I know this blog has been quiet – I’ve been travelling a heck of a lot this past month, and I also attended the Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas! Good to see all my old friends again! Here is a post I wrote at the summit, covering the keynote address:
Affiliate Summit West 2008 kicked off today at the Rio Casino in Las Vegas with Jim Kukral (from) the conference MC and Jason Calacanis (CEO, Mahalo) providing the Keynote address.
Jim reiterated the clear fact that Affiliate Marketers play across not only Search marketing, but also email, display and the entire range of online marketing tactics and strategies. With over 3,000 attendees this year, itâ€™s hard not to see how critical affiliate marketing is in any online marketing strategy.
Jim introduces Jason as the founder of Engadget and the Weblogs blog network, which was acquired by AOL a few years ago for about $25m+.
I met Jason briefly before his keynote, an honestly, I didnâ€™t recognize him. He also didnâ€™t go to great lengths to tell me who he was, which I always find is a very redeeming quality (i.e. he introduced himself as Jason, and not Jason Calacanis â€“ which I would have recognized).
Jason starts with a quick background on the Internet, by delving into Usenet and how it has evolved from a great knowledge sharing environment, to a spam honey pot.
Jason calls content that is designed for the purposes of selling a product, using copied content, â€œAffiliate Spamâ€. Jason basically went on about how people are polluting the Internet with spammy content and how even Google canâ€™t deal properly with this spam. Remember though, Jasonâ€™s startup, Mahalo, is focusing on taking Google listings and hand sifting through them to remove spam, so his experiences will be a bit biased.
Here are some of the points he put across:
Arguments against gaming the search engines (Black Hat SEO):
Human powered search canâ€™t be gamed.
The semantic web is impossible to game.
Increasing number of niche high-quality sites will make it impossible to compete
Arguments for gaming
Any system can be gamed:
Gamers are getting smarter and smarter
Social networks, social news, and social search are ultimate covert marketing system
The Brutal Truth according to Jason:
“You guys think small. Holding up a six figure check is just pathetic.” – which is a direct swipe at Jeremy. Thatâ€™s your industries biggest success? Really?
SEOs and Affiliate gamers are some of the smartest, most resourceful people Iâ€™ve ever met.
Jason would like to hire some of the top SEO people.
What should you do? (Selfish version – i.e. what Jason wants you to do, for his business benefit)
Stay the course
Keep polluting the web with low quality sites
Increase the amount and complexity of the gaming in social news and bookmarking sites like: dig, delicious and StumbleUpon
Find new ways to covertly advertise unsuspecting users
Be more creative in your use of malware, adware & click-fraud
What should you do? (Unselfish version)
Realize youâ€™re the bottom of he food chain and fight up
Create loving, long-term relationships with users, based on high-quality content and services.
Give up a life of crime and instead of holding up $100,000 checks.
Realize that you guys are smarter than half the folks working at large internet companies
“Someone in this room could create the next dig, StumbleUpon, Flickr, Gawker, or Weblogs, Inc.
Someone in this room could create the next Yahoo, Google, PayPal, Facebook, MySpace or eBay.
But you probably wonâ€™t, because youâ€™re wired for making the quick buck and because youâ€™re afraid of the potential disappointment that comes from trying to do great things and failing.”
Jason is basically taking a swipe at every affiliate out there, by saying that chasing the short term buck, is not creating true value. To an extent, I agree. Affiliates are very opportunistic, and they will take the cash today, instead of the promise of tomorrow. Jason is very right in saying that the next Yahoo or Google etc could be created by someone in the room, but instead, many are focused on making short term returns. Jason is 100% right on all accounts, assuming that everyone is a money hungry affiliate.
The reality is that many people in the industry do live in Silicon Valley and do not have access to capital and therefore don’t have the opportunities to create the next Yahoo or Google. These people live in countries where it may be impossible to raise capital – so the monthly cash flow from affiliate marketing is great. Many people can’t move there for personal reasons (family, etc). And what’s wrong with being an affiliate and making a decent living, with little stress? My point is that there are different strokes for different folks. Affiliates could achieve everything that Jason says they could – but why would they want it?
Yeah – I know, those who know me personally probably think it’s rich coming from me. Sure, I’m trying to run a Web 2.0 startup and build some great value, but having gone through the startup stresses for many years – I know it’s not for everyone, and that’s the part that Jason missed. The cream will rise to the top, if it wants to. I know many great affiliates who sit waiting in the weeds for the FedEx cheque to arrive (You know who you are ) – and they absolutely are smart and capable, but instead, choose to focus on family and lifestyle – and there is nothing wrong with that.
And on another note – 6 figure checks are not the affiliate marketing industry’s success. Companies like Clicks2Customers do well into 8 figures, and they’re not the only ones – but the only difference is that these are real companies with employees and costs – not affiliates sitting at home. Jason would be proud
Anyways, for you affiliates that don’t want to chase the “big one”, don’t feel obliged – for those who do – good luck, it’s a tough road, but well worth the journey…