Rakuten LinkShare Announces Industry First While Forgetting Its History

It’s said that Internet users have notoriously short memories. It’s a strange paradox considering they are plugged into the most powerful research tool in human history. Ad networks and PR teams seem to be particularly effected by this lapse of memory. So one can hardly fault Rakuten LinkShare for an announcement that seems laughably out of touch with reality.

Today, Rakuten LinkShare announced what it called the affiliate  “Industry’s First Certification Program for Affiliate Managers.” Apparently Rakuten’s PR team is not aware that certification courses for affiliate managers have been around for over five years. In the past, industry veterans like Affiliate Summit co-Founder Shawn Collins and affiliate manager Andy Rodriguez offered training camps and seminars for affiliate managers. Companies like ACCertified, My Affiliate Coach, and Affiliate Management Trainers currently offer such services today.

To be fair, Rakuten’s PR team did add a qualifier to their claim.  This was an industry first only for a “major” network. Major being the primary qualifier since other qualifiers like “comprehensive” and “first” are obviously complete rubbish.

Audaciously Rakuten Linkshare is charging for this service! Managers in U.S. and Canada will pay $250. Let me give advertisers and merchants out there a tip. Do you want to make sure your employee is well trained at a savings? Have them read Geno Prussakov’s book Affiliate Program Management: An Hour a Day. It will cost you only $20 and will not have the myopic outlook of just one network.

Still, while I am picking on Rakuten LinkShare, I do welcome any efforts at improving knowledge and training within the industry. Hopefully whoever is in charge of putting together the program for Rakuten actually has their facts straight. Maybe they should first start out with a history lesson. How about this video from Shawn Collins back in 2007:

Note: I would like to thank the Affiliate Managers United group on Facebook for bringing this announcement to my attention.

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.

16 Responses to Rakuten LinkShare Announces Industry First While Forgetting Its History

  1. Nice recap, Angel. There have certainly been a number of training opportunities for affiliate managers over the years.

    In addition to the video primers I posted way back, there were also a couple in-person Affiliate Manager Boot Camps that I ran with Beth Kirsch years ago: http://blog.affiliatetip.com/archives/affiliate-manager-boot-camp-recap/

    That was an intensive long weekend of training, but we didn’t provide certification.

  2. Michael Coley says:

    I wholeheartedly second your recommendation of Geno’s new book.  It’s very well written and comprehensive.

    The main concern I have with a major network running a training program (or managing programs!) is that most major networks have conflicting interests in the industry.  They are compensated largely based on the volume of transactions going through the affiliate program.  This conflict manifests itself primarily in what kind of ethics they allow (or even suggest/recommend) in affiliate programs.

    • While I definitely think there is a conflict of interest there Michael, I don’t think it is any worse than Google’s certifications of SEM teams. I simply think that networks are a poor resource for such training especially considering the nuances even from one network to another. Rakuten’s efforts to be everything to everyone (network, affiliate, merchant, and now trainer) will eventually hurt it.

  3. Tom says:

    to be fair…ACCertified is $1500.00 and the site is stale, latest news/grad updates were in May 2010. Is it even still in business?

    • Not discounting the need for room and training in the space. The release could have lauded or gone into depth about the unique aspects of the training. Instead it feigned complete unawareness of industry history. It just makes LinkShare look bad.

  4. Greg Hoffman says:

    As a Certified Affiliate Manager, (love that tagline) I think education for affiliate managers is a great thing. I echo statements about Geno’s book. It’s on my shelf – a thesaurus for anything affiliate management. But I only hope managers use that education to want to learn more. Anything taught by a major network should be taken within context, they will teach you to help them make more money and not necessarily be a solid bridge between affiliates and merchants. 

    The ACCertified classes were worth every penny but it is no longer supported. I know for a fact that Cindy Ballard, my director of affiliates, was the last to be certified by that company.

  5. The best training I ever received was on the old affiliatemanager board that Shawn ran. Talk about a crash course in affiliate management!

    I guess it’s a sign of the industry’s age when it starts growing past the event horizon of our early shared memories and history.

  6. Angel, thank you for setting the record straight. Your opinions and comments are right on point since you have personal experience. I still have fond memories of our Affiliate Manager Certification seminar we conducted in Chicago,in conjuction with Brian Littleton, CEO of the ShareASale network.

    So while yes, it was our seminar, we selected Chicago because it was a joint ARC and ShareASale affiliate manager training with mostly ShareASale merchants. Let that go on record. in my opinion and to my recolection, ShareAsale was the first network to offer such training via our certification seminar.

    Kudo to Geno as well, it is a great book. He was a good student, i still have the great bottle of Russion Vodka he gave me when he attended one of our first seminars in Miami. He sat in the front row and was a sponge : -)

    Thanks again for the memories …I’ll try and dig up some pictures, should be fun …

  7. Affiliate networks themselves don’t know much about actually working with affiliates, but the need is there to provide some kind of education since most affiliate management done inhouse (and some outsourced) is absolutely horrendous. Just look at the affiliate newsletters and new publisher welcome emails being sent on the networks, they look terrible and have no strategy. Affiliates tell me all the time I’m the only one that’s actually out there helping people get a clue, which motivates me personally. But I doubt it will be comprehensive enough to have much effect though. Even it if has good strategy, actually working with affiliates on a 1 to 1 basis is a art in itself that few people can actually do effectively. You have to know about how to be an affiliate, how to drive traffic, how to use HTML…things like that to actually help an affiliate be a more effective affiliate. You have to be willing to get on the phone with the smallest affiliate to the biggest and have that productive conversation, if not you shouldn’t manage affiliates in my opinion.  

    I actually like some of the things Linkshare has done in the last year to try to improve their processes, however offering a light affiliate manager training course isn’t likely to increase production of the affiliate program or benefit the 1000s of affiliate marketers that need helpful online marketing strategies. But it’s a step in the right direction. I have a good amount of free content on how to manage an affiliate program effectively, so no one needs to buy a book or attend a course, just ask and I will light your path…

  8. Matthew Wood says:

    Both Geno’s and Shawn’s – (although now rather old) book on Affiliate Management are both great value reads.

    If we ignore the fact about the history of the industry – I strongly believe that we should be applauding all forms of education and knowledge sharing. After all savvier affiliate managers lead in most cases to smarter, fairer and dare I say it ethically run affiliate programs.

    As Evan mentions surely it’s a step in the right direction.

  9. Thank you, Angel (and all the commenters who have also talked about it), for that recommendation of my book. Years of study, research and practice have gone into it; with the compilation of it all into the volume taking almost 1 year. So, all these kind words of yours are really appreciated. Happy to be of service to the industry.

    I haven’t seen LinkShare’s course curriculum, but having contributed to one of LinkShare University’s modules I have no doubt that they’ve done their best to make it a “comprehensive program for affiliate marketing managers.”

    I do see the concern about that word “first” (by the way, besides the training opportunities mentioned in the above post, before this “first program” there was also MyAffiliateCoach by Jamie Birch). Exaggerations and/or overabundance of hype is a common PR mistake. I am, however, with Matthew on this one, believing that we really should “be applauding all forms of education,” and with Angel on welcoming “any efforts at improving knowledge and training within the industry.”

    • Thanks for calling our attention to that. I wasn’t aware Jamie had launched a program as well. Added that to the main text of the story with a link.

      • Jamie Birch says:

        Thanks Geno for mentioning us.  Thanks Angel for updating the article.  We actually launched our training program in 2010 I believe.   I do agree with many here, any effort to educate, enlighten and elevate our industry and each other is a welcome development.