I’m Quitting Marketing

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.

I Won’t Be at Affiliate Summit West

With much frustration and sadness, I wanted to let you know that I won’t be attending ASW this year.

A close family member has been sick for the last few months and some labs came back this week that weren’t good. All that to say, I’m needed here with family and the baby since they are my first priorities. Everything should be alright in the long term, but for now, family calls.

This is the first Affiliate Summit West or East I’ve missed in a long while, and it tears me up to think I won’t be there with all of my close friends and colleagues. I look forward to these gathering of the tribes so much because we are such a tight-knit community. Plus, I was really excited to hang out with the PartnerCentric team.

All that to say, I’m missing one hell of a show and networking event. What Missy and Shawn have put together really has become an integral part of life/business/friendship to anyone involved in affiliate marketing. It’s a true testament to their hard work and dedication that we all look forward to these shows so much. I know I do, at least.

If you are like me and can’t make it, make sure to check out the live stream of the Gary Vaynerchuk keynote provided by Missy and Shawn.

So, have a Coors Light for me at the All American Bar and Grille in the Rio. I’ll be there in spirit.

See you in New York for ASE this August-

Sam

Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Awards Finalists

Will Jangro break the curse??

Lots of good nominees this year and congrats to all the finalists:

Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Awards Finalists Announced — MissyWard.com: “The Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Awards Gala is affiliate marketing’s most prestigious, competitive honor for the leaders in the space. Award winners are recognized because they are innovative leaders with vision and influence.

The Pinnacle Awards Gala is open to all attendees of Affiliate Summit West 2009 and takes place Monday, January 12th from 5:00pm-6:30pm in the Brasilia room at the Rio Hotel Las Vegas.”

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Real Time Web Coming Fast: Are You Ready?

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.

“The Things We Think and Do Not Say”

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Must read on affiliate marketing’s real value in the sales chain during these tough economic times from Scott Jangro (aka Jerry Maguire).

Be warned… this is not a cheerleading piece.

The Year Affiliates Saved Christmas, Really? | Jangro.com: “As affiliate marketing gets a larger and larger percentage of retail sales, and taps more and more into ‘already had’ customers, it becomes devalued. For the health of this industry and channel, these things need to be understood and addressed.”

Way to go, Jangro.

Top 10 2008 Marketing Resources for the Coming Decade

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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!

NY State to Institute Stupid iPod Tax?

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Along with the bone-headed “affiliate tax” that New York state has tried to implement in the past year (head here for more great and in-depth discussion on that topic) in hopes of collecting about $50 million, Gov Paterson is now considering levying an “iPod tax” to collect revenue from music and digital downloads:

NY Governor Proposes iPod Tax – MarketingVOX: ”
Slot machine 2.0

Hoping to expedite the close of the state’s $15 billion budget gap, New York Governor David Paterson is proposing a tax on music and other downloads made online.”

Insane.

Look, I’m a tax-and-spend liberal. However, I’m also a realist. Taxing individual consumption of things such as digital music is not only impractical and dumb, but considering the other avenues of revenue available for NY state, it’s insulting for the citizens of the state (not to mention the ludicrous affiliate tax).

I think the Beatles sang it best… “my advice for those who die, declare the pennies on your eyes, cause I’m the taxman and you’re working for no one but me.”

TwitPwr vs Bit.ly: No Contest

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Speaking of Joel Comm, he recently launched a url shortening/vanity service focused on Twitter called TwitPwr (to accompany his book, Twitter Power).

Jim Kukral and I went back and forth over the service on last week’s GeekCast. Basically, my point is that Joel’s service doesn’t add much for users besides the vanity factor. I argued that bit.ly is a much much better product, has an API, and is more robust for serious users who don’t need the ego stroking.

But this morning, after trying to blog about Joel’s Twitter study in the previous post, I realized something else that is a deal-breaker for me when it comes to TwitPwr:

Once someone uses TwitPwr to link to a post or site from Twitter, you can’t get the original URL of the site. The TwitPwr wrap or frame stays on top of the site. And the TwitPwr wrap or frame stays with you whereever you go past that point (until you close that Tab or Window). So, whether you’re blogging or passing on the link, you’re stuck with the TwitPwr shortened URL if you’re clicking around. Not cool.

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That might be kosher for a few of you, but for most affiliate marketers, that could be a big deal since the URL has a great deal to do with conversions in terms of link names.

On the other hand, bit.ly immediately drops off after it does its original job… shortening the linked URL from Twitter or an email or a post, etc.

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Not to mention, bit.ly has a very nice API. That’s a big difference.

If Joel is going to keep pushing TwitPwr and if influential people in the affiliate marketing space are going to use the service, I hope they are aware of this pretty serious flaw in the service. Otherwise, this is more MLM than affiliate marketing.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Joel. He’s a nice guy and I consider him a pal. However, I also have a big place in my heart for Twitter and have to speak up when I see goofy things like this happening.

The TwitPwr “How It Works” page includes this language:

WHAT IS TRUE TWITTER POWER?

Is it really the number of followers you have, or is the ability to get your followers to Take Action?

When you use the TwitPwr short url service, we track the number of clicks that you drive via the Twitter API, and give your account a Power Rating.

Your Power Rating is not only the unique traffic that you generate, but it’s also based on how many Twitter users you refer to our service.

Those referrals you generate will also play apart in driving even more traffic to your site.. Stay Tuned!

If that is Twitter Power, then blessed are the meek.

I’m sticking with bit.ly for my url shortening and spreading needs.

FeedFront 4

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The next episode of FeedFront is up and ready for your viewing pleasure via PDF. Or you can wait to get it in your mailbox or at the Affiliate Summit next month…

Affiliate Marketing Blog by Shawn Collins: “Issue 4 can now be downloaded in PDF format.”

Glad to see the magazine is doing so well. Hats off to Missy, Shawn and all the contributors for making it better every month.

CJ Holiday Shopping Numbers

Ashley from CJ wrote and wanted to pass the word about some of the recent positive trends CJ is seeing this holiday shopping season as number continue to roll in:

Below is Commission Junction’s same store retail sales growth for Black Friday and Cyber Monday in comparison to comScore’s recent announcement on e-commerce spending.

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Nice job to the affiliate marketers, merchants and CJ who contributed!

Merlin Mann Doing the Affiliate Thing

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Merlin Mann brings the funny and effective yet again:

The Merlin Mann Amazon Store Blog: “Welcome to the Merlin Mann Amazon Store Blog. This is a new site where you can buy a fucking camera.”

Good idea.

Ad Spending Predictions Dire (But What About Peformance?)

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It puzzles me that “online ad spending” and “online marketing” are seen as one large homogeneous block by pundits and analysts.

Surely, this sort of thing is true for the Madison Ave crowd that relies on display and CPM advertising/marketing for their bottom lines:

eMarketer Cuts 2009 Projection for Online Ad Spend to Single Digits | Epicenter from Wired.com: “The revised projection data puts online ad spending at $25.7 billion in 2009 — a mere 8.9% over the $23.6 billion that will be spent this year and down from the 14.9 percent estimate it made only three months ago. In 2010 eMarketer estimates growth will barely return to double-digits — 10.9 percent — and that it will not be until 2013 before it hits 13.5 percent.”

However, what about performance marketing?

I have a feeling that as the economy continues to sour with no end in sight, performance marketing will increasingly be the “goto” for large companies and advertising agencies seeking shelter from the storm.

Nonetheless, I’m daily puzzled at why this isn’t happening sooner.

Good Sales & Marketing Wins

I’m not a huge fan of business books, Seth Godin, teleseminars, sales letters, etc.

However, I just listened to this podcast from Jim Kukral with Matthew Scott and it’s really good.

If you’re looking for some info-business type stuff to listen to over the weekend, I highly recommend checking this out:

Podcast: Good Sales & Marketing Wins!: “The Biz Web Coach talks with sales and marketing veteran Matthew Scott of LifesWorkGroup.com about how you can become a better salesperson and marketer. “

StumbleUpon Update Coming Soon

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StumbleUpon is one of those sites that everyone uses (or should) but never really talks about. However, as Shawn and I talked about on GeekCast 44, SU has a ton of potential for driving quality “sticky” traffic to sites as well as creating community around them.

If you’re involved in affiliate marketing and not using StumbleUpon, you’re missing out.

And it looks like they are prepping for some major upgrades soon:

StumbleUpon Readies for Another Version Release | Brent Csutoras: “Around 8:00 pm last night, November 19, 2008, StumbleUpon made an announcement in their Beta Group discussions area that they have rolled the majority of their users back to V2 ‘to prepare for upcoming changes that will add new features and optimize many existing ones.’”

I’ll review them when they show up in my account. Head over to Brent’s site and get all the details of what is in store.

Google SearchWiki And Custom SERPs: Ruh-Roh Affiliates?

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If you’re a (thin) affiliate marketer, take notice.

To quote the bard Bob Dylan, “things should start to get interesting right about now…”

Google SearchWiki brings custom search results | Webware – CNET: “Google’s SearchWiki is a feature that lets people elevate, delete, add, and annotate search results. Google remembers the changes a person made to search results, so repeat searches will show the same customizations and notes.

Google has been offering SearchWiki as an experimental feature to some people for months, but starting Thursday it will become available to anybody who’s searching while logged in with a Google account.

‘This is a search feature that gets a user more control over their search results,’ said Cedric Dupont, Google’s SearchWiki product manager. “

Head over to CNet to read the whole piece, but what do we make of this as an affiliate marketing community? Sign of things to come from the repository of the world’s knowledge or just some tinkering to placate the Digg crowd?

I’m thinking it’s a sign of things to come as Google recognizes that the concept of “search,” much like life itself, is subjective and personalized.

If you create good content and are a sticky affiliate, this is good. If you are a thin affiliate that relies mostly on PPC, count ye rosebuds while ye may.

BeatMyPrice.com: Interesting Affiliate Model

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The new rage for some of the shopping-centric affiliates and publishers is crowd source comparisons. Looks like BeatMyPrice.com is doing well with the model.

There is a nifty ajax interface, lots of options and the inevitable selling feature of the “deal feel.”

People Powered Price Comparison » BeatMyPrice.com

1. Find the best price you can online

2. Visit beatmyprice.com

3. Enter the details

4. See if someone has found it cheaper elsewhere

5. Save! (otherwise your price becomes the one to beat)

I expect to see more and more of these as the deal space heats up with the faltering economy.

AppScout also has some info on the site.

Microsoft Cashback Doing Something Right

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Say what you’d like about Microsoft Cashback, but they seem to be getting the numbers right…

Microsoft Cashback: The Traffic Needle Is Still Stuck, But The Ads Are Rolling In: “Microsoft is reporting that according to Comscore, Live Search referred 12% of all commercial transactions across the web – a number that is much smaller than Google’s referral share, but one that is also significantly larger than Live Search’s market share, which hovered around 9% during the same period. This makes the Live Search user base very appealing to advertisers, as it shows that they’re more likely to purchase goods than their Google counterparts.”

I’m still not sold on the long term veracity of the program since Microsoft faces two serious challenges to Cashback if it is going to be seen as a reliable income stream: 1) affiliates doing this are smarter, more nimble and will eat into Cashback’s market share little by little every month 2) this won’t get (or sustain) the “Oprah crowd” that makes cashback sites successful because the lack of a community and/or branding for that purpose (I’m not being a Microsoft hater… just saying).

Still, the numbers are impressive. Glad to see Microsoft using Jellyfish for it’s potential and perhaps this will spur more companies into investigating the direct response space as the economy continues to stumble around like a stoned hippy at a Grateful Dead show.