Year: 2006

Cost Per Love

Huh?

What’s that you say?

You enjoy the conversations, content and growing community and you’d love to help contribute to making Cost Per News a reality every day but don’t want to pay the high monthly fee for advertising here?

I hear ya.

That’s why I’ve launched www.costperlove.com. There’s a link in the sidebar over on your right in case you want to visit later. You can participate as much or as little as you want.

  • Throw down $5 to $10 bucks and you get a smiley linked to your program or site (or whatever custom message you’d like) on the bottom of every post for 24 hours after your donation.
  • Throw down $20 and you get a heart linked to your program or site (or whatever custom message you’d like to pop up) on the bottom of every post for a week after your donation.
  • Throw down something like $50 or more and we’ll work out something special for you (no, not like that).

The icons and links also show up on the feeds for the subscribers as well.
Everyone who shows some love will be included on a weekly “Thanks for the Love” post with links/tags to your program, blog, or favorite recipe site.

Have fun with it and let me know what you think.

Here’s your examples…

Hybrid CPC Models Will Emerge in 2007

liger.jpgThe already-happening yet next evolution of online marketing will be based on a hybrid CPA metric that backs out to a mutually acceptable CPC rate for both publisher and advertiser.

This is beginning to happen on the social platforms and will only escalate in 2007 as CPC and search continue to move farther apart from one another in performance numbers.

Metrics will be the talk of 2007.  Google, Yahoo, Omniture, Mercent, Doubleclick, ValueClick and Network Solutions (among others) are going to force a re-examination of the traditional velvet ropes separating CPA, CPC and even CPM.

(That’s a “liger” in the picture, by the way…hybrid…get it?)

Major Overhauls

I’ve spent a good deal of time this week making some serious back end and infrastructure improvements on the site. You won’t notice most of the changes, but the site will load much quicker and some of the flexibile width image problems people were having in IE7 (which they deserve for using IE7) have been fixed.

What you may notice is a shifting around of some of the content on the sidebars. If you have any suggestions or ideas of things you’d like to see on the site to make it a better place, don’t hesitate to leave them in the comments or send me an email (click on the little mail icon to your left). They can exist as WordPress plugins or be something that you just thought up… I’m pretty handy with PHP, MySQL, AJAX and HTML so I should be able to make them a reality.

Oh, and there’s a new PayPal tip jar link. I hope that’s not too awful. A few people have suggested me doing this so that they can give something back, and I appreciate their thoughts, so there you go. I’ll go the NPR route and say if you enjoy the content, please consider throwing a dollar or three in there.

Thanks for visiting and participating in the conversation!

Sam

Can YouTube Work With Affiliate Marketing?

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Jeff Doak and Jeff Molander have raised interesting questions of branding and affiliate marketing’s place in defining brand channels in the comments of the post below on Twitter.

If what I’m saying about controlling your brand is correct, then the best bet for all media companies is to have their own fully branded distribution channel but also make sure they have a structure in place to reward other outlets for pushing their content. If a reward structure is in place but you only get rewarded under certain conditions (pre-roll a 10 second spot, link the content back to the channel, etc), then you’ve created a nearly perfect situation. Your advertisers now get their products seen not only on your main channel but across a huge network of niche sites who are all incentivized to push your product as well. That’s affiliate marketing again hitting its sweet spot.

Specifically how much control do brands, whether large national brands advertising on Comedy Central or brands using a channel such as affiliate marketing, have over their own image? How have brands using affiliate marketing dealt with the YouTube question?

Can the popular video portal YouTube work with brands within the confines of what is traditionally considered affiliate marketing?

Can Twitter Work With Affiliate Marketing?

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Based on the uber-excellent conversation going on in this thread below, a few of us, at the behest of Brian Littleton’s helpful suggestion, have decided to do a series of posts based on web2.0 program adoption in affiliate marketing.

I’m sure most of you wouldn’t want to spill the beans on how you are using these emerging platforms as this sort of implementation is still “valuable” knowledge, but maybe we can lay out some ideas without giving away too much of the secret sauce?

I’ll do as many of these posts as you all think is necessary depending on the platform. Of course we’ll ask about MySpace, YouTube, Facebook and the more well knowns, but I wanted to start this with a service called Twitter which has been the latest rage amongst the A Listers.

Twitter was born as an interesting side project within the offices of Odeo in March of 2006. We are a part of Obvious Corporation in the beautiful South Park neighborhood of San Francisco, California.

Twitter is a relatively new service which allows you to make a quick post with your current thoughts, etc. It has been used by many (including myself) as a way of quickly social networking as you can send messages to Twitter via IM, txt messages from your cell or on the web.

The benefit is that if you are trying to reach a group of people, or even just one person, you can post up a message that will be received on the other person’s own time. I’ve even begun to schedule phone calls and conference calls with Twitter. Users can personalize the look and feel of their pages to suit their own personalities as well.

Here is my Twitter page

So, can this type of platform be used for affiliate marketing?

I’d argue that it could, but it would require a serious conversation based relationship with your users/readers/consumers/customers. That would require a re-thinking by many of the merchant programs already in the affiliate space.

Digitas Acquired by French Publicis; Other Online Media Stocks Soar

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The internationalization of online media continues.

Advertising Age reports that:

Publicis Groupe, the fourth-largest agency holding company, will acquire Digitas for $1.3 billion, Publicis said in a statement.

Paris-based Publicis will pay Digitas shareholders $13.50 for each share. Both boards have unanimously approved the offer, the statement said.

Additionally, ValueClick, 24/7 Real Media and aQuantive are seeing their stocks trading higher today as a result of the Digitas buy…

Online advertising firms 24/7 Real Media (Nasdaq: TFSM), ValueClick (Nasdaq: VCLK), AQuantive (Nasdaq: AQNT) are moving higher midday following the buyout of Digitas Inc. (Nasdaq: DTAS) for $13.50 per share by Publicis Groupe SA (NYSE: PUB)

2007 is shaping up to be the silly season of online media acquisitions!

Blog Tag Game – Appropriate on Business Blogs?

Wayne Porter has posted some ground rules for including the virally spreading blog tag game on a ReveNews post.

To all Revenews Bloggers who want to post on the latest Tag Meme- we think the meme is wonder, beneficial and useful BUT WITHOUT APPROPRIATE CONTEXT OR GOALS- it is NOT APPROPRIATE AT REVENEWS.

Porter’s post raises an interesting and provoking question about what is actually acceptable and beneficial on a blog dealing with professional and business themes.  Are standards necessary for you to find value on such blogs or community blogging sites?

Heather Paulson writes about Porter’s insights and assimilates the issue with her own insights:

Five things I have learned about this tagged experience

1) Many bloggers are being tagged, and the phenomenon is wide spread throughout the internet

2) Viral marketing works!

3) There are many bloggers online who easily have access to each other, and news can spread quickly.

4) Messages and content can be misconstrued to sensitive audiences and information must be considerate even on a personal level concerning what those sensitivities might be especially on a collaborative or business blog.

5) The personal side of blogging is fascinating as we learn more (tidbits) concerning our fellow e marketers.

Kudos to Heather for raising the bar and using the tag meme game as a chance to explore the business related issues involved with this virally spread game, and blogging in general.  Her five points, rather than five insights about herself, point out the forward thinking that can be found within the realm of online and affiliate marketing.

Social Shopping Equates Higher Conversions

shopping.jpgA new study shows that social shopping results in higher conversion rates. It’s a difficult formula to reproduce, but it can be done given the right amount of research, time, energy and insight.

The study, “Engaging Advocates Through Search and Social Media,” shows how shoppers use e-mail, instant messaging and social networking sites to talk about the brands, products or categories that they like to buy and thereby influence other consumers to purchase them.

As consumers continue to move away from direct marketing (and indirect marketing) tactics such as email, banners and search results, the question of how to reach them within a cost per action conversation is a very valid and valuable thing to ponder.

Think about the average consumer in the crowded malls right now. How are they deciding what to buy? The old paradigms of stationary and fruitcake are gone. Chances are, that someone special has an Amazon Wishlisht (I do) or you can txt someone who knows them well to get a suggestion.

Any program that you run, participate in, or hope to build must have at its root a conversation between merchant/affiliate and consumer. If you don’t have that conversation built into your cost per action marketing program, you’ll get tuned out rather quickly in this world of txt, IM, MySpace and YouTube.

Who should take notice?

  • Affiliate Networks
  • CPA Networks
  • Affiliates
  • Publishers
  • Email Marketers
  • Website Marketers
  • Co-Reg Marketers
  • Search Marketers
  • You

How do you participate in the conversation? Read Doc Searls, Jim Kukral, Shawn Collins, Tara Hunt, Seth Godin and mix all of that together into a warm challenging stew for whatever suits your program the best. Explore brave new worlds and watch the higher conversions (and more meaningful market relationships) roll in.

Digg Podcasts

The new Digg interface is quite interesting and meta in its approach to all things social.

I suggest taking a look at the new podcasting interface, especially.  The interface blows away anything I’ve seen for podcast aggregation so far from sites like Odeo or Yahoo.

Users can listen to podcasts, digg/comment specific episodes and offer all sorts of feedback.  Does your program have a podcast?  Get it up there and let your affiliates digg away!  Good chewy web2.0 expsoure.

Even Molander’s Weekly Insight is already up.  I haven’t found Jim Kukral or Shawn and Lisa’s Affiliate Thing shows from BlogTalkRadio there yet.  If you know of any other, include in the comments so I can digg and pass them along as well.

Way to go, Kevin.

Search, Advertising, Relevancy and Link Lattices

lattice.jpgOnline marketing can be effectively viewed as being composed of a series of hyper-short spheres of influence which pop into and out of existence like tiny subatomic particles. However, in online marketing, the interactions of these subatomic particles has implications for the next cycle and so on. So, the picture would be one event leading to the next event(s) in a chain reaction, or chain of entropy, scenario.

In the mid 90’s, the first banner ad led into a demand for CPM inventory which was quickly exhausted in a matter of years due to the limited number of sites and visitors of those sites. So, performance was included to hybridize the offline metric of CPM and what resulted was an early form of CPA where sites were forced to watch their own visitor rates and quality of responses. Around the turn of the century the performance metric of CPA was further given to hybridization in the form of CPC as marketers began to attempt to cope with shortened user attention and the network structure of the web being laid out on the lattices of links.

For the past three years, we’ve been contained within this paradigm of shortened user attention, traffic patterns and have attempted to come to terms with the situation by making the lattices of links a flexible structure. However, what many of us have realized through trial-and-error and experimentation is that the link lattice has a crystalline structure, meaning that due to its inherent properties it is not flexible. Objects in nature which have a crystalline structure are hard, good conductors of currents (think of electricity as traffic) yet brittle due to the way atoms have bonded together to make these structures.

The link lattice structure of search is operating very much the same way in online marketing. What we have discovered is that although a concrete and predictable model, the hierarchical link structure of operations such as search, email, web placements are not allowing the types of flexibilities which are needed in an ever more subjective online experience of users. Marketing that is not flexible, although profitable now, does not have a bright future in the next cycle of our chain reaction analogy.

In fact, the vehicles which have been successfully delivering the ads in this latest incarnation of online marketing, are getting left behind by the flexibility and usefulness of the ads themselves. Much like a virus who deposits its genetic material into a cell causing a mutation of that cell’s future replications, search, email, banners, text ads and link in general have been able to deliver their messages, but users are becoming immune, and inoculations to the success of these platforms (page view metrics, click counts, etc) are being developed and rapidly released to the masses (AJAX, widgets, etc).

Phil Wainewright of ZDNet gets its right when discussing Google’s Achilles Heel:

Now think for a moment why the ads work better than the search engine itself. The simple explanation is the wisdom of crowds. The ads are more accurate because they benefit from the concerted efforts of hundreds of advertisers competing with each other to float to the top of the ad rankings. Whereas the search results are based on algorithms that explicitly filter out the attempts of website owners to game the results. They’re based on the passive, serendipitous wisdom of hyperlinks.

So, in our analogy of emerging spheres from chain reactions, what does the next incarnation of online marketing look like? I’d venture to think it would resemble more of an amorphous solid rather than a crystalline solid. This would require a change in the underlying structure of the platforms. Rather than link lattices, think flexible and malleable plastics able to bend and shape differently based on user preferences and changing metrics.

It’s not about doom and gloom or apocalyptic predictions. There is no such thing as an end to everyting, whether in online marketing or biology or physics. Matter is neither created nor destroyed, it just changes from one form to another. The atoms which composed you were baked in the same big bang explosion as the atoms in our nearest star or the nearest Oak tree to your office. The atoms that compose you will go on to bond with other atoms and form other things after you have died. The shapes and forms of the atoms which compose online marketing, in the same fashion, will continue to exist and go on to bond and form with other atoms to create the next form of the online experience for individuals.

Affiliate Marketers Stirring Their Own Straws

time.jpgI did a similar post on my personal blog earlier this morning, but think is fitting for the CPN readership to ponder as well…

My friend Shawn Collins writes:

Affiliate marketers are the epitome of the Time Person of the Year accolade. They are the straws that stir the drink. Experimental Netizens that explore, test, and evolve.

I was not going to write about the Time Person of the Year (surprise, it’s “You”) which has gotten so much coverage in the blog universe. If you haven’t heard the news, you can read up on the much discussed “award” there.

However, I don’t think affiliate marketers, as a whole, are the experimental bunch that Shawn describes, and definitely not the epitome of the web2.0 movement.

Are affiliate markters, as a whole, resourceful? Yes. Are they experimental on the web2.0 level? No. Affiliates and affiliate marketers are good at using metrics and figuring out more efficient ways to move traffic from point A to point B, but few affiliates actually push the limits of the top-down hierarchical structure which was predominant on the webs before 2003.

I’m not arguing that affiliate marketers are bad people or ineffectual because of the slow adoption of next-gen platforms and services. But do we really think they are the epitome of what Time is describing as the Person of the Year?

Are there any affiliate marketers on Second Life? Are there any affiliate marketers on Twitter? Are there any affiliate marketers effectively using YouTube (or even MySpace beyond spamming and networking)? Do most affiliate marketers even know what StumbleUpon is? Or how to use Ma.gnolia and del.icio.us to gain quality readers? Flickr? Meebo? 30Boxes? Do most even use a feedreader and not just email subscriptions?  Widgets anyone?

The straws that stir the drink??  Hopefully one day, but not now.

The Value of Traffic

trafficsized.jpgInteresting discussions floating around the blogosphere about the value of traffic from various sources such as social networks, search results, organics, etc.  Putting a specific value on that traffic can be difficult because a static metric to measure the importance and monetary value from different traffic sources is hard to pin down.

Technology Evangelist has a nice summation of the discussion and includes some stats such as possible CPM figures on various traffic types:

Clearly, Yahoo of MySpace aren’t dependent on only one form of advertising. For example, MySpace generates PPC revenue from searches. Yahoo generates CPM revenue from tons of non-search related page views. Google has the highest percentage of search related click revenues of any company at this point. That’s where the big money and margins is at today. Could it move to other things, like online video advertising in pre or post-roll ads on YouTube or a new form of online advertising that hasn’t been invented yet? Absolutely. But for now, any valuation based on page views without taking revenue into consideration would be a mistake.

Are Affiliate Bloggers Worth Their Salt?

salt-shakerthumbnail.jpgRecently, there have been numerous discussions of hysterics, drama and link baiting by those in the affiliate marketing industry who blog. This discussion has run its course in other sectors of the online marketing and advertising spheres (think TechCrunch, TechMeme and the “echo chamber” discussion if you follow those conversations in the blogosphere).

In the spirit of FTC full disclosure: I think links are dead (that’s not hysterics and extends well outside of “affiliate” marketing), and view link baiting as pretty much worthless. The traffic you get from such antics rarely results in a conversion to reader based on the metrics and experiments I’ve run on my personal blog, so I prefer to engage people’s attention rather than their browser url. My LinkedIn profile is open to full view, so please take a look at that if you want to see where I’ve been, what I’ve done and what it might tell you about my own worldview within the context of affiliate marketing.

So, here are my questions and you’re free to add more:

  • Is there a place for blogging in the affiliate world?
  • Should it be all practical based or should there also be some speculation, theories and future thinking?
  • Is there a litmus test for who you read based on their experience in the industry?

Free Exposure: Your Stickers on My Laptop

Please send me your stickers for my new laptop. The laptop is a new Sony Vaio VGN-FE770G running Ubuntu Linux, and I want to cover the top of the machine with pretty stickers featuring my favorite companies.

What’s in it for you? Exposure at many online industry conferences (such as Affiliate Summit this January) and various online marketing meetings and conferences.

Send your sticker(s) to:
Sam Harrelson
7 Lookout Road East
Asheville, NC 28805

I’ll make a post about who sends stickers with a link to your site, affiliate program, affiliate network, CPA network or blog.

Here’s what the laptop looks like so far (that top sticker is a quote from Obi-Wan Kenobi that a friend provided, and yes I recognize the irony of having an Apple sticker on a Sony laptop… that’s the point)…

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Yahoo Denies Clickfraud, Offers Credit as Measure of Goodwill

yahoobang1.pngThe PepperJam Blog has an interesting account of a recent interaction with Yahoo over a potentially fraudulent situation involving unusual click numbers.

I suggest reading the entire account there, but here’s an interesting snippet…

FROM YAHOO (e-mail #2):

Thank you for your patience while our Loss Prevention team reviewed your activity….

In response to your concerns about the click activity your account has received, we have issued a goodwill credit to your Yahoo! Search Marketing account balance in the amount of $X,XXX.XX for clicks that were billed to your account during the period of November 19, 2006, to November 27, 2006.

Please note that we have issued this credit as a measure of goodwill and appreciation for your business. Please allow up to five business days for the adjustment to appear in your account.

Who says Google and Yahoo are all about automation?

Google Selling Domains

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Google will begin to offer domains for $10 a year in partnership with GoDaddy.

“Hey, wait, Costin,” you say. “That’s great for them, but our organization doesn’t have a custom domain.”

Well, I’m excited to let you know that we’ve made signing up for Google Apps for Your Domain much easier for those of you that don’t yet have your own domain. We’ve partnered with GoDaddy.com and eNom, two leading domain registration services, to offer domains for $10 per year. And I like the fact that we’re including private registration to protect your personal information.

Now you’ve got one-stop shopping for all the services currently on the Google Apps for Your Domain platform — just find a domain, buy it, and get started. We’ll do all the behind-the-scenes configuration work for you. For now this is available for .com, .net,.org, .biz, and .info domains, but we’re working on bringing it elsewhere soon.

The Google Domain Registration service will result from a partnership with GoDaddy and eNom. Google is integrating the service with its Google Apps for Your Domain, which they are hoping to use to entice more people to their Google Pages and Checkout service.

So, the question begs… what is Google hoping to gain by providing free and easy web sites to small companies?

Merger-licious

Schmuel Tennenhaus is gathering quite a bit of publicity for his latest YouTube offering on the merger of AT&T and SBC.

“This matter is auspicious, ATT has good wishes, FCC don’t be vicious, wash the dishes,” Schmuel raps between suggestive finger wags. “BellSouth is so hot, merger-licious.”

Flaming Lips Utilize YouTube for Fan Interaction

I’m a huge fan of the Flaming Lips, so using this platform to plug their music doesn’t seem like such a bad idea when they are engaging in such cutting edge fan interaction as this.

You can submit a video to the Flaming Lips YouTube channel to see if you’re good enough to dance with the band during their New Year’s Eve show in LA. Dancing with the band is a time honored tradition, and normally involves some sort of animal suit. It’s strange, but that’s what community is all about.


This New Year’s Eve the Flaming Lips have decided they want to add a special guest to their line up…you.

This is your chance to be a part of the psychedelic cacophony that is the Lips. Your directive: To film yourself in short-form, auditioning to be a member of the Lips on-stage dance troupe; In-costume, showcasing your skills.

Submit your audition video for a chance to win a place on stage dancing with the Flaming Lips during their New Year’s Eve 2007 show in Los Angeles!

Sound good? Well, we think it sounds great.

The band has also put up all of their videos on their YouTube channel. Now that’s just awesome.

If you haven’t seen the Lips live, it’s up there with hearing Brian Littleton playing Rocket Man.

Online Advertising More Effective than Word of Mouth

No big surprise here…wordormouthsml.jpg

DoubleClick Inc., the premier provider of digital marketing technology and services, today announced the results of a study centered on determining how companies can focus marketing investments to impact the role “word of mouth” plays in purchase decisions. The study, titled “Influencing the Influencers: How Online Advertising and Media Impact Word of Mouth,” is part of a series of reports based on DoubleClicks Touchpoints IV survey of online consumers.

The DoubleClick Touchpoints IV survey results revealed that influencers consider online advertising a key factor of their shopping process, second only to websites, as a source of further learning about purchase decisions. Nineteen percent of influencers cited web advertising as a source of information when they were researching a purchase, compared to 8 percent among the remainder of the sample. Both segments cited websites as their top source of research when they are shopping, but influencers clearly rely more on the web than non-influencers, with 40 percent of influencers citing websites for this purpose versus 31 percent of non-influencers.

More interesting stats and methodologies to chew on, so check out the press release about the survey here.

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