Sorry, Jangro

June 25, 2008 by

Yes, she did say it. Evidently it went over pretty flat. More people need to listen to GeekCast, dammit!

Congrats again to Lisa AND Jangro. My wife thinks Scott is my most normal “internet friend” if that means anything (which it does). We give you lots of heck on the show, Jangro… but we do love you and you’ll always be the fifth Beatle in my book.

First, congrats to my pals Lisa Picarille and the FabulousSavings team for winning Linkshare Golden Links last night. Also, a big congrats to the excellent nominees like Mike Allen, Scott Jangro and Stephanie Agresta.

Second, this year’s Linkshare awards event was made possible by the live tweeting of people like Missy Ward, Stephanie and Lisa P. That was a tremendous service and all of us following you thank you three for doing that. It’s amazing to me how events like the Linkshare awards take on more of an industry wide communal feeling because of something like Twitter. Now, just fast forward a couple of years into the future when we all have live streaming video capabilities on our phones and we’re live broadcasting from events like that (or is that even kosher?).

Nevertheless, boundaries are falling and Twitter has become a big hammer between that wall of attendees and remote viewers who wish they could be there.

Third, Shawn, Lisa, Jim and I made a friendly wager on this week’s GeekCast regarding the results of the Linkshare awards. Needless to say, I won (since I clearly know more about the industry than the others on the show):

Affiliate Marketing Blog by Shawn Collins: “Prior to the awards, Jim Kukral, Lisa Picarille, Sam Harrelson, and I shared our predictions for each category on the weekly GeekCast show.

Below are the picks each of us made, as well as the winners (in yellow).

* Jim: 8 for 14
* Lisa: 7 for 14
* Sam: 9 for 14
* Shawn: 5 for 14 “

So, it looks like free drinks for me in Boston on behalf of the other GeekCasters. OR, if you’d like to get tons of exposure for your business, you can sponsor GeekCast for that evening and we’ll mention you a few dozen times during a live taping. Get in touch with any of us if you’re interested. Great chance to get your name out there!

And of course, thanks to the Linkshare team for putting on what sounded like another great event.

[display_podcast]

We (Shawn Collins, Lisa Picarille, Jim Kukral and myself) recorded GeekCast this afternoon and it’s a great show…

GeekCast 22: iPhone 2.0 and It’s Still Useless : GeekCast.fm: “The show kicked off with talk of the iPhone 2.0, and the virtues like 3G speed, as well as the negatives, such as the keyboard, lack of copy/paste, etc.

The rumored ability to capture video didn’t pan out (did RIM start that rumor?), which was a letdown for your loyal GeekCasters.”

This is one of my favorite episodes yet because Jim and I basically come to blows over Zobzee and mandles.

There has been much hand wringing in the world of affiliate marketing over the so-called New York state “affiliate tax.” However, as Trust points out on ABW, it doesn’t seem that 99% of merchants running affiliate programs care much…

How Are Merchants Finding Out About This? – ABestWeb Affiliate Marketing Forum: “Looking at this list and I only see about 40 merchants (so far) which is maybe at most 1% – 2% of merchants with affiliate programs who have dropped NY affiliates. So was wondering if we have a whole bunch more coming and if all the merchants know about this or what. Or if it’s going to be an overall small percentage that drop affiliates.”

Is that a symptom of poor communication by New York state legal authorities, legal counsels, affiliates…or is this really not that big of deal?

There have been a plethora (literally) of blog posts in the affiliate-blog-osphere about the issue ranging from Shawn Collins and Linda Buquet‘s respective reporting to ReveNews coverage to Peter Bordes at Relevantly Speaking chiming in to our discussions on GeekCast to even networks like ShareASale offering strong and well thought-out advice for merchants.

However, merchants really don’t seem to be paying too much attention to all of this.

Once again, I defer to Trust on ABW:

I guess I was expecting a whole slew of new drop notices today, haven’t seen anybody post anything new. In the end if it winds up only being about 1% – 2% then that’s really not much at all. I guess we’ll have to wait to see how this turns out but at this point not as bad as I thought it would be. Time will tell.

Is this just the latest Froogle?

I’m not so sure. I do think there is a considerable need for affiliate marketers to educate and inform merchants about the viability and importance of the performance channel in terms of their bottom line, but “affiliate marketing” as we know it is SO wide ranging and dispersed at this point that it would take Microsoft creating their own loyalty program to get us to organize… oh, wait.

In other words, our conception of “affiliate marketing” (in my opinion) is rapidly evolving away from just the network/affiliate model that has served us well (and badly) for the last decade. “We” are moving into video, lead gen, offline, mobile, widgets, social media, search and all sorts of places that we didn’t envision a decade ago. I would venture to say that at least 75% of the people doing affiliate marketing don’t even know they are doing affiliate marketing.

I’m not arguing for a name change or anything of that nature. However, I do want us to realize that while the NY affiliate tax has certainly caused its share of fear and loathing, we need to realize that this industry has fractured and continues to move away from anything resembling an industry. Coming up with an organized group to represent its needs and views may be as difficult as getting merchants to address the NY state issue.

So here’s my take: Merchants are letting legal figure this out (if they even need to). We should be proactive but realize that interstate commerce is a very complicated subject and requires highly skilled lawyers (and such) to grok. I doubt if NY state’s tax will survive the appeal process based on my understanding of what’s happening, but I’m no lawyer.

In the meantime, it looks to be business as usual.

Affiliate networks are beginning to get more active (or at least more vocal) on the New York state affiliate tax issue.

CJ has weighed in with a general call for due diligence, ShareASale has been more proactive and involved with the issue both on their blog and in the ABW forum. Then during the GeekCast podcast yesterday, Shawn Collins discussed Linkshare’s partnership with the DMA over the issue.

Here is the email Linkshare is sending out to publishers today:

LinkShare has issued the following invitation to a teleconference on the New York State sales tax change and affiliate marketing:

On April 9, 2008, New York State passed a law mandating that any retailer that (1) meets a certain sales volume from sales to New York customers and (2) has an affiliate program with New York based publishers that refer customers to the retailer and are paid on a commission basis must charge and collect New York sales tax on all sales shipped to New York.

We have been actively working with, and providing support to, the Direct Marketing Association (DMA) to clarify this law. The Direct Marketing Association is the leading global trade association for businesses that use direct marketing tools and techniques. LinkShare is proud to be their partner. As this issue continues to develop, we are committed to making available the insights of authoritative partners like the DMA to help inform and guide you.

To this end, we are pleased to invite you to be LinkShare’s guest for the DMA’s conference call on this issue, featuring DMA Tax Counsel George Isaacson this Thursday, May 22, 11AM to 12Noon Eastern. He will provide an overview of the bill and the DMA’s interpretation of it. There will also be an opportunity for Q&A.

To join the call (Thursday, May 22, 11AM to 12Noon Eastern), email government@the-dma.org to receive personalized dial in information. Please let them know you are a member of the LinkShare Network.

Of course, while the DMA provides an authoritative source for information, since every business has a unique situation, we urge all our partners to seek out individual independent tax and legal advice. The New York Department of Taxation and Revenue‘s Technical Service Bulletin (TSB) and DMA’s analysis of it are available on our site at http://www.linkshare.com/advertisers/ny_state_tax/

For details, please contact:

Mark Kirschner
LinkShare
646-943-8359
mkirschner@linkshare.com

Dan Dent
Blanc & Otus Public Relations for LinkShare
617.451.7351
ddent@blancandotus.com

I’ll be on the call (from a hammock on Hilton Head Island, SC while my monkey butler brings me drinks…) and will share my thoughts here tomorrow afternoon.

Big news out of Linkshare today.

LinkShare Announces Executive Management Team Changes: “NEW YORK, March 18 /PRNewswire/ — LinkShare, a leading pay-per-action
marketing network, announced the resignation of Stephen R. Denton as
President of the company and two promotions in its executive management
team.”

While a search for Denton’s replacement gets underway, his duties will
be assumed by John J-H Kim, who will become Interim President in addition
to his role as CEO of LinkShare’s parent company, Rakuten USA.

(As a side note, it’s always heartening to find this sort of thing on press release outlets instead of from a phone call… don’t you hire out very expensive PR firms? Thanks, networks).

Shawn Collins has made the annual AffStat Report available for purchase and download. For anyone interested in the nitty gritty metrics of affiliate marketing, this is a must read.

Read more »

Listening to the most recent Gillmor Gang today brought about more head-scratching for me as to why or what is so hard to understand about the basic understanding of what affiliate marketing is and what affiliate marketing is not.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand that it will (probably) not help my bottom line or profit margin by any degree if the participants of the Gillmor Gang and the associated San Francisco Bay-centric clique understand what affiliate marketers do and that they are not SEO’ers, spammers, arbitragers, MLM’ers or general web-pollutionists.

I’m referring to Jason Calacanis doing a series of well (or ill depending on your sense of humor and sense of segue way cadence) placed ads for the Affiliate Summit during tapings of the Gillmor Gang podcast. I’ve covered the first episode of The Gang where Jason caused a few ripples by doing the Affiliate Summit ads over on ReveNews.

On this past Friday’s taping, it was TechCrunch‘s Mike Arrington who asked the now inevitable “Are they SEO’ers?” question when Jason did his now tongue-in-cheek ad followed with an odd “they must be all black-hatters.” Jason answered that affiliate marketing is a billion dollar industry that no one knows about and isn’t SEO or MLM. Good to hear that Jason has been doing his homework and I do look forward to hearing his thoughts on the industry since he is the Affiliate Summit keynote.

So, my question is whether or not I should keep feeling a sense of frustration or exasperation that such web influentials know so little about affiliate marketing or seemingly care so little to learn about affiliate marketing before slapping it with an unfair brand of spam/blackhat/arbitrage/junk.

You’d think (or at least I do) that bloggers who blog about technology and web2.0 monetization such as Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick would also investigate the business model of DoubleClick’s important Performics division. Or perhaps these bloggers would seemingly be interested as to why the Japanese mega-corp Rakutan spent hundreds of millions on Linkshare or why ValueClick and its Commission Junction property are considered next in line for a major acquisition after DoubleClick, Razorfish and Right Media (if you listen to the rumors and sites such as SeekingAlpha). In all of these examples, affiliate marketing plays a major role.

Perhaps I’m just being protective and defensive over an industry that I’ve seen dramatically mature and “grow-up” over the last few years and one in which I’m proud to be a member. Nevertheless, in order to adequately understand the web landscape and the future shape of web apps, bloggers and thinkers must take into account the various forms of monetization that exist on the web without dismissing them as black-hat. Or at least that’s my hope.

With last week’s launch of the pepperjamNETWORK and the discussion that ensued about the role of affiliate networks in the online marketing space, it’s interesting to take note of some of the other networks out there that exist (in size but not necessarily quality) between the CJ/Linkshare/Performics/ShareASale affiliate network model and the more direct response driven CPA networks.

One of those networks is North Carolina based LinkConnector. LinkConnector has been active in the industry since 2004, but it looks as if they are picking up steam and advertisers according to a new press release.

LinkConnector kicked off 2008 with nine merchants from the Internet Retailer’s Top 500 Guide, tripling its market share reach, and closing the gap between itself and other large networks, such as Commission Junction. LinkConnector has redefined for many merchants and affiliates what it is they want from an affiliate marketing network. Many merchants from the Top 500 Guide selected LinkConnector for its exclusive technologies, not found in other networks, and for its notable list of high quality affiliates.

“Many top Internet retailers took notice of LinkConnector in 2007, seeking new and better solutions in affiliate marketing,” said Choots Humphries, LinkConnector Co-President. “Internet Retailer’s independent survey affirms that we are rapidly capturing market share. We believe this is due in part to our exclusive technologies and unique approaches, differentiating us from the crowd. We expect to again grow by more than 100 percent in 2008, providing affiliate marketing solutions to a growing number of merchants from the Top 500 List.”

So, the important question here is how networks such as LinkConnector, or the new pepperjamNETWORK or even the increasingly important CPA networks like AzoogleAds (not to mention agencies like MediaWhiz or the budding widget ad networks) will impact both the affiliate market and the more mentioned “Big 4″ networks?

Is there even a “Big 4″ anymore?

2008 should be fun as we find out.