Affiliate Industry Preview: ShareASale’s Brian Littleton

As part of the ReveNews 2012 Affiliate Industry Preview Series, I interviewed affiliate marketing industry leaders to get a sense of their plans and goals for 2012. Today’s interview is with Brian Littleton, Owner of ShareASale.

Angel: How do you feel about the health of the Affiliate Industry overall?

Brian:  I feel even better than usual, following an amazing Q4 including some record breaking “key” shopping days (Black Friday/Cyber Monday). Our group met and exceeded some internal goals, and all of that is due to a very healthy and growing affiliate-base, as well as a continued growth and acceptance of the affiliate model by both retailers and consumers.

I think you’ll hear a lot of the same type of comments all-around, and there is no doubt that affiliate marketing grew faster than the curve, so to speak. I’m also very encouraged by the progress made in Washington, D.C. with regards to a federal-level solution to the “Affiliate Tax” problem. There are a number of people who deserve credit for what they have done so far (there is still a long way to go) but two senators in specific have really kept the pedal down on this, Senator Durbin from our home state of Illinois and Senator Enzi from Wyoming. With their dedication to this, we’ve been able to move forward and continue to move towards a solution that doesn’t harm so many affiliates as the state-level bills have done.

The best part about the affiliate marketing industry in general is that it is all still so new. There are countless areas for growth amongst the affiliate base, and as more individuals out there recognize the opportunities everything will continue to grow.

Angel: Beyond posting coupons, how would you like to see affiliates use social media?

Brian: Generally speaking, social media is just about engaging your audience. Fundamentally it is no different than using email or the telephone. It just happens to make engaging an audience a whole lot easier. That being said, I would love to see affiliates both building and engaging their audience much more than many of them currently do.  I would say the most important difference between a wildly successful affiliate and a mildly successful affiliate is that ability to grown their own audience.

Angel: What excites you most about mobile?

Brian: The most exciting thing is that people are really starting to use it. Mobile has always been there, and it has been a great buzzword for press releases, but has not been used well that often. We’re starting to see creative uses on a much larger scale as both the technologies and user base improve. The other  exciting part is the tablet world, which isn’t necessarily mobile, but there are a lot of innovative things being done to cater specifically to that user base.

Angel: In what type of affiliate (coupon, loyalty, etc) would you like to see more of?

Brian: No preference here. The industry needs all of them to be the industry. It is probably more difficult to break into certain areas—for example, straight coupon sites—due to a crowded market. But, then again, there were a lot of people that said that a few years ago when some of the more prominent players didn’t even exist, and recent acquisitions have proven that wrong!

Angel: A lot of scrutiny has been placed on the SOPA legislation. How will it impact things if legislation like it passed?

Brian: It is ridiculous legislation, and my hope is that people inside Washington, D.C., are starting to see that. It really has an effect far greater than affiliate marketing, but basically allows for property to be taken away from people without any due process of anything. I don’t even understand how it has gotten as far as it has, but basically anyone who publishes anything online should be aware of it and get involved even if it is just signing a petition (there are a few easy ways to get involved).

Angel: How did Illinois passing the so-called Amazon tax impact the industry? Have we seen the worst of it?

Brian: Well, there are two things that really happened in Illinois. The first, was a mass exodus of some of the best and brightest affiliates in the state of Illinois. The second, was a recognition by people involved here that the law failed to do what it was supposed to do. I am very hopeful that we can get it turned around here in Illinois through a combination of work at the federal level as well as in Illinois.

The only thing that happened was the movement of state income tax from Illinois to Wisconsin/Indiana, and we already have repeal efforts in place that didn’t even start with the affiliate marketing industry, but that came from other organizations. Bottom line, Illinois legislators were sold a bill of goods and are starting to notice that they didn’t get what they were sold. So yes, I do think we’ve seen the worst in Illinois, and are still seeing it. I am hopeful that we can rebound from here and build the affiliate marketing industry back up to where it was in Illinois.

Angel: How has the FishTank worked? Have there been any surprises since you set it live?

Brian: ShareASale’s Affiliate Aquarium has been a really interesting experiment so far. We’ve continued to integrate it more and more with our interface and have seen really good results from those who are participating. It’s a unique way to find, contact, and interact with affiliates, which is one of the things that we hear so much from retailers and Outsourced Program Managers. From our side, you’ll continue to see us growing the Aquarium. So we are looking forward to even more participation as it grows and becomes truly a part of the interface as opposed to a separate product/section.

Angel: What are ShareASale’s goals in 2012?

Brian: Well, we made it through our anniversary year without too much trouble! It was a fun year celebrating 10 years, and I hope everyone reading had a chance to celebrate with us at one of the many events throughout the year. Our 2012 goals are mostly strategic in nature so I can’t share with everyone, unfortunately. The things I can share: 1) we have to find a new mascot after a great year put in by Mattingly Collins; 2) we will have another wonderful Think Tank (this year in Austin, Texas) coming up in May which should offer a much better weather experience than last year in Chicago; and 3) wait till you see what we have in store for Affiliate Summit East in New York.

I’d like to thank Brian Littleton for taking the time to participate in our interview series. Tune in tomorrow when we talk with Yaz Iida of LinkShare. 

Photo credit: Affiliate Summit

About Angel Djambazov

Born in Bulgaria, Angel Djambazov has spent his professional career in the fields of journalism and online marketing. In his journalistic career he worked as an editor on several newspapers and was the founding Editor-in-Chief of Wyoming Homes and Living Magazine. Later his career path led to online marketing where while working at OnlineShoes he earned the Affiliate Manager of the Year (2006) award at the Affiliate Summit, and In-house Manager of the Year (2006) award by ABestWeb.

For four years Angel served as OPM for Jones Soda for which he won his second Affiliate Manger of the Year (2009) award at Affiliate Summit.

Currently Angel serves as OPM for KEEN Footwear and MedicalRecords.com. His former clients include: Dell, Real Networks, Jones Soda, Intelius, Graphicly, Chrome Bags, Onlineshoes.com, Vitamin Angels, The Safecig, and Bag Borrow or Steal.

Angel is the Editor-in-Chief and Co-Publisher for ReveNews.com and ReveNews.org.

Angel lives north of Seattle, spending his free time reading up on obscure scientific references made by his wife MGX, while keeping up with a horde of cats and a library of books.

You can find Angel on Twitter @djambazov.

21 Responses to Affiliate Industry Preview: ShareASale’s Brian Littleton

  1. Mattingly is crying over here with the official word that she’s out on her tail.

  2. Angel, Brian, great interview.

    I fully share the approach to social as to something that, in its essence, “is no different” from “email or the telephone”. And yes, the smarter we use it to truly engage the audience, the more loyal of a following we grow, and the better chances of success we have. There is a handful of affiliates who have already figured this out, and have gone away from the (sadly) already-traditional coupon/deals broadcasting to things more valuable and helpful, reaping more lasting success as a result. Social shopping is just one example. And here StyleFeeder.com (which won ShareASale’s Exceptional Affiliate award back in 2009, and then got bought out by Time Inc. in early 2010) comes to mind…

    On a separate note: speaking of mobile, I just don’t understand why (and it seems that Brian doesn’t share this approach either) tablets are being bundled up in the same group as the rest of “mobile” devices. The gap/difference between iPad/Kindle and a smartphone is just immense. Tablets and netbooks should be in a group of their own.

    • Tablets (iPads) will replace computing devices as we know them. They’ll move from that mobile category into a “computer” category that we normally associate with laptops and desktops in the next 3-4 years.

      The big question is what to do with “Smart TV’s” and “Smart Books” that are rapidly heading our way…

      • What happened to your old sig: “Excuse the typos – I wrote this on my Apple Newton”?

        • Ha! But seriously, iTV (or whatever Apple calls it) is going to usher in the long-dreamed of age where devices and the central “entertainment unit” of most homes converge and start doing interesting things with web traffic, interactions, brands and performance reactions. We’d be well advised to pay attention to whatever happens with the current muddy water that exists between AppleTV or GoogleTV or a Roku and mobile devices. 

          Performance marketing is in for a major overhaul as it revamps the once brand-centric experience of TV watching in the same way that performance marketing re-did web advertising albeit in a much more accelerated manner.

          At least I think so!

      • Brian Littleton - ShareASale says:

        I love tablets, but I must say I don’t see them replacing anything.  They are their own thing, and wonderful for so many things (and horrible for others). 

        I can’t, for example, imagine designing my website or running my business on one.  It would be a Frisbee in 2 minutes.  🙂

  3. Ricky Ahuja says:

    Great interview guys!

  4. MarkBennet says:

    Informative Interview Angel. Knowing the plans and goals of the various marketing leaders will help us to know how the market will function.