Live Blogging the Jason Calacanis Keynote at Affiliate Summit


I’ll be live blogging the Jason Calacanis keynote from the Affiliate Summit here. Check back in for updates.

9:56am MC Jim Kukral is showing a “survival guide” video and doing intro’s.

10:05am Jim is reminding everyone of Jason Calacanis’ infamous “SEO is bullshit” incident.

10:06am “Affiliate marketing is bullshit. Thank you.” Calacanis


10:07am Calacanis is remarking about the first iterations of web spam in the mid 90′s. Looks like we’re going down the “affiliate spam is a problem and Mahalo will solve it path.”

10:08am “We’re polluting the pond. Are we going to pollute it so bad that we destroy it, like Usenet?”

10:10am Calacanis is invoking Seth Godin’s Squidoo service and remarking about the large amount of content on Squidoo that is stolen and is overpopulated with “affiliate spam“. Why does Squidoo even exists? It exists to pollute the internet. There is nothing of value there.”

10:13am “Anyone here from PayPerPost? You need to kill yourself. I’m kidding. Well, I wouldn’t mind it if you did.”

10:15am “Affiliate people doing spam can abuse these systems only so much before they collapse.”

10:15am “We’re tolerant of these people polluting the web. Affiliate companies are enabling the polluters of the well and turning a blind eye.”


10:15am Calacanis calls out Commission Junction for not doing enough to stop the spammers because turning a blind eye is good business.

10:17am Calacanis blows a kiss to an audience member who is from Angie’s List because he and his wife love it so much b/c of the absence of spam there due to the high barrier to entry.

10:18am Demonstrating the evolution of web content platforms from open to highly curated (Wikipedia, Facebook, etc)


10:20am “Long term hard work and investment makes you more money in the long term.” Duh. But still good advice.

10:20am “Truth is, much of this affiliate stuff is bullshit ponzi scheme where people got lucky and made a lot of money not doing much.”

10:22am “The internet has turned into a criminal mindset game.

10:22am Calacanis busting Shoemoney, Zac Johnson and the guys who post their earning checks.

10:24am “The good American way is through hard work, long hours and cultivation.”


10:25am Calacanis explaining how Engadget’s hard work and content cultivation led to their success instead of trying to game the system or use SEO. Gives example of how they ranked higher than companies they were reporting on.

10:27am “The semantic web is a way to confuse people by making them feel as if they are too stupid to build good sites.”

10:28am “Gamers are getting smarter and smarter.” True, but I think users are too.

10:28am “You guys think small. Holding up a 6 figure check is just pathetic. That’s your industry’s biggest success? Really?

10:29am “SEO’s and affiliate gamers are some of the smartest, most resourceful people on the web.”

10:31am “What should affiliates do? Stay the course. Keep polluting the web. Increase the complexity of your gaming. Find new ways to covertly advertise. Be more creative in the use of malware and adware.” That’s Calacanis’ “selfish” version.


10:32am “But seriously, realize you’re at the bottom of the 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 100k checks hold up checks with 2 or 3 more zeroes. Realize that you guys are smarter than half the folks working at large internet companies.”

10:34am “Someone in this room could create the next digg, StumbleUpon, Flickr, etc.” Vinny Lingham says he already has with Synthasite.

10:35am “None of you probably will create these companies because you’re wired for the quick buck.”

10:37am “Human powered search failed until… next time.”


And that’s a wrap. Now it’s time for audience questions

10:40am First question was “Aren’t you a hypocrite because you spam your social graph with LinkedIn, Facebook, etc? What is your contribution?” Calacanis responds “I created weblogs, inc which now ranks high. I paid them well, let them have their voice and create top content without having to worry about advertising. I did Propeller which has a layer of curatorial. I evolved the social news space. Kevin Rose copied me by bringing in editors to help with Digg. Mahalo’s premise is to create spam free search results. I’ve made a career of building high quality sites.”

10:44am Calacanis explaining how they are outsourcing good content at Mahalo through the greenhouse.


10:45am Adam Viener asks what kind of affiliate stuff does Jason think is not spam. Jason responds “I’ve never been fond of the kind of advertising that isn’t disclosed like affiliate links. I’m an old school editor and if you make money about what you link to, then you’re going to write about things that make you more money. The fact that affiliate links are not disclosed is a big problem to me. And the fact that search engines are junked up with affiliate spam is a big problem to me.”

10:47am Guy who wrote a post about how awesome Mahalo is because his grandmother uses it gives Jason a softball. I think he was a plant. I’ve never seen him before. Fluffer. Jason takes a swing and is explaining how Mahalo is bigger and better than Jesus because it’s so easy to find great content.

10:49am “If you run an affiliate site, you should be scared to death of me because we’re going to take your rank by making better content.” Fun point to consider!


10:51am “You guys have to start cleaning up the affiliate industry. I could care less what you do, b/c the more you screw up the better it will be for Mahalo. Please pollute the web because it only makes Mahalo a more desirable service. Make Google and Yahoo worse! Better for me!!”

10:53am Jay Berkowitz from Ten Golden Rules asks Jason how he’s built such a powerful personal brand. Jason says he creates discussions and that the best way to go is to be yourself. Engage other people and create dialogue. “I make myself ultimately accessible. I have an ego feed and I’ll see your post and check it out. If you’re in affiliate marketing, read their blogs, respond to them and all of a sudden you’re in the conversation. Contribute something positive and valuable and you’ll get noticed.” That’s completely true, btw. Best thing Jason’s said all morning, I believe. So, make sure to comment here so I’ll know who you are.

10:56am “Talk about other people more than yourself.” Tris Hussey sitting beside me almost died choking.

10:57am Someone in the back asks Jason how Mahalo makes money. Calacanis responds “The good content model combined with contextual ads. With 10,000 page views, we break even on creating a page which costs about $15 or $20.”

11:00am “I think this has been good for all of us. There was a lot of tension going in, but I think it’s gone well.”

11:01am “Build something and the capital will find you. Put some money on a credit card and build something good. Capital will find you.”

11:02am “It’s hard to do good work. It’s hard to make money. I’m not saying you have to buy into Silicon Valley hype, but you should try to build something of substance that people love.”Apologies to Jeremy Botter who had the Mahalo grandmother question earlier. He’s not a plant (see comments).


11:05 Wine Library TV’s Gary Vaynerchuk asks Jason when he will attempt to buy the Knicks after he sells Mahalo. Calacanis responds it’s in the cards and a dream.

11:06 Debbi from Market Leverage asks Jason what his problem is with people posting big affiliate checks. Calacanis responds “I want you to understand how your affiliate industry is looked at. It’s not looked at with high regards and these check guys reinforce that.”

“Those guys are smart, but holding a check up is just uncouth. There’s a huge disparity between the affiliate knowledge base and how you get paid. In the Valley, it’s the opposite. The difference is what you put on the plate. They are thinking about making great product. You are thinking about making great profit. If you guys tried to build better product, you would add 0′s to those checks. All you have to do is get 10 or 20 million people coming to your site every month. It’s such a waste. You guys are chasing your tails. Run the marathon, not the sprint.”

11:10am Someone asks Jason how he expects to compete with Google. Jason reinforces the mantra that Mahalo is not a Google competitor but is trying to build a high quality content site that isn’t a “life of crime” mentality platform like the search engines which turn blind eyes to spam.”

11:12am “If you have a great product that people love, they will buy it. Develop a relationship with advertisers that doesn’t involve the product. Get them involved without a hard sale.” True. That’s how I do sponsorship here, btw. So…


11:13am Jim Kukral has taken the stage and is pushing Jason off the stage. Glad b/c my Macbook has 1 min of battery left.

That’s a wrap… thanks for reading! Should be fun to see the responses from the affiliate community!

Tris Hussey also live blogged the event and has pretty pictures. Check out his post here. You should also follow his Flickr stream as he’s a killer photog. Thanks to Tris for the pics here as well.

About Sam Harrelson

Former ReveNews and CostPerNews Publisher, Former Affiliate Marketer, Current Middle School Science Teacher, Current Publisher of AffiliateHack

Twitter: sbharrelson22
  • Jonathan (Trust)

    Thanks for live blogging. It's what I was getting at over here –

    Didn't understand why someone so negative towards affiliate marketing was picked to keynote a positive conference on it. There's so much just in what you posted that doesn't make any sense.

  • Bobosse

    Thanks for live blogging Sam.

    Boy Calacanis's got an issue with affiliates. Feels like he is putting all of us in the same bag! Not fair.

  • Chris O'Byrne

    I think it was actually a good idea to have him present because it will really get all of us thinking about our businesses. Our we really happy with what we are doing? If so, great, we keep on knowing that we've looked at it from both sides of the fence. We already know that the basic idea of affiliate marketing is not bullshit and a 6-figure check IS respectable. I think he lost a lot of credibility by coming across as an elitist.

    People need and want products. Affiliate marketers bring those products to the people who want them in a number of creative and helpful ways. Just because some people are dishonest and polluting, does not mean that the majority of us are. I believe that you can be an affiliate marketer and still care about the product and the person who buys it.

  • Jeremy Botter

    I'm no plant, Sam. I didn't intend for that to be a softball; it was the one thing I wanted to ask Jason this morning, what the target market for Mahalo would be going into the future.

    As I said. come by the eComLeads booth if you think I'm a plant.

  • Mark A.

    Wow…I can imagine the dirty looks Jason must have been getting during his presentation.

    Thanks for the live blogging.

  • Stacy

    Thanks for the live blogging – awesome!

  • Vlad

    Well, I was one of the first to raise the issue of Calacanis presenting at ASW08…. Hate to tell you but…. I told you so.

    I respect Calacanis, but if I ever go to Affiliate Summit I would like to hear some words of encouragement…. Not to make me feel more like crap….

    Mr. Calacanis good luck with your Mahalo.

  • Daniel M. Clark

    There was some good, there was some bad. Overall, I agree with his position on the pollution of the net, especially as he equated it to the pollution of Usenet 10-15 years ago. Still, I can't help but feel as if he blames affiliates for a large – even disproportionate – part of the current pollution that's out there. Spammers and polluters may be affiliates, but not all affiliates are spammers and polluters (preaching to the choir here, I know).

  • Dan

    Thanks for the honest talk and open forum I appreciate hearing from experience since I was considering the affiliate path.

  • Snib

    I liked the keynote. I'm glad somebody is willing to stand up and give this industry a good kick in the butt. A lot of what he said was harsh, but rightly so. Affiliates are one of the biggest contributors of internet garbage. Of course there are plenty of affiliates who don't generate junk, but he wasn't talking to those folks.

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  • Jeremy Botter

    I liked Jason's keynote.

    I knew going in that he would probably piss off a lot people, but anyone familiar with Jason's history would have a pretty good idea of what he was going to say. I was actually surprised that he didn't talk about Mahalo more than he did, despite my setting him up to talk more about it. :-)

    He's got a grating style, but he did make a lot of good points. I think there does need to be more awareness of building great content and less spammy stuff, but everyone should already know that. I liked the comparisons to Usenet, too, and that was an angle I hadn't thought about before.

    Overall, it was a good keynote. I realized it probably angered a lot of people, but those people should have known going in what Jason was going to say. It's Jason Calacanis, for pete's sake; he's made a career out of inflammatory comments.

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  • Joel Comm

    I found Calacanis' keynote to be elitist, arrogant and condescending. Very disappointing. Read my opinion

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  • Carsten Cumbrowski

    I was looking forward to the keynote since it was confirmed last september. I did unfortunately miss it today and regret it at first. From what I heard so far does this regret not seem to be justified. A rant without being specific and/or offering suggestions for practical solutions to fix what is broken does not help anybody. I will have to wait for the video recording to be released and watch it to be able to come to a final conclusion though.

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  • Jimmy Daniels

    This kind of funny, because thats how I see Mahalo, they are creating pages and pages of information to take the top search terms, and most of those searches already have good results, at least when I do it, it's for a niche and not everything on the net. ;)

  • Dave Lindberg

    I wonder about the reactions we'll see from members of the community. A certain amount of defensiveness is to be expected, especially from those who make the effort to avoid the spam strategies and add real content to their sites. But will we see any real reaction from the subset of affiliates whose tactics are the real source of JC's lament? My guess is that a shortterm business attitude is not going to be transformed by one keynote speech.

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  • John

    I thought Calacanis's keynote was very good. I think he played the controversy card a little hard but from what I've seen of him that's his style.

    In-person linkbaiting I suppose.

    But his message was right on as far as I'm concerned. I think you need to read between the lines a little bit.

    If you're creating valuable content and sites that add value for your visitors, I don't really think you're in his crosshairs. He's talking about all the junky sites that are full of regurgitated content, with no value other than brokering the click to the merchant.

    Unfortunately, those sites are still pretty visible in Google despite their efforts, and to a lot of people outside the affiliate industry they're the face of who we are.

    I found the disconnect between affiliate marketers and some of the speakers from other industries interesting. One of the sessions I attended was a panel of well-known bloggers.

    The people asking them questions from the audience didn't seem to understand their industry any better than they (or Calacanis) understood ours.

    I think it's good to hear opinions from people who are not already involved in the industry, even if they aren't necessarily what you like to hear.

  • Wayne Porter

    Exactly and also good we give opinions back to Jason. That is "strength of weakness of ties" or close to it in social networking theory. If a niche is too tight- new memes or ideas cannot flow in to allow innovation. Too loose it falls apart. Just right and a hole appears for the bridge. Joy.

    If EVERYONE calls attention to this. In concert- not only do we prove out the power of small interactions can cause change, we can make it better and preserve diversity. I hate spyware and spammers and thugs and good reason if people knew what I have endured trying to bust it up. This is a real problem and everybody is effected.


  • Jeff Molander

    So how is it that Jason can NOT put everyone in the same bag when ONE woman screams and jumps up and down when Jason suggests affiliates must form “loving relationships” with consumers via quality content that build long term, “sustainable businesses” for themselves?

    Where was the applause? Where is this community when it comes to doing what Jason suggests — start taking itself seriously? Do people WANT to expect more of themselves? Do they WANT to stop holding up checks in photographs acting like a hundred thousand bucks is a big deal? After what I witnessed in that hall the answer is clearly no — with one exception (the woman who literally screamed and clapped all by herself). The community voted that morning and it voted for more of the short-term thinking. It’s really disappointing considering how honestly Jason engaged the audience and literally pointed out how much SMARTER and INNOVATIVE the community is than most other people on the planet.

  • Wayne Porter

    with consumers?

    you don’t have loving relationships with consumers.


    quality content that build long term- long term is relative- i know- ive been on the grid., quality is relative- i have been on the grid. The grids are coming so readjust your glasses.

    “Do they WANT to stop holding up checks in photographs acting like a hundred thousand bucks is a big deal? ”

    That is a form of validation. Poor social grooming. Lead first by talking then by acting.

    “It’s really disappointing considering how honestly Jason engaged the audience and literally pointed out how much SMARTER and INNOVATIVE the community is than most other people on the planet.”

    Well let us see how if Jason is a steward or a talker. It is not MY problem- everyone’s…and I would know better than anyone here. Dig up your podcasts- its not affiliate marketing…I told you that.

  • Scott Weaver

    As someone who’s been an affiliate for over a year, I can agree that the world of affiliate marketing has its share of spam. Lots of sites are essentially there for no other reason than to take a piece of the pie while not contributing anything to the overall user experience.

    However, Calacanis has made blanketed statements about the industry that are bullsh*t. Sure, he’s made a convincing argument: “we push for profit, not product.”, but in the end, is it really true? I think not.

    My brother in law has worked his ass off at his Silicon Valley start-up to create an amazing product and I have immense respect for that, but I bet you he wouldn’t do it if there weren’t some monetary carrot at the end of the stick.

    I can’t speak for everyone in affiliate marketing, but what I do for my customers is provide advertising and sales for them that otherwise wouldn’t be there.

    And I’ll bet you a million dollars that companies like these, if they haven’t already, are going to start incorporating the affiliate marketing model into their sales structure because it just makes more sense.

    Regarding people like Jeremy Schoemaker who hold up their six-digit checks, Calacanis points out that they could hold up seven or eight digit checks if they contributed quality products to the industry. What he fails to point out is that the person holding up the check is an individual, NOT an entire company pumping out a product.

    Sure, most of the money goes to top dogs but that IN NO WAY implies that they do all the work. In fact, while they might come up with the initial idea, most of the blood, sweat and tears comes from people at the bottom of the ladder. Those people aren’t holding up six, seven or eight digit checks; they’re working for the man.

    And sometimes, much like us, they are the people that go on to do great things by themselves in the wonderful world of affiliate marketing.

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  • Pat Grady

    Wayne’s mental push ups (or maybe jogging would be more punny), have me thinking about the “questions”…

    Break from Jason C’s words (his modality then was observer, moreso asking and answering with us, than of us) and refocus on the real subject, us.

    The checks held up for display keep bubbling…

    Thinking folks need to ask the right question to that provided, displayed answer. And it doesn’t start off with how, but why.

  • Wayne Porter

    Pat Grady said:

    "Wayne’s mental push ups (or maybe jogging would be more punny), have me thinking about the “questions”…

    Break from Jason C’s words (his modality then was observer, moreso asking and answering with us, than of us) and refocus on the real subject, us.

    The checks held up for display keep bubbling…

    Thinking folks need to ask the right question to that provided, displayed answer. And it doesn’t start off with how, but why."

    Jogging. Nods at super node. Other super nodes got the message. What is right question?

    What is an affiliate?

    Does intent matter?

    Dunno…others may. Tap your networks for collective knowledge. Affiliates KNOW networks. They are hyper networked.

    Takes an outsider, who is no better, to tell an industry there are problems…we have known there were…what is solution…

    Networks listening? Yes they are :)

    Agencies? :)

    Merchants and Brands :)

    Media- maybe :)

    always have been listening…waiting for more substance because affiliate marketing they do not get and affiliates are far more than affiliate marketing…


    (jogs along)

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