A Reply to Anne Kadet’s “A Penny for Your Clicks?”
From the first four words of the first sentence of Anne Kadet’s SmartMoney May 2, 2008 article entitled “A Penny for Your Clicks?” I could tell it was not going to be a fair and balanced piece of journalism. There are numerous areas to which I could take issue; however, I’ll address three broad ones specifically.
The negative tone.
The article is clearly written from a negative point of view. Note the absence of positive examples from the Affiliate Summit. For example, Kadet writes as if this event began with a drunken boozefest (actual Meet Market time was noon to 6:00 pm with a 1 hour networking cocktail following). Her “Jacuzzi party at the Palms Hotel” statement was out of context. As stated on the official agenda, it was a private event — and for the record the jacuzzi pool is about 12 inches deep and overlooks an open aired view of the Las Vegas strip on an outdoor deck area. (Kadet also fails to note any of the educational sessions or even the 2nd Annual Gospel Brunch put on by the Christian Affiliate Marketing Association.)
Kadet’s quotes from Affiliate Summit keynote speaker Jason Calacanis, while technically accurate, are clearly taken out of context. His “whopper of an opening line” statement, while offensive to some, was nevertheless part of his show and something for which he is known by industry-insiders. (Watch Calacanis’ whole keynote presentation here.) He was preaching to the choir and not trying to destroy the industry. He knew most of those in his audience did not have a “Lex Luthor mind-set.”
The “talking down” attitude.
Kadet defines affiliate marketing as a “mom-and-pop sliver of the online advertising business” and states that “most participants are regular folks who work from home.” I would argue that affiliate marketing is much more than this and is not just the profession of “regular folks” but includes many Fortune 500 companies and media conglomerates. Many in affiliate marketing are brands in themselves and are larger than the companies they market for.
I’ve got to take issue with this as well. Just because somebody works from home doesn’t mean they are insignificant or somehow less than qualified. Many large companies are outsourcing work to contractors and allowing their employees to telecommute. It’s efficient. It saves resources. Hey, it’s even green.
And one more thing. Just because Kadet can become a Wal-Mart affiliate over her lunch hour doesn’t make it a questionable activity. Likewise, one can open a retirement account or even get married over the lunch hour. Does that make these events insignificant? Poor argument on her part.
The poor examples.
Kadet is correct that there are lots of shams in affiliate marketing. The same is true about sales reps in any industry I can think of. Calacanis correctly pointed out these problems at Affiliate Summit and chided the industry for putting up with it. He urged affiliates to “think big” and pursue excellence.
Kadet stated that “it’s tough to earn affiliate-marketing cash the honest way.” That’s true. Earning cash the honest way is also tough for every business I’m aware of and that’s why 90% plus businesses fail. A 3 week test with a few blog ads is not sufficient for Kadet to dump on the industry.
One final thing about poor examples. Kadet’s admission to signing up under her dog’s name might be funny but it is a sure way to doom oneself to failure. I think it amounted to a subconscious admission that she wasn’t going to make any money. Think about this with me. A dog’s name may be a fine login but to claim it as her name on the application is being dishonest. (Remember, she’s the one chiding the industry as being dishonest.) In reality, using a non-legal name becomes a troublesome legal problem when it comes time to deposit checks and pay income taxes.
I don’t mind honest critiques of the affiliate marketing industry. Instead, I welcome them. We need more transparency and self-control. Those who are unethical need to be rooted out and exposed. Likewise, it would be wise for merchants to more rigorously evaluate their affiliate applicants. Such a scenario would move us closer to the ideal. This article, though, in my opinion, does not move us in that direction. Instead, it unfairly paints everyone in affiliate marketing with a wide and dirty brush.
Please note for the record: I have been an affiliate marketer for almost 10 years and am the founder and president of Shopping-Bargains.com, LLC. I attended Affiliate Summit West 2008. I am also on the Affiliate Summit advisory board. These comments and opinions are mine alone.