Widget Geography According to Yahoo


Yahoo has a nice looking widget blog that it does a horrible job of keeping updated and current. Let’s face it… widgets are hot topics and Yahoo should be taking enormous strides to let people know what it’s doing behind the scenes to improve widget adoption and user experience. Yahoo has invested heavily in widgets by buying Konfabulator and there are currently about 3700 widgets that the Yahoo engine supports. Why aren’t they blogging more??
Then again, judging from the quality of posts, it’s probably a good thing they don’t update the blog frequently.

Nonetheless, they show some promise of actual insight and suggestions for new widget users with today’s post.

So, which Widget platform should you use?.

The simple answer to that question is “it depends”.

What are you trying to accomplish? How much (or little) power do you need? Will it be a web-only Widget, or will it run on the desktop? Do you have existing code you want (or need) to reuse? All of these factors can influence your decision.

and later…

Why choose a desktop Widget?

The advantages of a desktop Widget over a web Widget include:

Lives outside of the browser
Access to local resources
Potential for offline use & background downloading
Greater interaction with the rest of the system through standard desktop interaction.Desktop Widgets blur the line between the web and the desktop by pulling the content out of the browser and integrating it into your desktop.

Within the world of desktop Widgets there are several choices.

Apple Dashboard
Microsoft Windows Vista Sidebar
Google Desktop Gadgets
Yahoo! Widgets (Konfabulator)

Good stuff, Yahoo Widget Blogger (the author is “Ed”). Keep it up.

There’s going to be an incredible need for widget insight, information and tutorials as more people switch to Vista (and as more Mac users begin to make use of them). Vista is pushing widgets heavily as Gates and Co. attempt to bring people back to their desktop and away from life-inside-the-browser (or GoogleLand as I refer to it).

Anti-Social Media

Loren Feldman hates “social media.” Why should you care? Because he makes good points about crowd mentality.
I would get into semantics and explain how social media and wisdom of the sheep/crowds are two different things, but it’s irrelevant to the point he’s making. He does make some very valid points about the place of creativity and individuality. Of course I strongly disagree with him on some issues, but you’ll have to make your own mind up on where you stand.

I think the categories he uses below the video are the best part. Ze Frank? Mark Cuban? Nice.

The following link may contain strong language, tattoos, gold chains, half naked unshaven men and vitriolic hyperbole offensive to some viewers and will make any children nearby cry (and pay no attention to his LinkedIn or MyBlogLog links on the right or the YouTube logo in the video)…

Loren Feldman on Social Media

Affiliate Networks Should Allow Tagging: 28% of Online Users Agree

Lisa Picarille, Shawn Collins and I didn’t have the opportunity to explore the usefulness and potential monetization of inventory made available by users tagging content on today’s AffiliateThing podcast, but we should have. We covered widgets and general monetization strategies for web2.0, and tagging is a key component of such a strategy. Shawn and I did play a “word association” game, and that should have been my opening to hop into a short tangent about the power of tagging, or the power of allowing users to tag.


Tagging is nothing new in terms of concept, but web2.0 platforms such as Flickr, YouTube, Ma.gnolia, del.icio.us, and even our own beloved BUMPzee community have opened up the world (or at least the online world) to the power of tagging (or “labeling” as it is called in Google Reader, Picasa and GMail).

In effect, tagging enables end users to classify and partition content according to their own word associations. While a seemingly minor and semantic point, tagging has an incredible potential for any type of program, because it places the power of classification in the hands of the user, rather than artificially imposing classifications of date or categories by an authority.

Merchants are using tagging, but what I’d really like to see in affiliate marketing is a network that allows affiliates and publishers to tag offers within the network. That way, when an affiliate logged in to a network, they wouldn’t have to sort through the hyper-confusing maze of CJ or DirecTrack navigation, but could quickly and efficiently get to the offers they had previously tagged by just a few keystrokes. It’s a seemingly small tweak, but it could make the world of difference for your program. Affiliates could even share their network offer tags on their own blogs or sites via something like a del.icio.us tag cloud, thereby promoting the network to an even larger audience. Win-win.

Expanding the scope a bit, there is an interesting report out by Pew Internet research shows that 28% of internet users have tagged something…

Just as the internet allows users to create and share their own media, it is also enabling them to organize digital material their own way, rather than relying on pre-existing formats of classifying information.

A December 2006 survey has found that 28% of internet users have tagged or categorized content online such as photos, news stories or blog posts. On a typical day online, 7% of internet users say they tag or categorize online content.

The report features an interview with David Weinberger, a prominent blogger and fellow at Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society.

28% of internet users. That’s huge.

Tag indexing search engines such as Tagbulb are popping up to serve the need these users are developing and established sites such as Technorati are heavily reliant on tags.

If you’re a merchant or a network, brainstorm ways to implement tagging features and options for your end users. You’ll see the difference quickly.

View PDF of Report

1099 Form: It’s that Time of the Year Again

1099.jpgOnly two things in online marketing are certain: high conversions and net 15 payouts.

Wait… that’s not right.

I meant to say taxes and server crashes.

If you’re an affiliate, you should have received a 1099 form for each network or merchant that you’ve done over $600 in business with by Thursday February 1. If you’re a network or merchant, you need to make sure that you’ve got your 1099’s mailed out.

From the Wikipedia entry on 1099’s:

A notable use of Form 1099 is to report amounts paid to independent contractors (in IRS terminology, such payments are nonemployee compensation). The ubiquity of the form has also led to use of the phrase “1099” to refer to contractors themselves. U.S. tax law requires businesses to submit a Form 1099 for every contractor paid more than $600 for services during a year. This requirement usually does not apply to corporations receiving payments.

Many businesses and organizations must file thousands of 1099s per year. Thus, payers who file 250 or more Form 1099 reports must file all of them electronically or magnetically with the IRS. For further information refer to Publication 1220, Specifications for Filing Forms 1098, 1099, 5498 and W-2G Magnetically or Electronically or Publication 1187, Specifications for Filing Form 1042-S, Foreign Person’s U.S. Source Income Subject to Withholding. (http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1220.pdf) The IRS no longer accepts 3 1/2-inch diskettes for filing information returns, and is phasing out other magnetic media. Electronic filing will soon be the ONLY acceptable method to file information returns at its computing center in Martinsburg, West Virginia.

I’d argue that we all need an educational discussion on this topic because it’s becoming more and more complex to follow the rules due to affiliate marketing’s increasing reach beyond just revenue sharing. For example, a current thread over at ABestWeb is discussing the validity of claiming PPC losses on individual taxes. Interesting.

Some hosted solutions such as MyAffiliateProgram are even offering to handle the composition and delivery of 1099’s for partnering merchants, making the whole process a little less painful and time-consuming. That’s an very valuable and mature business selling point.

Carsten Cumbrowski has posted some helpful info here and here is an interesting thread discussion from ABW in 2002 about 1099’s and Linkshare.

So, what do you say, Shawn? Affiliate Marketing and Taxes discussion at the next Summit?

How much trouble do you have to go through to follow the tax rules?

Have affiliates adequately figured out the proper procedure for claiming earnings and losses?



May I take a minute of your time to give you thanks?

I can’t tell you all how much I appreciate the amount of visits since CostPerNews officially launched back on November 1 of 2006.

In fact, we’ve grown by leaps and bounds.

We’ve actually grown so much that on Saturday night at 2am I was awaken by a call from my trusty hosting company, LivingDot, with a warning that CostPerNews was within a few megabytes of going over its bandwith limits for the month… which was something I hadn’t planned for this early.

So, I’ve doubled the bandwith for the site in order to keep this from happening again while CPN continues to grow. However, I simply cannot tell you how incredibly happy I am to have around 300 active daily feed readers along with a Google PR of 5 and a Technorati rank within the top 40,000 this early. For a blog only three months old, those are impressive numbers, and it’s all because of you.

In other words, please keep commenting, emailing and letting me know ways to make CostPerNews a better site. Bandwith is not cheap for someone who is attempting to make all of their income from a blog, so if you have any ideas on improvements we could make or would like to contribute to the CostPerLove fund, please don’t hesitate to contact me!

Sign Up – ShareASale Gets It Right

This is not a fluff piece.

This is a post about a great experience with a network sign up process that I’d like to share because it’s valuable.

I’ve gotten quite a lot of feedback through emails concerning the post about merchant or network sign up programs. I said that at the moment CJ was my favorite sign up process.

Interestingly enough, I had more than a few people email me about my omission of ShareASale’s sign up process. They were all quite vehement in their insistence that ShareASale has the best network sign up process for affiliates and publishers in affiliate marketing.

I’ve had a ShareASale account going back a few years, but not one for CostPerNews. So, the SAS team allowed me to go through the sign up process again to check out their process and sign up for CPN.

I’m impressed.



CJ’s sign-up form is more exhaustive up front and less friendly (how far along am I??) than the ShareASale signup…

The ShareASale signup process takes 5 steps and is rather painless, and even friendly, in its orientation….


The process goes quickly, seems to be less intrusive and really does encourage accomplishing a goal. As humans, we are built to accomplish tasks. Putting a visible “1, 2, 3, 4, 5” at the top really does make a world of difference. We play video games, we sift through emails, we collect money… and we love to accomplish goals. Take a hint from the SAS sign up process and keep the sign up process in a very visible “above the fold” situation. In other words, scrolling down during a sign up process is not a good thing.

CJ does an efficient job of collecting information and data right away and making the sign up process easy.

SAS does a great job of collecting data, keeping you on track and helping you feel as if you’re accomplishing a task. So, I was wrong. My preference for a network sign-up page at the moment is ShareASale.

Thanks to everyone who has sent in emails… now put your comments in the forums!

Anyone have any CPA networks with decent or good sign up forms?? Even if you’re a representative of that CPA network, let us know.

Sign Ups

sign-up-now.jpgWhich affiliate network, CPA network or merchant affiliate marketing program has the best sign up form and process?

My vote at the moment goes to Commission Junction.

When will the sign up process in affiliate marketing be revolutionized… or at least changed? Of course signing up for a program should require a level of strictness to insure quality and reliability. But let’s face it… in affiliate marketing the sign up process is threatening, boring, dull and laborious. Who wants to join a network with a sign up process straight out of Bedrock?

I know that the sign up process costs many programs at least a few dozen or hundred affiliates every month. Just imagine what people new to the affiliate world must go through when they encounter a DirecTrack sign up process.

If they could all just be as simple, friendly and complete as Google…

Do you know how many potential affiliates you are loosing during the sign up process on your network, program or merchant site??

(AdSense doesn’t count for your answer of best sign up process, so don’t even think about using that!).

Affiliate Managers and Community

tarahunt.jpgSome of you may be confused at first by the connection of the following points with affiliate marketing. However, affiliate marketing is (or should be) constructed and confined within a relationship. That relationship can exist between you and one other person, or between your company and thousands (or millions) of people.

However, the base foundation for what we do in this business is the factor of relationship. In particular, if you are an affiliate manager, how well do you know your community?

One of my personal heroes (I’m sure she hates that title… oh well) is Tara Hunt. Summing up Tara’s career is close to blasphemy since she’s been involved and instrumental in so many things, but to be succinct, she is formerly with Riya, currently with Citizen Agency and instrumental in such post-Cluetrain movements as Pinko Marketing (of which I’ve been tagged as a member according to Shawn, Wayne, Lisa, Jim, Carsten, Linda Buquet and numerous others at the Summit).

Tara is contributing to the The Future of Communities Blog, which is a companion community blog (similar to ReveNews) to the upcoming Community 2.0 Conference to be held March 11-14 in Las Vegas this year. She raises a few incredibly interesting points in her first post, which I feel are particularly signficant for affiliate marketing (especially for affiliate managers)…

Personally, I think Community has turned into a garish buzzword, leading hungry marketers by the snoot down a new path of public/commercial boundaries being crossed. The outlandish ad budgets of yesteryear aren’t producing the same back-patting kudos and are looking more like cultural pollution than future award winning art direction. Word of mouth, itself, turns out the same reactions as those clever viral campaigns: an eyeroll at best. Marketers, desperate to keep their Madison Avenue jobs and yearly jaunts to Sundance, are finally ready to “take the precious time needed” to build a community behind their brands.

But we aren’t. We are marketers. Would we give a flying snake about Shari’s kitty photos if we didn’t want to sell her a new car? Would we hang around MMORPG’s all day long waiting for a customer to walk into our lame store ’cause we enjoy it? No. And no…I don’t know the majority of the people on this list, and I’m sure you are all well-meaning wonderful people, but I do know that we are all marketers. We are paid to help our clients sell stuff. And the more we tiptoe around that fact, the more dishonest this industry becomes.

Agree? I do. Affiliate marketing, in particular stands at the crossroads of having to decide whether it will continue to be a community/relationship based model of marketing and advertising or whether it will follow the path of lead generation and pure performance automation. It is a difficult choice depending which lens you (or your employer) chooses to look through. The key is that you do have a choice, and the immediate ROI lens may not always be the best choice for your program.

Tara goes on to write something that every affiliate manager needs to read, memorize and hold close to their heart

I know that somewhere inside our desires to prove the ROI on community to our eager clients, we know the answer. It’s pretty simple. It’s where we as humans start and customers / consumers / users / community-members / call-us-what-you-will end. We can and will reach deep inside of that part of ourselves (which we are first and foremost) and empathize with the fact that entering someone else’s personal experiences and trying to sell them something is uncool. We have to be willing to lose ourselves to the community. We need to become community advocates. We need to reverse the line of communication and bring word back to our bosses and our clients that their products are hurting the environment, exploiting labor, not acceptable to be tested on animals, falling apart, causing addiction, causing health issues, hurting our children, driving us further apart, etc. We need to protectively bring the soul of the community back INTO the organization and change things…not collectively go out, infiltrate and sell things.

Yes, there is a changing role for marketers. I believe in the future, we don’t work for brands and companies, we work for customers.

Imagine an affiliate program with an affiliate manager that took that seriously. There are a few that do, and I imagine in just a few years there will be dozens more.

What are you doing for your community today?

Leave a comment here or over at Tara’s blog and share your point of view…

Are Exclusive Offers Real?

Is there such thing as an “exclusive offer” that only one network has access to distribute to its publishers or affiliates?

I’d argue no.

In order to be a true exclusive, a network has to basically create an offer in-house and brand it with either a partner brand (unlikely for most networks) or create a brand to superimpose on the generic exclusive offer’s backend. In this case, if a network creates such an “exclusive” and it is successful, nothing prevents a competing network to quickly develop a similar offer and impose a new brand on top of that one. This is what most networks have attempted to do when creating “exclusives” to lure in new publishers or affiliates.

I argue that it’s not the offer’s exclusivity of style that can achieve that goal, but the brand exclusivity of an in-house offer.

For instance, take the FreeSlide $1.00 pay per email (and later zip) offers that originated with the AdDrive network and quickly spread out through the CPA network world like a fast growing wildfire. FreeSlide as a brand may have been an exclusive, but there were so many knock-offs so quickly that the exclusive nature of FreeSlide quickly vanished. What remained was the brand, which did prove to have staying power and put AdDrive on the map.

In that way, AdDrive figured out how to monetize and attract new publishers with offer brand , rather than just with offer exclusivity. The fad has now passed and FreeSlide is not accepting new signups, but the brand exclusivity is permanently ingrained on the brains of every one in the email marketing world.
The trick is not to establish a unique in terms of function, but establish a unique in terms of brand. That is the selling point that many small CPA networks seem to be missing, but if they were to start thinking of creating ways to insure the long term benefit of a certain in-house brand, rather than trying to out-do competitors with payouts, they could also find the sweet spot of offer creation.

“Reality Has Become a Commodity”


On tonight’s episode of Comedy Central’s Colbert Report, Stephen Colbert issued a $5 challenge (in the spirit of Microsoft) to the first person who changed the definition of “Reality” on Wikipedia to include “Reality has become a commodity.” I’m posting this about 2 mins after he issued the challenge, and I’m sure it’s already been accomplished. The Wikipedia watchers are going to have another long night (or morning on the other side of the pond).

However, reality is not just about our phenomenological experiences. It also encompasses our daily interactions with other humans and technologies. Affiliate marketing is a facet of that reality for most of us and for millions of users who don’t realize that they are participating in “affiliate marketing.”

How should that reality be defined? Should it be purely a commodity based reality? Or is there greater value in helping your visitors, customers or users realize that the reality of affiliate marketing interaction they are participating in with your site is not just a commodity… it is also a relational experience in which they can share, learn or grow as a human.

How to do that?

It greatly depends on your program, site or shopping cart process. Whatever your case, I would start with a the realization that relationships can make you money (if that’s what your ultimate goal is), and work from that point of realization. Try out things to accomplish that goal. Value based relationships want to occur… so don’t hold them back behind a commodity based fence.

I think there’s a great deal of value in allowing for a deeper level of affiliate marketing reality which transcends the artificially imposed boundaries of pure commodity.