. Perspectives On Salesforce does a good job wrapping up this session and the rest of the keynote, but the highlights were:
  1. Pop-up reminders
  2. The Console
  3. Calendar Remodel
  4. collapsible sidebar
  5. Related list "hovers" (roll-overs to you and me)
  6. Inline S-Controls (mashups, widgets, and Ajax oh my)
  7. Business logic and workflow approvals

Next up was a brief and difficult to understand presentation by Cisco VP Laurent Philonenko, followed by Benioff back on stage to make a suprise introduction of Michael Dell. Dell came up on the video screen remotely and began congratulating Salesforce on the launch of Apex a tad prematurely. I know I hadn't heard anything about Apex yet and was puzzled. After some slides on PRM, Benioff and Co-Founder Parker Harris made the big announcement that Dell alluded to earlier - Salesforce Apex.

Apex has the potential to be even bigger than the appexchange, giving developers and users the power to build completely custom code and applications on the Salesforce platform. Salesforce hosts it and provides the infrastructure, allowing customers to focus on creativity.

One final note on the keynotes - I thought it was very cool that Salesforce leased the old Siebel building ("We got a good deal, quipped Benioff") in San Mateo and is converting it into an AppExchange incubator. For $2k per month you get a cube and access to help, resources, and potential VC interest and develop a business to plug into SalesForce.

That concludes the Keynotes, the rest of the day was spent at breakout sessions, the best of which was the live workshop that walked through a hands on demo of the new winter 07 features. For more coverage of the keynotes check out PerspectivesOnSalesforce and SalesforceWatch.

I headed back to the Moscone center around 8pm for the "Global Gala" with the band Train. I'll admit, I'm actually a fan so this was a nice surprise. I assume corporate events are just about the last thing a serious musician wants to do but they were really good and the crowd was actually really into them.

More photos on Flickr

Monday, October 09, 2006

Dreamforce 2006 Day 1

I'm in San Francisco for Salesforce.com's annual Dreamforce conference, just a few minutes away from the opening remarks this morning. Not too much happened last night at the opening reception, there were a few demos and sneak previews of upcoming functionality but nothing we haven't already seen on the Idea Exchange. A few things to note:

  1. 150+ total upgrades
  2. Alerts and reminders will be incorporated - long overdue and much welcomed
  3. New calendars
  4. "in-line S controls" - while I don't fully understand this, what I gather is that we can incorporate outside functionality within Salesforce, which could be huge.
  5. Ajax galore - I'd have about $50 in my pocket if I had a dollar for everytime someone mentioned Ajax within the 30 minutes I saw demos. I don't need to know programming to know from the demos why this will be good for me - slicker functionality and greater flexibility is clearly coming our way
  6. Widgets - have I ever mentioned how much I dislike this word? Anyway, widgets are here to stay.
A couple of new pictures from day one:

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wanna Buy an Affiliate Network?

Better hurry, only 4 hours left although there don't seem to be any bidders yet.

NetTraction acknowledges the fact that this is a money losing operation, but gives you plenty of ideas on how to monetize the network including:


Although the network is currently a free network, meaning it costs a merchant nothing to become an advertiser , NetTraction has already monetized the network by upselling to the merchant base. Therefore, any revenue already generated from the network was NetTraction revenue and not AffiliateTraction.NET revenue. This is why we cannot show past revenue numbers in this listing. HOWEVER, for future revenue opportunities please see below.

Revenue Opportunities

The AffiliateTraction.NET Free Network can be successfully monetized several different ways:

  • Sell advertising on/in the site (as seen here)
  • Charge insertion fees
  • Charge monthly fees
  • Charge commissions
  • Offer AffiliateTraction software through exclusive agreement
  • Sell Merchant/Publisher leads to NetTraction

I'm curious what the full asking price is, since the opening bid is $24,999.00 and there is a reserve on top of that. Basically it seems that you are buying their DirectTrack network license along with some merchant and affiliate contact info.

Any takers?

Friday, September 01, 2006

CJU - a Preview

For me there are 2 can't miss conferences for the affiliate world - Affiliate Summit and Commission Junction University (CJU). This year's CJU is only 2 weeks away, running from 9/17 - 9/19 in Santa Barbara. This will be the 5th consecutive CJU I've attended, and every one has been an extremely well run and rewarding event. I'm anticipating a good event and I have a strong feeling that this year's CJU will be interesting and different in a few ways:

1. The departure of several key CJ employees. Jeff Pullen, Todd Crawford, Lisa Riolo, Elizabeth Cholawsky, and several other of the most tenured and respected people have left CJ in the past year. I am anxious to meet the new leaders of CJ and what their roadmap for the future is.

2. LMI (Link Management Initiative). I'm shocked that this issue is not being addressed through any topic on the current agenda, but I have no doubt that the audience will make this a hot topic. Even though CJ backed down from forcing this change on everyone, LMI was the the most contriversial affiliate issue we've seen in years. Shouldn't CJ be demonstrating all the reasons they wanted LMI and give affiliates the forum to voice their concerns?

3. The BeFree chopping block. This year Valueclick made the first moves towards forcing the BFAST platform into extinction by not renewing BeFree contracts and forcing merchants to move to the CJ platform when they expired. Most noteably, companies like The Gap, Brooks Brothers and Dicks Sporting Goods have all switched to Linkshare.

The real power of this event for me is in the networking and meeting with the people we do business with on a daily basis. Because our industry is spread across the globe, we only get a few chances a year to sit down and meet with our key partners face to face. Santa Barbara couldn't offer a more perfect setting, and NETexponent will be bringing 3 people besides myself to represent our clients.

Planning on going and want to meet? drop me a line at Chris at NETexponent.com.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Why Expedia, Orbitz, and Travelocity Will Become Extinct

There is a new bread of travel sites cropping up that pose a serious threat to the current leaders in the online travel space. Sites like Sidestep and Kayak are significantly different than the "old school" travel sites like Expedia and Travelocity in that you do your price search through their site, but book directly with the airline or hotel.

With more and more airlines and hotels guaranteeing the lowest rates when booking directly, consumers will gradually become savvy enough to realize that there is little reason to book through an aggregator like Expedia. According to a recent report by HitWise, the market share of visits to travel meta-search engines Kayak and Yahoo! FareChase increased by over 70% from May 2005 to May 2006.

Further diminishing the value of the aggregators, many airlines such as Continental and hotels including Hilton, Starwood, and Marriott go beyond just the best rate guarantees and offer perks such as upgrades or bonus loyalty points for booking directly. If you read through TripAdvisor, you'll also find countless tales of people who booked through sites like Expedia only to find they had problems once they arrived because they did not book direct.

There is also a pretty revolutionary new site still in beta called FareCast.com that tracks average airfare prices between major cities and advises you on the best time to purchase based on recent trends. Sites like this give the consumer so much more buying power than they have ever had before.

The one area that companies like Orbitz and Expedia can fight back is in packages. A recent search for airfare + hotel for an October trip to San Francisco if booked directly through Marriott and United Airlines would have cost me about $1250, while a package booked through Expedia would have only cost $775, a savings of 38%. I tested several other travel scenarios and found nearly all of the packages to be considerably cheaper than buying direct.

The late 90's saw the virtual extinction of offline travel agents when people discovered online travel booking, and I think it will only take 3-5 more years before sites like Orbitz, Expedia, and Travelocity also border on extinction.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Google Reverses Censorship Decision

Thanks to Wayne Porter for keeping us up to date on the situation with Steve Rosenbaum and his Google campaign. We have a winner folks, and it appears Google has changed their mind and decided to let Steve's campaign run. From Steve's Blog, Google's "resolution":


Hello Steve,

Thank you for your email. I've confirmed that your ad is approved and running on Google.

Our AdWords Specialists review ads that run on Google to ensure that they comply with our advertising policies. I apologize if the prior disapproval of your ad was made in error. However, after reviewing your ad again, our Specialists have found that your ad meets all our Editorial Guidelines and advertising policies.

If you have additional questions, please visit our Help Center at https://adwords.google.com/support to find answers to many frequently asked questions. Or, try our Learning Center at http://www.google.com/adwords/learningcenter/ for self-paced lessons that cover the scope of AdWords.

We look forward to providing you with the most effective advertising available.


The Google AdWords Team

While this is a victory, it does feel a little tainted since Google just sent out this canned response rather than having a real person address the freedom of speech issue head on. I'd like to think that all of the attention that Wayne and the community gave this topic really made a difference but unfortunately we may never know. If anyone is friends with "Lizzie", please have her give me a call, I'd love to ask her a few questions...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Google Censors War Coverage

A week or so ago I was standing in line at Dunkin' Donuts and was captivated by what I saw on the TV up on the wall. CNN was showing a video from YouTube that was shot by a college student in Lebanon depicting how she escaped the country to safety. While amateur video has been part of news coverage for years, the fact that the "source" was YouTube reminded me that the internet continues to play a vital role in the information we consume. I considered writing a post about the power of user generated content but never quite got around to it.

Today I was surprised and disappointed to learn that respected Producer, Directer and blogger Steve Rosenbaum was being censored by Google. Wayne Porter does an excellent job of digging into the issue, and I urge you to also read Steve's original post here:


To summarize, Mr. Rosenbaum created a useful site that collected various user shot videos of the Middle-East conflict and built an Adwords campaign to spread the word. What happened was that Google not only rejected the ads but deleted the entire campaign from his account.

The offending ads:


Israel/Lebanon War Video
See real video. Post Your Own
Comments and Opinions.

Israel War Video
User-Generated Video from the
Front Lines. Uncensored.


Hezbollah War Video
Uncensored User-Generated Video
from the Front Lines.


Lebanese War Video
Uncensored User-Generated Video
from the Front Lines.


The explanation from Google:

SUGGESTIONS:-> Content: Due to the sensitive nature of this matter, we are not able to run this ad at this time. As noted in our advertising terms and conditions, we reserve the right to exercise editorial discretion when it comes to the advertising we accept on our site.

Unacceptable Content: Google believes strongly in freedom of expression and therefore offers broad access to content across the web without censoring search results. Please note that the decisions we make concerning advertising in no way affect the search results we deliver. Please note that both your ad and keywords have been suspended at this time.

I have several issues with this. Obviously we know the war is a "sensitive issue" but does that mean that we're supposed to ignore it and pretend that it isn't going on? Where exactly does Google draw the line on what topics are acceptable and which are not? I understand Google has the right to reject whatever ads they want but should they? Google doesn't seem to have much of a problem showing ads for the term "sex video", but "war video" shows 0 paid results?

Mr. Porter sums it up best:

To Google: Perhaps you mean well, but the user, many of us are intelligent ones, can decide on the sensitive nature of world matters. Afterall we are your customers. We drive your business. We rely on you for relevant information in both advertising and search. In this case it was a needed civic experiment.

Monday, August 07, 2006

AOL Apologizes for "Screw Up"

AOL has apologized for their obvious mistake of releasing search history on more than 600k users. The offending file along with the rest of the page on AOL's research center has since been taken down but not before thousands of people had the opportunity to download the data.

"This was a screw up, and we're angry and upset about it," Andrew Weinstein, an AOL spokesman said. "It was an innocent-enough attempt to reach out to the academic community with new research tools, but it was obviously not appropriately vetted, and if it had been, it would have been stopped in an instant."

An ugly and embarrassing day for AOL, but hopefully they will learn just how important privacy is and ensure that nothing like this can happen again.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

AOL Releases Search History for 650k Users

Just when you thought AOL was making some smart moves by no longer charging broadband users to access AOL services, a blunder of biblical proportions has come out of the AOL camp.

For some reason, AOL thought it would be a good idea to release data on 20 million search queries over the past 3 months from 650k users. While they contend this is "annonomys" data, there are obvious fears that people can connect an actual user to this data. One user commented:

12:09 by lando?: Hmm, i find it fascinating that user 545605's searches are "shore hills park mays landing nj", "frank william sindoni md", "ceramic ashtrays", "transfer money to china", and "capital gains on sale of house". I wonder how Mr. Frank William in Sindoni, Maryland will feel about being included in your publicized data.

The research along with user comments and the actual data file can be found here:


Every search users assumes their personal information will never be shared with anyone - this is a serious breach of privacy and it is things like this that give our industry a black eye. The file has already been downloaded by 1k users and there is no telling how dangerous this can be in the wrong hands.

Trackback: TechCrunch

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Google to reveal click fraud data

Google announced this morning on their adwords blog that they will now be revealing click fraud data to advertisers.

The functionality is a bit buried in the reports section, but its there nevertheless. One quick downside I see already is that this data is only available at the campaign level, not the adgroup or keyword level. A quick check on a couple of our campaigns shows Google reporting click fraud at less than 5%. While this is a great step, Google still needs to give advertisers better tools for identifying fraudulent clicks and garbage traffic. At NETexponent we rely on a combination of 3rd party tools and reports that help us identify keywords, countries, and content distribution partners that may be sending unprofitable traffic. While the engines may not deem them "fraudulent", by eliminating wastage we're able to continually reduce costs and re-allocate dollars back into the best keywords.

I'm sure there will be a flurry of blogging on this subject in the coming hours and days, stay tuned...

Monday, July 24, 2006

Google Being Evil Again?

I recently posted about Google Lab's questionable product called Web Accelerator, and it seems that there may be some other skeletons lurking in the closet. When reviewing some referring URL logs for a Google campaign, I came across many URLs with the prefix http://apps5.oingo.com which I found especially curious since I know we had previously added that domain to our blocked list on content distribution due to poor results. After doing some research I came across this interesting post:

http://www.threadwatch.org/node/6110 - included is a response from Google when questioned about Oingo:

I understand that you're concerned that your ads may be appearing on [Google-owned-parking service].com even though you've added this URL to the site exclusion tool. [Google-owned-parking service].com is part of the Adsense for Domains networks and although most of these sites may be excluded with the site exclusion tool there are some exceptions that may not. This is due to the fact that some of these sites are of a hybrid type and are considered both part of the search and the content network. Oingo is one of these exceptions. To learn about the difference between the search and the content network please visit https://adwords.google.com/support/bin/answer.py?answer=6119&hl=en.

To effectively filter your ads from this site you may want to consider opting certain campaigns out of the search network.

If you opt out of the search network, your ad will no longer appear on your unwanted site, nor will it appear on any other site in the search network. However, opting out of the search network may significantly reduce your ad coverage and visibility to prospects.

I have known for some time that Google has owned this company and that it involved parked domains, but it just hit me as to just how serious a conflict of interest we have here folks. The fact that they consider traffic from these domains to be "search" means that we not only pay the search rate for this traffic, but that we also can't opt out of traffic from these sites unless we drop the entire search network which include AOL and Ask.com.

The other aspect of this that is really compelling is that Google is now penalizing sites for having "thin" content by incorporating a landing page quality score into PPC campaigns. So on one side you have sites penalized for lack of real content, yet Google is rewarding these same sites by giving them a cut of the search revenue and by preventing advertisers from eliminating these sites from their campaigns.

Some examples of actual domains I found:

Thanks to Steve and Vinny for sparking the discussion during the last Affiliate Summit.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Is Google Clicking On Your Ads?

I received a newsletter from Atlas regarding a recent product update that might be some cause for Alarm for CPC advertisers.

According to Atlas, a product from Google Labs called Web Accelerator has been artificially increasing the number of clicks on advertisements before they put certain filters in place. To quote Atlas:

"As a result of increased use of the Google Web Accelerator application, Atlas has recently experienced a gradual increase in click counts. Due to the methodology of the application, the activity from Google's proxy servers included an inflated number of non-human clicks on advertisements during the pre-requesting process.

Due to the significant level of activity from these proxy servers, we made the decision to implement an immediate block on the majority of activity from the servers as of July 4th. At the same time, we began development on a more sophisticated filter which identifies pre-fetch requests of Atlas ads by the Google Web Accelerator; therefore, letting us accurately count legitimate clicks from users of the application, while continuing to ignore invalid clicks. Starting July 15th, this filtering technique replaced the initial block that eliminated all traffic from those users."

If you are an advertiser paying on a CPC for display ads you may may be over-paying for your advertising. I can only hope that DoubleClick and other ad serving systems are creating filters for this product as well.

Apparently this product has been around since May of 2005 and raised some serious concerns even back then. On May 11th 2005 CNET published an article that discussed some of the security concerns with this product, and hinted that Google was pulling the product. While still a Google Labs product and not fully released, there is no longer a limitation on how many people may download the web accelerator.

Based on all of the negative reviews and problems this seems to cause you'd think Google would have pulled this off the shelves by now...

Monday, July 10, 2006

Tim Storm - Affiliate Legend

Congratulations to Tim Storm of Fat Wallet for winning this year's Affiliate Marketing Legend award. I'm proud to say I've known Tim for several years and it is well deserved.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Affiliate Summit Orlando - Live Report

The summer version of Affiliate Summit is supposed to be the "slower" of the 2 events put on by Shawn Collins and Missy Ward, but this event is showing no signs of slowing down. The hotel lobby and bar were buzzing, and I have to imagine just about anyone who reads this blog is down here at the event.

The Partner Maker hosted a casual get together in the hotel last night that provided a good opportunity to catch up with some old industry friends and meet some new ones.

Former NY Yankee pitcher Jim Bouton is just wrapping up his keynote speach, and while he might not know anything about affiliate marketing, he knows a lot about life and was able to remind us of a couple of key lessons. First and foremost you have to "love the process". No matter how much success you have you are always going to have some failures, but if you love the process of what you do you'll have a much greater chance of success and happiness. The second lesson came from his telling of his story of making a comeback to the major leagues after an 8 year absence from the game. That lesson was persistence, and it reminded me that many times it takes more than one attempt to reach the goal you're after.

Saturday, June 10, 2006

The Strange Things You Can Buy Online

With the amount of time I've spent online over the past 10 or so years nothing should surprise me, but I was on the homepage of Costco the other day and something caught my eye at the top of the page. Nestled between tabs that will take you "Food and Wine" and "Furniture" is a tab that reads "Funeral". Yes my friends, you can purchase a casket or urn online at Costco and have it delivered.

Is there actually a demand for this? If a loved one passes away, are you looking online to save a few bucks? What happens if there's a problem with shipping and your casket doesn't get there in time - are you delaying the funeral services? Of course you could always be pre-planning your funeral and could choose to store it in your basement until you're "ready".

I think the most unusual thing that I've purchased online myself is about 1,000 gallons of oil fuel for my house. It was actually pretty simple through a site called PriceEnergy and ended up saving me a couple hundred bucks this year.

My top 5 list of other unusual items you can purchase (in no particular order)
  1. Turducken
  2. Stuffed Pet Urn
  3. Guillotine
  4. USB Barbie
  5. Owl Puke

Friday, May 19, 2006

Commission Junction Network "Expanding"?

CJ posted a notice on the merchant interface yesterday that I found rather curious:

"In an effort to better serve our clients, Commission Junction will soon be expanding our network to allow publishers from some additional countries to join. The activation of these additional countries will help us provide a truly global network and present new opportunities for advertisers to maximize their international presence. China will be the first new country, becoming active on May 22, 2006."

A few things strike me as unusual:

1. China used to be a country listed on the application page, in fact I found several sites from China in the various programs we manage dating back to 2002.
2. CJ has always had the biggest and best platform for international affiliates and merchants. They have the ability to display reports in native currencies and pay affiliates in their native currency. What they're calling "global expansion" has been in place for years.
3. CJ currently suports 203 countries. If you are one of the 45 residents of the Pitcairn Islands you can apply to be a CJ publisher. Just how many countries are left to conquer?

Did Commission Junction see large amounts of fraudulent transactions from certain countries and decide to block all affiliates coming in from those countries? Now that those countries are being let back in slowly they could have said "Hey, we're letting all the bad guys back in", or "We tossed the baby out with the bath water when we blocked ALL affiliates from these countries", but they're putting a friendlier spin on it. I'm actually surprised they made any statement at all - they didn't notify merchants when they removed certain countries off of the application.

Personally I would rather be the one that decides who I want to work with rather than having the network choose for me, so I think its a good thing that they are not blocking affiliates from specific countries. Word of warning - if you are running an affiliate program with limited or no resources and don't know who your affiliate partners are this change could effect you in a bad way. Our agency is constantly reviewing which affilaites are driving orders and if we don't already know who they are we make it our business to learn. If the affiliate is unresponsive to our emails, we may become suspicious and watch future orders more closely.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

MSN AdCenter RoadShow Hits NYC

I had the pleasure of attending MSN's AdCenter RoadShow today at the Helmsley Hotel in NY City. About 50 search engine marketers, mostly from agencies attended this 3 hour training and informational seminar. One interesting thing for me was their vision on how they plan to integrate all of their advertising products within the AdCenter. They hinted at the possibility that you could eventually purchase all of your advertising on MSN through the AdCenter in a self serve environment. Building on Steve Ballmer's recent announcement that Microsoft will be spending more than $1 Billion on research and development, MSN is clearly out to be a serious player not only in search but in all online advertising. There are clearly some issues and bugs that need to be worked out with AdCenter before it can really compete, but it looks like they've got a good start.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Warner Bros. Partners with 180solutions for Deception

According to today's Media Post online, media giant Warner Brothers has been working with controversial adware company 180 Solutions to distribute their online soap opera "Deception". Can anyone think of a more appropriate title for 180 to be featuring? The full article can be found here:


Monday, May 08, 2006

Web 2.0 and Affiliate Marketing

Beth Kirsch, Director of Online Marketing for Lower My Bills recently wrote about Web 2.0 and Affiliate Marketing on Revenews. There has been some debate over how much affiliates can utilize 2.0 technologies to drive sales for merchants through RSS, Podcasts and blogs, but I think the power behind web 2.0 is much greater than just these 3 technologies.

First we need to start with just what the heck is web 2.0? The best source for 2.0 information seems to come from it's "creator" Tim O'Reilly. According to this article written in September of 2005 the concept of web 2.0 began as a brainstorming session that O'Reilly was part of.

What 2.0 represents to me is a new way of thinking and a new way of doing business. This chart that O'Reilly came up summarizes this new way of thinking pretty well :

So what does all this have to do with Affiliates? If you ask me, affiliates have been living the 2.0 life since the days of 1.0. They understood that it didn't take millions of dollars in Super Bowl ads to generate sales for the merchants they promoted. Affiliates had to get creative in the way they utilize technology to build, manage, and market sites. They were among the first to jump into the paid search arena when GoTo.com launched back in 1997, mainly because it delivered the best ROI. Web 2.0 companies are based on a foundation of simplicity and functionality rather than smoke, mirrors, and oodles of VC cash.

One of the most compelling aspects of web 2.0 is the idea of web services and API's. We're clearly moving towards a more collaborative tech environment and its changing the way we do business. Companies like SalesForce.com have developed an open platform that allows anyone to build a piece of technology that easily can plug into their system. Skype already has dozens of applications that offer additional functionality they didn't think of or have time to develop. It's a shame that the larger affiliate networks haven't grasped this concept and opened up their back end to let creative people build applications around their technology. Smaller affiliate companies like DirectTrack and MyAffiliateProgram have this functionality and I think it has fantastic potential. It's no surprise to me that 2 of the largest and most successful affiliate programs of all time Amazon and Ebay have each launched very successful web services platforms for affiliates.

In the coming weeks I plan to talk about some of the more intriguing technologies that the web 2.0 generation has to offer. Be sure to subscribe above to be notified of updates.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

NETexponent - We're hiring again

My company is looking for talented folks to work in our growing media department. Job description can be found here. You'd get to work on great brands in a fun team environment. Send an email to Jobs@NETexponent.com with the subject line "Media Manager" if interested.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Score One For The Good Guys

I've been a big fan of AlexsCoupons.com since I first met creator Todd Martini at last year's CJU conference in Santa Barbara. I've worked with hundreds of coupon sites over the past several years but there's something different about this site that is obvious once you know the story behind the website.

Todd and his family were recently featured in this video:

I'll include Todd's disclaimer here:

"There are a couple errors in the story. We do not make $600k-$900k each month. We've generated up to $900k in sales in a single month (12/05), but we're paid only a small percentage of that amount as commission. We are currently donating 10% of our profits or $1000, whichever is larger, to charity each month. If we ever do make $900k in a single month, we'll be making a very large donation to charity! 8-) "

I think a big part of what I love about affiliate marketing is that an anyone has the power to change their lives through this industry. My hat is off to Todd and his family who were able to take a nearly impossible situation and turn it into a thriving business that is also helping other people.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Prosper.com - A new way to borrow and invest

Every once in a while you come across a technology or company that can really change the way you’re used to doing things, and I think Prosper.com is one of those companies in the making. The concept is amazingly simple – people looking to borrow money can create a profile that includes how a credit rating while people looking to lend money can search the profiles and decide who they want to lend money to and see what rate they will get in return. No Banks, no contracts, just an open marketplace for cash.

Obviously the rate of return is directly proportional to the perceived risk. If you want to lend money to “TheWorldIsFlat” who has impeccable credit to go along with his $170k income then expect an 8% return on your investment. If you’re willing to gamble a little and lend your money to “Distressed22” whose finances spiraled out of control due to medical bills you can get a 22% return on your investment while helping out someone who needs the cash.

I’m no Warren Buffet, but I don’t know of any investments that have that type of return attached to them. As long as the person doesn’t default on their payments you’re guaranteed a hefty return.

As for the risks, Prosper.com encourages users to invest small amounts of money with several applicants as to minimize your risk. There are also some deterrents to prevent folks from running away off with your hard earned money:

1. Every registered user must submit to a credit check and have “verifiable information”
2. If a person is part of a group (such as firefighters, marines, etc) and is late on their payment, the “group leader” is notified and the group rate is put at risk.
3. If a person misses their payment, they risk having their credit damaged and late fees are assessed.

I love the concept – it takes the power out of the banks and credit card companies and into the people.

Keep an eye on these guys, this idea could be huge.