A New Industry Association?

I had a great call with Rebecca Madigan – formerly with Commission Junction, now with AffiliateClassroom – earlier today. We talked about an industry group dedicated to promoting affiliate marketing.

Over the years there has been a lot of talk and many ill-fated attempts to create such a group – like an IAB for performance marketing.

Generally, people seem to agree this would be a great idea but nothing gets done because everyone is too busy.

The solution seems to be to get funding to support a full time person to act as a sort of industry lobbyist. The best way to get money seems to be to collect it from many dues-paying members.

In this scenario, dues-paying members would also be voting members who would vote in a voluntary board that oversees the full time person. There could be different levels of membership.

If we could get, say, $500 a month from 20 companies, $100 a month from 100 companies, or $25 a month from 400 companies, we’d have the kind of money we’d need. (With salary, travel, benefits, and overhead the amount of money would need to be significant.)

As long as the group is inclusive and has clearly defined principles, we should be able to avoid industry politics.

This would not be a group dedicated to policing or restricting networks, advertisers or publishers (I think that would be a losing endeavor) but a group dedicated to promoting performance marketing through education and publicity. For example, the representative could publicly address the New York Taxation issue and articles like the smarmy SmartMoney article. The link is to Mike Allen’s nicely-worded response. While he and others capably addressed our community, we need to reach a wider audience.

Such an organization would allow the community to provide input on its concerns and support an individual who could provide education, outreach, and publicity on behalf of the community.
There is currently no such organization but there is currently a need for such an organization.

About Brook Schaaf

You can find Brook on Twitter @brookschaaf.

40 Responses to A New Industry Association?

  1. Brad Waller says:

    As someone who has tried this, I applaud the attempt and fully support it. I think some of your numbers for dollars are off, but no matter. As you said, we need someone who has the time to get this off the ground with full support of the merchants, providers, and affiliates.

  2. Mike Allen says:

    I like the idea, Brook. It’s one whose time has come — just waiting for the right mix of leadership and community support. I think support from a dues-paying membership could make it happen.

    Also, thanks for the compliment on my earlier post.

  3. It has been brought up many times over the years, just don’t think it’ll ever have a chance of working, don’t think it will with this type of business.

    “As long as the group is inclusive and has clearly defined principles, we should be able to avoid industry politics.”

    That’s a pretty rare deal. I can only think of CJ’s LMI, where there was a majority agreement that it was one of the worst ideas ever. The only time I can think of where everybody was pretty much in agreement. And with that, people were heard by doing things on their own and working together, there was no need for an organization.

    As far as – “As long as the group is inclusive”

    I don’t see it that way, if anything you probably would be excluding 99%+ of the people involved in this business, since most aren’t going to pay dues or have somebody speak on their behalf. It’s only inclusive if you pay.

    “Generally, people seem to agree this would be a great idea but nothing gets done because everyone is too busy.”

    Haven’t seen that either, actually the opposite.

    What it would end up being is a very small group, those who pay, that would want to represent the industry. This industry is just too big and the major players are usually the type that have no problem speaking for themselves.

    Back to LMI again, when issues are brought up and there is actually majority agreement (which again is rare) then it’s been shown that change can be made with blogs, forums, petitions, phone calls, emails etc and things can get done.

  4. Brook Schaaf says:

    Trust, like I said, if you don't like the idea, you're entirely entitled to your opinion. I disagree and thing that it has huge potential benefits.

    For example – a voice to discuss the New York state tex mess that may spread to other states.

    I hardly think that industry people as outspoken as yourself are not going to have their voices heard. (Although you – ironically – have a special ability to drown out other voices with lengthy, needless threads that go on forever.)

    The point is to reach an audience OUTSIDE of affiliate marketing to tout the benefits of performance based marketing. Except for traffic generation, I'd say we collectively do a fairly poor job of that right now.

  5. Brook Schaaf says:

    As for why past attempts have failed – in my view it's because there have not been enough resources put behind the efforts. Specifically – they have been voluntary attempts when there should be a full time person working on the plan.

  6. (Although you – ironically – have a special ability to drown out other voices with lengthy, needless threads that go on forever.)

    Translated – some people can't back their opinions up but if it's a crutch you want to use, so be it.

    Good luck with the association.

  7. Brook Schaaf says:

    Trust, when someone disagrees with you disagreeing with them, you have a habit of accusing them of not being able to take criticism.

    This is a time-losing game for both sides and has the negative side affect of pushing out other commentary.

    This thread is a perfect example.

    You could have just said "I don't think you'll have any luck and if you did such an organization wouldn't speak for the people and companies in the industry." (Or whatever best represents your views.)

    Instead we are wandering down a dead end road and I daresay it's just you and me at this point.

  8. "This thread is a perfect example."

    It's just an example of me wanting to get to how people really feel. Sometimes I see people post stuff but it's not backed up or I don't think it's how the majority feels. So I want to find out.

    "Generally, people seem to agree this would be a great"

    I disagreed with that. And I asked where do you get this from. You said conversations that nobody can see or listen to. So why don't you just start a thread at ABW and let's see where people are at with this so we don't have to guess. You're going to get a lot more input than you do here and I could very well be wrong. Only one way to find out.

  9. Brook Schaaf says:

    I for one can hear the conversations I've had with other people. It is a useful way for me to get a feel for other people's opinions and to share my own.

    An ABW thread is another way to hear people's opinions and to share my own. While ABW is a great community, it is not the be all, end all of affiliate marketing.

    While I'd be interested in the opinions of the ABW community, I don't have to guess if there is interest in such an organization because I know it exists outside of (and at least to some extent inside of) ABW. I don't know of a reliable way to survey all affiliate marketers but I think there is critical mass for such an organization, your attitude notwithstanding.

    Forgive me for saying this, Trust, but I don't think you really want "to get to how people really feel." I think you want to challenge people to debates so that you can feel like you win these debates.

    I don't think that this thread has really been productive. And, as I noted above, I'd guess we're the only two people even reading it. Soon there may only be one person reading it.

  10. Like Heather said in an earlier blog post: "the most highly populated affiliate forum AbestWeb.com,"

    That's reality. Affiliates, affiliate managers, merchants and where else do you get the kind of network participation as you do at ABW? So you have this idea of an affiliate marketing association but aren't confident enough to put it out there to get input. How could you be against getting as much input as possible? And you wonder why these things fail.

    "I’d guess we’re the only two people even reading it. Soon there may only be one person reading it."

    That's your choice. You can have more, start the thread.

  11. Brook Schaaf says:

    Trust – Inclusive in the sense that people would be welcome to join. There are plenty of non-controversial issues, such as those cited above. In these cases it’s fairly silly that there is no articulate voice to champion the cause of performance marketing. If it’s something you’re not interested in, so be it, but the interest is clearly there.

    Brad – what are the dollar figures you have in mind? I think it’s important to talk in terms of real dollars.

  12. “If it’s something you’re not interested in, so be it, but the interest is clearly there.”

    Link? Because I can show you links saying otherwise but have never seen what you’re talking about. Unless it’s nothing more than talk between a few people who want to be involved with it. Because I’m seriously wondering what you base –

    “Generally, people seem to agree this would be a great idea”

    that on. Where I can read about that agreement.

    Some of the things you mentioned, the taxation, the article are already getting addressed by people. And they didn’t have to pay dues to do it. There’s is a reason why it’s failed in the past and nobody has taken it up since.

    Also about the fees:

    “If we could get, say, $500 a month from 20 companies, $100 a month from 100 companies, or $25 a month from 400 companies”

    And if those paying $500 a month were major networks or say some adware players, do you think that would be a great representation of our industry, should be the industry’s voice? Those are the type of dollars that will indeed exclude a lot.

    “If it’s something you’re not interested in, so be it, but the interest is clearly there.”

    I’m just here discussing it, don’t see the problem with that. If you only want people posting that just agree with you, that should have been made clear from the start.

  13. I agree that there is a need.

    As Brook mentioned, there are lots of interested parties – there were a series of phone calls a year or so ago with networks, affiliates, and affiliate managers on board.

    We had some ideas and plans, but nobody was willing to take a leadership role.

    So it foundered.

    Not everybody is going to love it no matter what form it takes.

    I think that's a bad reason to throw up the white flag. Let's get this going for real this time and see what we can make of it.

  14. Brook Schaaf says:

    Trust, I have had countless conversations about this in the past with many people (merchants, affiliates, OPMs) from our industry over the years. My above posting is the gist of these conversations.

    If you do the math, you’ll note that all the proposals total about 10K per month, or $120,000 per year, which is the kind of money I think we’d need to retain someone good and pay for overhead.

    I am not sure exactly what you are saying with regards to the industry’s voice – that if companies you don’t like join, it will be a wasted effort? Can you draw me a scenario in which case such a group goes bad?

    Affiliate marketing is simply a means of paying for advertising. On the one hand, it allows a company to partner with many different publishers for a low cost. On the other hand, it allows the publisher to receive compensation in accordance with his value. There is a lot of education that could be done to support affiliate marketing.

    A scenario in which such a group would be very helpful is the current mess with the NY tax nexus.

  15. Shawn, why don't you do it or organize it? There is no bigger live gathering than at the Affiliate Summit. I think there is a good representation there. I think you need to find someway where everybody could be a part of it. Don't think it works without that. And I do think you need to get as much input as possible. Just something happening behind the scenes, out of public view, series of phone calls isn't exactly out there and isn't very inclusionary.

    At the next Summit, have some time set aside for something like this taxation issue and put something together and get it out there.

  16. > Shawn, why don’t you do it or organize it?

    We'd be happy to provide a platform, but it needs leadership. I simply don't have the time, which is why I haven't tried it to date.

    > Just something happening behind the scenes, out of public view, series of phone calls isn’t exactly out there and isn’t very inclusionary.

    I agree, but there needs to be a core group to get the ball rolling, and that's what we were trying to do with the calls.

    If there is something organized, we'll figure out a way to work it in.

  17. Brad Waller says:

    Trust found my site. It was what I set up when I was talking with the C level executives and a number of top players a few years ago. I didn't really want it indexed and found since it was what I was showing them privately, but nothing on the Web is private…

    What happened? Although I had buy in from quite a number of people, I did not have the 60 hours a week, nor the budget to get this off the ground all by myself. I did quite a bit of the legwork and spoke with many people who had started other associations.

    It went nowhere because I could not step away from my own company and dedicate myself to this – and that is what this will take.

  18. “Trust, I have had countless conversations about this in the past with many people (merchants, affiliates, OPMs) from our industry over the years. My above posting is the gist of these conversations.”

    And like I’ve said, I’ve read countless threads on this over the years. It seems it comes up at least once a year. I can’t see your conversations. Start a thread on this at ABW and let’s get some input from affiliates, merchants, affiliate managers, networks, etc. input people can actually see. I don’t think they’ll be much support for an organization where people have to pay dues just to vote so somebody else can be their voice, a voice in which they might disagree with. You’re going to leave most of affiliate marketing out of that conversation so I can’t picture such an organization holding much weight. How can it be a true representation when it will exclude the majority.

    There are already countless marketing associations, have you ever considered working in some context with those already established ones? And doing a search on Google for terms such as internet marketing associations and related terms, a few of those as well. I see one from Brad http://www.iamo.org/ what happened with that? I remember one awhile back, before I started that failed. Why?

    I just don’t think these kind of things work for this type of business. We’re all a bunch of independent businesses that make our own decisions. Do you really think some of the top affiliates are going to want to have somebody else speak up for them? And have to pay to do so? I don’t know, I don’t think so but maybe I’m wrong. Like I said, put it out at ABW, get some more input.

  19. Hi. Actually i am running an idea like this for hispanic market. asociaciondeafiliados.org (affiliateassociation in english).

    I will receive all your ideas and advices for a good development of the topic.

    I hope make a good relationship with your association. It will be a good new for all.

    Thanks and Regards

    Fernando Corral

  20. Brook Schaaf says:

    Hi Fernando,

    Do you happen to be located in Southern California? we're planning a get together in a couple weeks.

  21. Hi Brook

    No, i´m sorry, Im located in Europe, in Spain.

    I´m interested in get together but is very difficult for me, do it in California

    Regards from Spain

    Fernando Corral

  22. Brook Schaaf says:

    haha – I suppose that makes sense. Well, thanks for stopping by! I'm sure that there will be lots more postings at ReveNews on this topic.

  23. Lisa Riolo says:

    I have been involved, on and off, with many of the past conversations and attempts to get the association off the ground. I agree with Shawn and Brad that resources and leadership are primary reasons these past efforts haven't gained traction. I also know [having heard directly from dozens of individuals–representing different perspectives (affiliates, merchants, networks, bloggers, agencies, consultants)and levels of experience (executives to newbies)] that people believe there are a number of good reasons to make it happen.

    I am excited that Rebecca is pursuing the idea again. Rebecca: count me in!

  24. "Brad that resources and leadership are primary reasons these past efforts haven’t gained traction."

    That and I think moreso not reaching out and getting enough input.

    Little off topic but I go back to LMI. Someone thought it was good idea. Maybe talked to a few agreeable people but was never put it out there for general consumption. You need to have people go thru it, bring things up/possible problems you might not have thought of. Even possible solutions or ways that it could work that you might not have thought of. And I'm not only talking about forums like ABW, put it out there in the other forums as well. To this point I see a reluctance to do that. It comes of as very behind closed doors type of deal and it's not going to work that way.

  25. Lisa Riolo says:

    Trust,

    Yep. I can see how, without sufficient and transparent discussions, the whole idea starts feeling like a "behind closed doors" "insders only" arrangement. I also think you're probably right about the reuluctance 'people' have about open communication. IMO what's at the heart of such hesitancy: the ability to truly facilitate a productive discussion. Especially when people have strong, opposing, points of view. I've already heard comments about: it'll just end up with people disagreeing and either things don't go anywhere or we end up with 'several' organizations.

    I think you make some great points and it is this type of commentary that will lead to something that will work.

  26. Brad Waller says:

    Trust – "That and I think moreso not reaching out and getting enough input."

    Just because you were not asked does not mean that input did not come from many people. I know I spoke with dozens in depth, including some you know.

  27. peter bordes says:

    I think we can work with the IAB to create a committee that can take leadership, build trust and transparency without having to create another industry association. We are speaking with the IAB today about this issue and i will post further info ASAP thru Twitter http://twitter.com/mediatrust , http://www.RelevantlySpeaking.com and the affiliatepetition@gmail.com.

    The fragmented affiliate performance marketing industry needs to work to coming together as a collective and finding its voice. I agree that this need to be done right with the right amount of leadership and resources.The IAB has all the ingredients if we can work with them to provide the right committee members.

  28. Brook, you make a nice point that something needs to be done to form an association. However, without the immediate support from merchants, affiliate networks, outside industry associations, political, bloggers and press this action will not change the inevitable that will happen on June 1st. I fear that much time will be spent in organizing an association when the time is clicking on the issue. NY is the first state to initiate this tax and more will follow as pressure on real estate and economy is driving down tax income on the state level. Overstock's decision to drop 3,400 affiliates is a huge blow to the industry and more will follow.

    I believe that with the power of the internet many voices can be heard and involvement will follow. The e-commerce merchants and affiliates will lose out on a significant revenue stream that would way offset any dues to start an organization. A better idea would be to have the industry funded by many sources not just members. For example, if the Affiliate Marketing Association was fighting the issue, wouldn't it be in the best interest of an online merchant or affiliate network to support the cause since they are loosing revenue streams?

    I wrote some thoughts on my blog this morning on how to create an association and a plan of attack. Thank you for talking on the issue!

    http://www.vastplanet.com/vastplanet-internet-mar

  29. Brook Schaaf says:

    Yes, too late for this June 1st but it should be a big wake up call to us. An association wouldn't necessarily prevent this but it would help to educate legislators, merchants, and the public. It would also help with coordination on our side.

  30. Fully agree Brook! I am all in favor of creating an Affiliate Industry Association and will help in any way to make that happen. With the momentum I am seeing it can be accomplished whether it affects the current issue or not. The weakness in fighting the tax battle in NY is that we don't have an association so a unified voice was never heard, thus ignored. We may not stop NY but if we can delay other states and issues via an association it sound like a great plan.

  31. "Just because you were not asked does not mean that input did not come from many people. I know I spoke with dozens in depth, including some you know."

    And that's exactly the type of attitude why it's failed in the past and your own attempts have failed and why it doesn't look real good right now. It's like you didn't read any of the posts. About getting input from as many people as possible. Putting the idea out in public, not this behind closed doors type of deal, with friends and people you know. You need to get everybody involved from the start, a concept that doesn't seem to be getting grasped.

    You've talked to dozens? I'm not sure if you realize how ridiculous that statement is. It's kind of like this old school attitude, reminds me a little of Herbies failed iamfa. Maybe we need some new people behind this because the old ways have never worked.

  32. peter bordes says:

    as a first step why not get as many networks, affiliates, bloggers etc to connect and support Amazon who is all ready taking action. There is not enough time to create an association to fight this. This could move to fast and have to much momentum by the time anyone agrees on anything. Otherwise we should work with the IAB who also already has representation in Washington. The industry does not need another association. Nor do we have time to form one.

  33. Peter, excellent points. Support for Amazon is essential as they are already heavily invested in the legal battle. In addition, IAB support is really the only choice we have at the moment as they have the organization, funding and representation to voice our concerns. It could be 6 months to a year before a formal industry association gets organized so the sooner we accept that the better.

  34. peter bordes says:

    Michael i will try to have more info from the IAB for everyone on Monday. We have a conference call with them regarding next steps and DC representation. I am also going to connect to Amazon with the IAB so we have a focused effort. I don't understand why Overstock pulled the plug so fast on 3,400 loyal affiliates who helped build their brand. Why did they not join in with Amazon. No one in the affiliate industry is going to trust them.

    This need to be an all hands on deck effort. I am surprised that there has not been a bigger rise in concern across the industry. The entire community needs to be paying close attention. Linda at 5 Star Affiliate has been very vocal http://affiliate-blogs.5staraffiliateprograms.com
    we all need to be vocal and have a collaborative effort across the board. I will be back with more info ASAP. i applauded everyones input in this string. Lets use social media to get this spread.

  35. If this does move forward, I'd just like to throw out there that we might want to (strongly) consider doing this independent of the IAB.

    They have not been very supportive or forthcoming with affiliate or performance marketers in the past and I'm not sure that we should necessarily have history amnesia when it comes to them.

    I'm confident that we can quickly create and fund an organization representative of the particular needs of affiliate marketers, merchants and networks without having to go down that path again.

    Sam

  36. Sam – I agree the organization should be independent and capable of self representation. Ideally the organization would be the communal voice for our industry. As well, it could assert ethics and channel ideals to a certain extent, allowing us all to be well informed concerning our industry standards.

    Excellent post Brook, we need a voice…

    Cheers,

    Heather

  37. I was talking about this over one year ago and it blew right into my face, people talking about "My Organization" and crap like this. However, since then did a lot of things happened. More people talk more serious about it. Several differences were also resolved. I think that we are in a better position today than we were back in October 2006 and before that, when others like Brad, Wayne and Shawn (to name a few) attempted to get something going.

    You have my support and regarding the issue that "everybody is too busy". It is a matter of priorities. If it is important to you, time will be available, always. I think that I am not alone when I am saying that it became for me a priority where I am willing to take the time and energy for to get it going and keep running.

    Jonathan, I disagree with you as I did in October 2006 and I am sure that you disagree with me as well, so there is no need to go over it again. It seems that the majority of people in this industry do not share your opinion. However, you have valid points that will have to be addressed in one way or another. I am also sure that Haiko from ABW is willing to support another initiative and he can also bring in a lot of concerns and ideas coming from the ABestWeb community.

  38. p.s.

    Here are links to the related posts from 2006:

    Initial Post

    Update

    Conclusion

    Some of the stuff talked about back then might be worthwhile thinking about today once more.

  39. Chris Wilde says:

    GOOD IDEA!

  40. […] Brook Schaaf of MediaTrust has put out a call to all affiliates proposing a new industry association. […]