Many of you are active users (or maybe just lurkers) on affiliate message boards and forums, such as ABestWeb.com or Affcommunity.com. These interactive community sites are a fantastic place to share ideas, get the latest news, develop relationships with peers, solve problems and just vent if you need to get something off your chest.
Revenue Magazine is a staunch believer in the value of these forums and that’s why we have special sections devoted to our magazine on many of the popular message boards. It’s been a great way for us to communicate with our readers about issues that concern them, get feedback on the magazine, cull future story ideas, and answer specific questions about subscriptions and the distribution of the magazine.
There’s usually a spike in activity in the Revenue section of the boards right after a new issue of the magazine hits the street. You folks are not slow or shy about letting us know what you think we’ve done right and wrong.
I love that this group of active posters feels so passionate about the world of affiliate marketing that they chime in with praise when they feel it’s due but are not hesitant to call us on the carpet if they believe there’s been a misstep. All of the feedback is fantastic and only makes the magazine better and stronger.
One of the first things I do everyday is look at the boards to see who’s talking about what online marketing topics and what’s being said about our magazine. It’s a great way to get a feel for what’s going on in this space.
Lately for me reading the boards has been filled with much anticipation. But I’m not patting myself on the back while excitedly pouring over prosaic messages applauding the superior efforts of the hugely talented Revenue team. Though, those compliments are mixed in there.
Instead the boards have been afire with messages harshly criticizing Revenue not taking a stauncher stand in identifying affiliate programs that allow, or turn a blind eye on, spyware and other nefarious activities that hurt good affiliates.
I was shocked to hear that complaint since Revenue goes to great lengths to write about only ethical and fair companies. We make a huge effort not to promote merchants that partner with unscrupulous parasites or those with questionable marketing practices.
One suggestion from a very prolific poster was to devote several pages of Revenue to profile affiliate managers that run “clean” programs. That’s an interesting idea. We are looking at how we could truly confirm that a program is clean. Certainly, taking the affiliate manager’s word is not enough. I still haven’t figured out how to be 100 percent certain since there is no entity policing these matters.
Many of the criticisms on the boards question why we didn’t hold certain companies “feet to the fire” about these parasite issues. As a reporter you can only ask the questions. You can’t force people to respond. Companies, like politicians, skirt issues. They give responses that have nothing to do with what was asked. They avoid questions altogether. They address questions with flowery wording that says absolutely nothing. Companies are not going to admit alleged wrongdoing just because a question is posed to them – no matter how hard you press the issue.
Out inability to get the dirty affiliates to fess up has led this small but vocal group of posters to call our journalistic credentials into question. Ouch. That one really hurts – especially since our reporters and editors are journalism veterans with decades of writing, editing and reporting to their credit. Most have won many prestigious journalism awards and accolades.
We also turn down tens of requests each week from people who want to write for the magazine, because most lack the professional journalistic credentials to accurately and fairly report stories. Granted many know a lot about affiliate marketing, but familiarity with a topic doesn’t mean you can write about it in a clear and concise way that brings value to our more than 125,000 readers.
Many submissions are public relations people trying to “place” an article from one of the executives they represent. These requests are immediately rejected. We are not going to pack our pages with the opinions of those pushing a company’s agenda. We have many opinions in the magazine, but deliver those in the form of columns that are clearly labeled as such. They are written by established leaders and experts in their respective areas of affiliate marketing and they are not allowed to promote their own products or company.
We are committed to covering topics and issues that are of paramount interest to our readers. We then use professional, seasoned journalists to investigate those stories. That non-biased reporting process requires that we represent the views of all involved in the equation – affiliates, affiliate managers, performance marketers, network executives, industry observers, researchers and analysts.
You may not always agree with what any one of these given groups has to say, but omitting a key group’s opinion from the mix would paint a less than accurate picture. That would be short-changing you.
Up to now I’ve avoided chiming in on the boards to get these points across and defend our integrity. That’s mostly because all the previous efforts by other Revenue staffers to clarify our position or better explain the machinations of the publishing world were immediately dismissed as spin control or being overly defensive.
One of our esteemed competitors AdBumb actually jumped in to defend Revenue and offer some insight into the complexities of the journalistic process. However, their unsolicited efforts on our behalf were promptly met with attacks on a professional and personal level. I’m grateful for their support and sorry for their trouble. I guess it doesn’t pay to come to someone’s defense.
What irks me most about these types of attacks is that the posters know exactly who we are, yet their identities are cloaked behind anonymous message board handles. I can’t even look at their websites and make observations about their strengths and weaknesses. I also have no information to help me evaluate the context of their comments (or agenda) because I have no clue who they are or how they fit into the industry. Are they a disgruntled ex-employee of a company? A newbie affiliate? A super affiliate with lots of industry experience?
I understand the value of posting anonymously. It creates a sense of freedom and often encourages a lively discourse of ideas free from the fear of repercussions or backlash. But that freedom isn’t a license to act rudely or irresponsibly.
That said, I encourage everyone to challenge what they read in the media. Just because something is in print doesn’t mean it’s true. I think we’ve all seen some of the supermarket tabloid headlines. And heaven knows that recent slew of media-related scandals haven’t done much to improve the image of the press as a bunch of fabricators with serious integrity issues.
However, not all the press is guilty of those serious breaches of public trust. Most, like Revenue, have best interests of their readers at the core of their mission. We want to be your advocate in this exciting and emerging affiliate and performance space. But this is a two way street. We are counting on you to help us through your feedback and interaction, not attack us without offering solutions or ideas.
Just remember that when any magazine covers a particular industry they are often passionate and committed to delivering the best-possible content related to that topic area, but they are not in that industry. Car and Driver is not in the automotive industry. Their business is publishing.
Revenue Magazine is in the publishing business. While we read, research, listen, investigate and ponder the same issues as you everyday, we also have a slew of other behind-the-scenes issues and constraints to consider. You are worried about commissions, cookies, conversions, spyware, merchant programs, and a host of other really important things. We are also deeply concerned about those issues but in addition we have are focused on flat plans, printer fees, distribution, news stand sales, rough drafts, copy editors, blue lines, page counts, ad/edit ratios, fact checking, story deadlines and revising style guides.
All of this is complicated by having a quarterly publication. The deadlines are months in advance of when the issue actually comes out in print. So, a story you read in the July issue was likely written in February or March. Because of that three to four month time lag there might be new wrinkles that have developed in a story or other angles that couldn’t have been anticipated or covered. Meanwhile, we’ll use this twice-weekly column and our monthly newsletter to fill in any gaps and keep you updated.
Our goal is to keep you informed on the issues that matter the most to you. We want to bring you new ideas, best practices and in-depth analysis. This is YOUR magazine.
Ok, now I’ll get off my soapbox and get back to my work – continuing to listen to the feedback of our readers to improve and shape the quality editorial of Revenue Magazine.