Re: who do you trust?

From: Michael Martinez <>
Date: Thu 05 Oct 2000 16:06:42 -0500

> Last week in this forum Michael Martinez detailed his
> frustration with Linkshare, which he said grossly
> understates affiliate conversions. This week Lourdes
> de Llano and Jeff London both slammed as unreliable the
> reports produced by DoubleClick's DART system.
> ...
> My question: have we come to expect (and accept)
> inaccurate reporting in this industry? By all
> players, or just a few?

Personal anecdote is a highly subjective source of
information. I wasn't looking to create ill will
against Linkshare. I don't know what I could "prove"
at this point, except to show that I've exchanged email
with one of their merchants expressing my displeasure
with the system.

I have seldom seen anyone sing the praises of a banner
or ad-serving network. That may only be because
people don't wish to leave anonymity to defend
services which are obviously generating large volumes
of transactions, even if independent or partially
independent observers cannot identify whether those
are proftiable transactions for anyone.

The Internet is, in a way, a very big liar's club, if I
may use that phrase. Everyone has to evaluate
everyone else's claims without really having any way
of confirming or contesting them.

Or, to put it another way, there are now so many people
using the Internet that it's impossible to accurately
gauge what is happening.

Do you realize that as recently as the summer of 1995
people reported only 30,000 Web sites, most of them
non-commercial in nature? That's barely 5 years ago.
Now we have over 1,000,000,000 Web sites.

When banner ads first emerged they were a "cool" thing
to have on your Web site. People clicked on them. We
didn't mind them so much if they didn't flash (and,
unfortunately, all too many of them started flashing
all too soon). Click-thrus dropped radically (and
just within the last day I came across another site
that claims the industry ration has dropped to .39%).

Maybe the problem for people like me is that the ratios
on Linkshare-type programs are against us. But if
they are against the affiliates, the old conventional
wisdom may still hold true. That is, it's better to be
Amazon than to be the Amazon associate. If a
Linkshare merchant were to have 100 Web sites sending
the click-thrus I had for 800-Trekker (and we're
talking hundreds upon hundreds before I yanked the
code), it would be absurd NOT to expect some sales.
So then figure 1,000 Web sites like mine are out there,
eagerly pulling in prospective customers for a merchant
with BROAD appeal. That's a drop in the bucket.

Just a couple of years ago I remember getting some
email from Amazon proudly claiming they had over
25,000 associates. I felt pretty elite then. People
were reluctant to put the links on their Web sites.
Not any more. I think there are more than 250,000
associates in the program now.

I only wish I had known then what I know now. I might
have done things differently. But then, Amazon also
listened to many of its associates. They ramped up
their program and gave us the kinds of tools we asked
for. I'll admit I left their program for a year
because the software just wasn't there, but it was the
new tools that brought me back. That and the fact I'd
made more money with them than all the others combined.

What I'm saying is that if the technology is not there,
all the complaining in the world isn't going to make
things any better. But if it IS there, then what will
bring about change will be the wholesale departure of
users from one system to another.

So, the question is, does the technology exist? That
is, can the traffic be accurately measured? I'm
currently monitoring an authors' forum where some
people (a minority, as best I can determine) are
hammering on Amazon, BarnesandNoble, Borders, and
Booksamillion for dropping sales. In one case,
someone reported that one of these services emailed a
LOT of customers asking them to reorder her book.

It doesn't matter if you're running an affiliate
program or a banner network. Can you track the
impressions and click-thrus accurately? How do we
determine whether this can be done?

I'm about to move from just being an associate to being
a self-published author. I will HAVE to trust the
online bookstores to report their sales figures
accurately. I'm going to be asking other Webmasters to
help me sell the book. They'll want credit for those
sales, I'm sure.

So your question is a very good one. I hope there's a
happy answer for all of us.

Science Fiction and Fantasy
New and expanded discussion forums! Over 20 topics!

Received on Thu Oct 05 2000 - 16:06:42 CDT


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