I stumbled into the affiliate marketing world years ago.
I’m walking out of it today.
My experiences in the affiliate marketing world have been incredibly positive when it comes to interpersonal relationships. However, it’s time for me to move on. I’m not happy.
Why am I not happy?
Mainly because I don’t like the way online marketing continues to debase the human factor of interaction in attempts to “monetize” and find cracks in the sidewalks to plant sour seeds.
It’s not you, it’s me.
I’m just not interested in the day-to-day minutia of being a marketing professional anymore. I’m sure I’ll always keep up with the main trends and I’ll certainly keep up with the space in terms of how it affects social media, etc.
But these questions just don’t turn me on anymore…
“Why doesn’t tinyurl allow for better cookie tracking so that I can make affiliate sales from Twitter links?”
“Why does Google punish me for selling links when TechCrunch does the same thing?”
“How much should I invest in my StumbleUpon account in order to drive 1,000 pageviews a day?”
“Can you help me tweak my Twitter account so that I can drive sales thru my landing page?”
“How can I get more fans to join my (self-created) Facebook page?”
“Who do I need to pay to add outbound links to the affiliate marketing page on Wikipedia?”
“Is FriendFeed worth it? Yeah, I know you say it’s neat for finding out information and learning about new things, but will it make me money?”
And It is these sorts of things that have slowly driven a wedge between my own idealism and (what I see as) the current trajectory of online marketing. Beyond a growing distaste around such issues, I generally find myself on the wrong side of the fence for effective marketing. And I’ve been on all sides of that online marketing fence… publisher, affiliate, CPA network, email marketer, agency, vendor, OPM, and God knows whatever else… I’m coming to grips with my own realization that it’s not for me.
For me, the expectations have never met the promises. These days, I’m only feeling more alienated. As a result, I’m choosing to opt-out rather than becoming a constant nay-sayer or voice of doom and gloom.
To quote Lennon, “I don’t want to spoil the party, so I’ll go.”
On top of all that, I just don’t see myself as an “online” or even “affiliate” marketer anymore. I’m not saying I’ve grown beyond those labels. I just don’t feel that those pairs of socks go with my outfits now.
PLEASE do not get me wrong. I respect, admire and love so many people in the affiliate and online marketing space (and will continue to do so, of course). This is not a personal affront to anyone in the space or the space itself, but more of a realization that I have to move on.
As a result, I’ll be shutting down CostPerNews (or (fire) selling it if someone is interested) and doing my posting over on my personal site.
I’m also going to be working on the podcast network I’m developing (Thinking.fm) around issues I am excited about these days (science, religion, Nascar, parenting, tech, politics… the site is still being developed, so excuse the mess… will be up and going by February). I’m really excited about those sites.
And hopefully, the gang will still allow me to take part in GeekCast even though I’m turning in my affiliate hard card. I hope so (check out the site redesign, btw).
I’m also doing more work in the non-profit world (Hunger Initiative) and continuing my journey towards whatever end awaits me at seminary.
Yes, of course it is my hyperbole than anything to say I’m “quitting” marketing since we are all marketers in whatever we do. I should rephrase that and say “I’m quitting the professional guise of being an online marketer.” There, that feels better.
Two and a half years ago, I wrote this and my career only exploded afterwards:
So, with these realizations and my own skewed since of lefty politics and social views I’m embarking on a mission to do better… to make things good… to connect people to good things they might not have known about… to form community… and to use my skills to leave the internet a better place than it was when I found it (way back in the Prodigy Bulletin Board days).
Lofty goals often mean periods of worry, anxiety and joblessness in terms of “career” but sticking to my flower-guns has got to be a better policy than being miserable knowing that I’m not using my full potential.
So, who knows what’s next, but it will be shiny, rusty, exciting, boring, profitable, unprofitable and creative. I will make this work (whatever in the hell this is).
So, who knows what’s next? I will make it work. I will make it worthwhile.
Thank you all so much for the incredible dedication of readership as well as the inspiration you’ve provided me in the comments and emails.
Here’s to a new beginning and learning from the past.
Earlier this week, I lamented on Google’s poor handling of FeedBurner since acquiring the service.
Instead of capitalizing on FeedBurner’s large amount of inertia and kind feelings towards the service from the influence-sphere of bloggers, Google has relegated FeedBurner to the back shelf of its growing collection of dolls and toys.
In a post about the coming possibilities of a “ping economy” (attention economy?), Steve Gillmor points out the growing latency (ie impotency) of FeedBurner and how Google has mis-handled RSS notifications within Google Reader in general:
The Realtime Ping Server: “Whatever the case, and whether or not we’re correctly implementing a ping or not, the notion that blog posts are effectively removed from a realtime audience which is increasingly dominant is mindbogglingly stupid. Some even suggest there are competitive reasons for this lack of a strategy, but I can’t quite construct a convincing rationale for it to date. However, I will throw out the apparent fact that Google makes much more from Web pages than they do from RSS pages.
Inevitably, FriendFeed will roll out Track, and so will Twitter in short order, perhaps even sooner than FriendFeed’s smaller team can prioritize it. Until then, we will continue to model our Twitter cloud in FriendFeed constructs, make do with a lack of filtering tools to constrain the friend-of-a-friend overspill, and look to other players (Microsoft in particular) to compete directly with Feedburner at the RSS routing layer. There is no reason why RSS can’t be an effective protocol at the realtime layer, and FriendFeed’s growing arsenal of features is both a roadmap and a toolkit for the transition.
Note: I am publishing this post at 3:31PM Pacific time.
Update: 5:01PM No RSS.
Update: 5:52PM Still broken.”
Such a shame. FeedBurner could have taken blogging and pinging to the 2.0 level with more instantaneous notifications of updates. Instead, Google placed more “relevant” ads on our feeds and moved on.
Nothing to see there (except the ads, of course).
I’m technically on family holiday vacation this week, holed up in a lovely cabin in the mountains north of Asheville.
We have wifi here, but I decided to opt for the Touch and my Blackberry (and Kindle of course) over lugging up the Macbook Pro. I’m actually writing this on the Touch with the fantastic WordPress app. Honestly, it’s pretty smooth and I need to do this more frequently.
What I’ve realized this week is that I can do most everything that I do on my laptop with just the Touch and the Blackberry. Tweeting, reading feeds in Google Rader, answering email, playing in Facebook, and now blogging are almost more enjoyable on the Touch over the laptop.
But what about “business stuff” like checking stats, reading and writing Docs and spreadsheets or FTP’ing into sites? All are (easily) doable and smooth in this sort of a mobile scenario. Actually, I’m really enjoying stretching myself and learning the new skill of mobile aptitude.
Of course, much of the content I create and consume is based in cloud computing rather than relying on a desktop. I make heavy use of all the Google apps. When I have needed a doc, I just access it in either Dropbox or on drop.io since I keep things sync’d on those places anyway. It’s worked out well.
So, my grand experiment in digital nomadicism is going surprisingly well. I could easily see myself just bringing the Touch and Blackberry to Affiliate Summit this month and leaving the Macbook home. 8 of my text books for the coming semester are in the Kindle, so my load for school will def be the Touch (Bible software apps are tremendous), blackberry and Kindle.
Digital nomadicism isn’t for everyone, of course. I unabashedly rely on web and cloud apps over desktop bound software and I’m not tied to an enterprise infrastructure that requires any special software. But a lighter load in a new year is always a good thing!
I thought Google would buy RSS wundercompany Feedburner. I made the prediction on a couple of podcasts with Jeff Molander and his gang and was subsequently called silly or something to that effect.
However, Google did buy FeedBurner, and I thought we would see a revolution in both RSS technology (more mainstream adoption, etc) as well as AdSense and contextual advertising.
Turns out I was wrong about those two. Google continues to sit on FeedBurner without offering much in the way of innovation beyond shutting down the paid premium option and shutting down the popular (and well written) FeedBurner blog, instead sending folks to the AdSense blog.
So, instead of innovating RSS or contextual ad serving, it seems that Google is content with wrapping FeedBurner into an AdSense delivery system and not much else.
Especially when you get results like this (from my RSS reader on a post about ice cores):
Really does make me sad. I thought we were on the verge of something big on the syndicated web. Google keeps disappointing me as it seems to keep going for the chedda and not much else.
BTW, make sure to visit Chedda’s blog. It’s off the chain.
Disqus Blog » Facebook Connect now available on Disqus: “We began our Facebook Connect integration with our announcement last week. Tonight, all websites using Disqus now have the option to enable Facebook Connect.”
You can try it out here in the comments (if you’re logged into Disqus already, you have to log out first).
There is an interesting discussions among the early adopters last night into today on the topic of blogging and FriendFeed that has spilled out into the rest of “social media.”
Scoble kicked things off last night when he asked (on FriendFeed) if he had harmed his blog by investing so much time there.
Michael Arrington of TechCrunch gives perhaps the pithiest but most accurate response on that thread:
HELL YES YOU HARMED YOUR BLOG THIS YEAR.
So the question becomes, is there a backlash coming from the early adopter influencer crowd towards the rising tide of noise on platforms such as Twitter or FriendFeed or even Facebook? Sure, they are great for “conversaton” but does it do harm to contribute too much content there and not enough on your blog?
Steve Rubel chimes in with an interesting point:
Micro Persuasion: Andy Beal on Investing in Social Media Spaces: “Could a backlash be coming? Maybe if Twitter builds an ad revenue model and shares it with the audience they can stem the tide. Interesting notes about how Pownce is no longer with us and how some invested time there. The same could be said for Jaiku perhaps since Google has done nothing with it since they bought it.”
The answer is that there is no answer (how Zen of me).
Each case of social media usage vs blog usage is an intensely personal thing. Sure, there are marketers that see social media as “the next gold mine” (duh…talked some about that fallacy last year), but there are many of us that see these platforms for what they are… tools. They aren’t gold mines or “platforms to be leveraged.” They are communication tools. Sure, use them for data, trend watching, tracking, etc… but at the end of the day, know where you hang your hat.
Of course there is a social media backlash coming amongst the influencers, the tech savvy and the people that realize in a down economy you have to focus on what is most important to your company, your ideas or your “brand” (I’m beginning to loathe that term even more than I used to).
As Andy Beal points out, we “own” our blogs in the sense that we (unless we are using wordpress.com or Blogger, etc) write the content, pay for the hosting and are in charge of their upkeep. It’s great to play in the Twitter commons, but it’s nice to have a place to lay our heads when it gets dark. And the economy is dark now.
I love my Kindle.
So much. Probably a little too much, actually. Kindleholics Anonymous, here I come. But that’s for another post.
One of the things you might not know about a Kindle is that you can read blogs on the device. Yes, it costs $1 a month to subscribe, but it’s a neat service if you’re already reading books, newspapers, etc there. Plus, you can read everything “offline” (plane), even though the Kindle has persistent EVDO connection through Sprint (I frequently check GMail or Google Reader on mine… works great in a pinch).
But how do you get your blog listed with Amazon so people can subscribe in the normal Kindle interface (w/o having to go the Google Reader circumvention route)? Here’s a great tip:
For Bloggers: How to Distribute Your Blog through Amazon Kindle Store: “Almost all famous blogs are available for subscription through Amazon Kindle but if you are just a small publisher and like to get your own blog listed on the Kindle store, here’s what you may do:”
I’m guessing most Kindle owners are people who have a little geek bent, some disposable income and travel a great deal. If that’s your demographic, give it a try. I’m headed to sign up now.
I agree with Scoble here on the “broken” nature of blog commenting on the social web (especially when you have a blog that deals directly with social media):
Scobleizer — Tech geek blogger » Blog Archive Why blogging comments suck «: “How do you fix this? Not easily. I wish there were a system where I could tell my readers when a comment came in that deserves a lot more attention than the others. Also, I wish we could see the social network of the people commenting (I’d love to have their Facebook, Twitter, FriendFeed networks show up linked into their comment somehow and also have warnings when people leave me comments that have a huge amount of social capital, like Gary does).”
Comments have been a frustrating part of keeping this blog going since 2006. Things were great when this was a “small” blog with just a few subscribers, but with time and growth, spammers, spam queues, etc quickly get out of hand.
This isn’t just because of spam. Actually, spam is the least of my frustrations (it blows, but dealing with spam is like going to the dentist…you can avoid both, but your teeth will fall out). As Robert says, it is completely ridiculous that comments from all over the web aren’t better aggregated into our blogs. If we’re going to run these things and put out content that elicits responses on a number of platforms, it is reasonable to assume that there would be a way to keep everything at least organized on the originating blog itself.
When I installed Disqus in Fall of ’07, I prayed that a solution had been found. Things are getting better between Disqus and Intense Debate, but commenting is still a painful thorn in the side of any blogger.
I’d love just to close comments here and shift everyone to use FriendFeed as a place to discuss the contents here. Alas, not everyone is on FriendFeed. I’m still considering it, though. Late adopters and luddites be damned.
Yes, some of this is uber-geeky.
However, if you’re an online marketer, it’s in your best interest to keep an eye on the horizon.
What is quickly coming towards us is the “real-time” web that includes our laptops, mobiles, netbooks, iPhones, TV’s and just about anything with a chip in it.
Why is this so valuable?
One word: Track. If you don’t know what Track is or why it’s important, you missed a good part of 2008. Welcome to the web.
Track will be the grease that keeps online marketers on the tracks in the coming years. Twitter might not be the service to provide it, but somehow and someway, a real-time firehose of specified keywords and info will be available to you.
Track will make our current marketing paradigm of Google keyword buying based on passive searches look like print advertising from the 60′s.
FriendFeed takes us a big step towards the real-time web with the beginning of SUP implementation…
FriendFeed Blog: Simple Update Protocol: Update: “Several months back, we announced SUP (Simple Update Protocol), a proposal for making RSS and Atom feed updates faster and more efficient. Since then, a number of services have added SUP support, we’ve SUP-enabled our feed fetcher, and there are now thousands of SUP enabled feeds being imported into FriendFeed. Among the services that now support SUP are Disqus, Brightkite, Identi.ca (and other Laconica-powered micro-blogs), BackType, and 12seconds.tv. Whenever one of these feeds is updated, the new entry appears on FriendFeed within seconds (non-SUP feeds typically take 15-30 minutes to update). Check out the public feed of Brightkite updates to see this in action. “
I’m not kidding when I tell you to watch this space if you want to be doing online marketing five to ten years from now.
According to Shawn Collins and Lisa Picarille, I hate Top 10 Lists.
So, to get out of my shell a little, I’ve spent a great deal of time and effort putting together the most meaningful things I’ve read over the past year (thanks, Delicious!) to help you stay on top of the coming trends facing online marketing.
See, I pride myself on catching things early. Jeff Molander called me a futurist once. That was the biggest honor I’ve ever received from an online marketer.
I throw a lot of play-doh at the wall to see what’ll stick, but occasionally I get things right. I called Twitter early and my marketer pals thought I was ridiculous when I tried to explain myself here or at the Affiliate Summit in early ’07. Tumblr has been a decent success. RSS is still developing but I’m still pushing it hard. The semantic web is quickly catching up to web2.0, so I’ve got my eyes on a few things there.
All of that said, here are the things I’m keeping my eye on in 2009 and beyond. It’s a little glimpse into my mind… if you will.
I sincerely hope you learn something and that you enjoy!
1. Joseph Priestley (uber marketer): This guys is (was?) a brilliant marketer. You’ll love him. Just read the whole thing. Trust me.
2. Marketing Vision: John Updike nails the marketing theory of discovery and changing landscapes.
3. Philosophy of Marketing: Insight, relevance and connections…what all
good great marketers strive for in their campaigns.
4. Social Media Marketing Defined and Refined: Yes, social media marketing is the new hotness. But do you know how to turn it into reality?
5. The Possibilities of Marketing: Process Marketing will be huge in 2010. Know what it is? You should. Read this.
6. Viral Marketing 2.0: Forget that old-skool viral marketing mumbo jumbo. Pathogen marketing is going to be hot in the twenty-teens. Get your prescription for success now!
7. The Goal of All Marketers: At the end of the day, this is why I do what I do.
8. Marketing Yourself at Conferences: You must have these skills for conferences.
9. Advanced Twitter Usage for the Advanced Marketer: Do you use Twitter? Are you a marketer? Know all the basics? Then read this.
and last (or first if you’re starting with 10, which is cool) but not least:
10. Putting it All Together for the Future: Marketing is rapidly evolving. This guide will help you plan out your next moves to keep you relevant in the coming decade of media upheaval.
Anything I missed?
Here’s to a successful 2009 and beyond!
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