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  1. #1
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    ShareASale and Toolbars / Call for Participation on Guidelines
    As I've stated a few times recently in blogs or interviews, it is my feeling that 2009 will see a great increase in the number of toolbars implemented throughout various affiliate and/or merchant sites. Due to the increase in installations of Firefox extensions as well, these toolbars will have varying levels of interaction with the user and will pose various levels of difficulty.

    ShareASale has traditionally allowed no software related affiliates to participate on our network due to interference and potential interference with site based affiliates. We plan to modify this policy, with the help of the community, to make sure that we are allowing for legitimate customer service concerns - while also protecting site based affiliates and their clickstreams/commissions.

    My proposal is to lay out what I feel is a base guideline document - this isn't a final document by any means... as you'll see if you read on. I'd like to establish what I feel are some of the main concerns and then we will open the entire discussion to anyone who would like to get involved and share their ideas.

    We will host a "Toolbar Roundtable" (possibly more than one) - with the first session coming on Tuesday February 3rd at 3pm Central. Depending on participation level and how far we get, we can schedule further roundtables. We will welcome any merchant, affiliate, or industry member to participate and will be providing a call in number as well as an online meeting so that we can all chat and look at possible scenarios that should be considered.

    In order to participate, we will need your RSVP to brian@shareasale.com.


    Here are some points that I have outlined that will be discussed.

    1. Toolbars must be used for the main purpose of customer assistance and support. As just one piece of this, this should rule out any use of the toolbar as an ad-delivery mechanism. Our aim is to allow affiliates to use toolbars as customer service tools, not ad platforms/popup delivery/behavioural targetting.

    2. We will attempt to draw a distinction between ownership of content on a website, vs. ownership of a browser. It is my opinion at this point that content of a webpage belongs to the person who created that content. I.e., if it is an affiliate site it belongs to them, if it is a retailer it belongs to them, etc... As part of this distinction, we will aim to disallow the practice of a toolbar modifying any content of that web page. Conversly, the browser (in my opinion) belongs to the user of the computer. Receiving messages through parts of the browser which are not attached to the content of the page should thus be a decision between the toolbar creator and the user.

    3. No automatic redirection should take place at any time. Regarding toolbar software, there really should never be any errors in this regard.

    4. A distinction should be made between positive notification, and negative notification (on the toolbar). A negative notification (one that says something like "You are not earning via this toolbar) could be construed as a more marketing message/interference with previous clickstream. A positive notification should be a customer service reinforcement of a previous click that took place from that particular toolbar content provider.

    5. Distribution of any toolbar should be through intended download directly through a corresponding account on the provider's website. It must be by choice, and not incentivized to the customer to use. (i.e., the provider's site should work perfectly fine without the toolbar installed). This coincides with the desire to allow toolbars as customer service tools - not marketing initiatives. As with automatic redirection, there is little room for errors or ommissions here.

    6. Industry participation and history should be relevant. In terms of participation through ShareASale, past history of a company or toolbar manufacturer will be relevant. Past errors, ommissions, glitches, bugs, etc... will have an impact on a necessary confidence factor that needs to be in place.

    We strongly wish for your participation in this process. Please let me know directly if you would like to attend/participate/listen in/etc... My email address is brian@shareasale.com or feel free simply to comment on this post with your intention to participate, etc... Feel free to email me any questions or comments you might have. We need to find a common ground on this issue, and we need to work together to get there. It may not be the easiest task we've ever taken on but it is necessary and one that I am confident we can succeed at. I look forward to hearing all of your thoughts!
    Last edited by Brian - ShareASale; January 28th, 2009 at 03:09 PM. Reason: fixed formatting
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  2. #2
    http and a telephoto
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    I moved a program away from another network to Shareasale to avoid these types of things. Yes, I want to be involved in the roundtable. Merchants need to be able to easily opt out in of the toolbar addition to the conditions you have listed.

    If the toolbar encourages a click to save money, then it could overwrite someone else's cookie. And that brings up the whole "who closed the sale" again. And opens up a whole can of worms that some of us don't want to be involved in.
    Deborah Carney
    TeamLoxly.com BookGoodies.com ABCsPlus.com

  3. #3
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    Why a roundtable to try to convince the affiliates of what's NOT ACCEPTABLE?

  4. #4
    ABW Ambassador SunshineTricia's Avatar
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    I'd love to participate. We have intentionally never even contemplated development of any kind of "reminder" toolbar (despite our members asking for one over and over again) because of the ramifications it has on content affiliates. If SAS is going to start to allow them and other rewards sites are jumping on the bandwagon, we may have no choice if we want to stay competitive. This would have a HUGE impact on our business.
    --Tricia Meyer-- I love being the exception to the rule.

    Tricia Meyer | Helping Moms Connect | Wine Club Reviews and Ratings | Hunger Games Fan

  5. #5
    ABW Ambassador VampireSkunk's Avatar
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    "Toolbars must be used for the main purpose of customer assistance and support"

    Eh?

    Affiliates don't have customers.

    We have visitors who we forward to merchants where they become customers.

    How can I have a customer if I'm not selling anything?

  6. #6
    ABW Ambassador
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    Return visitors might be considered customers by some.

  7. #7
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Loxly,

    I understand the concern - our goals haven't changed... we simply need to find a solution to a problem that will be even more prevelant in 2009.

    Unfortuantely, total avoidance of the problem isn't viable solution anymore (in my opinion), and it is my goal to establish strict guidelines as to what is acceptable and what is not so that we can continue to protect site based affiliates while allowing those merchants who wish to work with specific partners to do so without risking their affiliate base.

    I wish it was a problem we didn't face, but it is there and we are going to tackle it.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  8. #8
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    VampireSkunk,

    Actually, as an affiliate... many do have customers. There are affiliates sites that customers visit first and foremost prior to shopping - these include a lot of folks here at ABW who are site based non-toolbar affiliates.

    Some affiliates have legitimate customer service concerns that don't have any relation to "overwriting" problems or mischanneled commissions... These are the issues we hope to solve.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  9. #9
    Advocate mellie's Avatar
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    Looking forward to participating, I sent an email.
    Melanie
    President - Affiliate Advocacy 2008 ShareaSale Performance Industry Advocate Award, 2009 Affiliate Summit Pinnacle Award - Affiliate Advocate
    Affiliate Advocacy
    NYAffiliateVoice Seery Writing

  10. #10
    15 years and counting
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    Tuesday February 3rd at 3pm Central is going to be another November 7, 2002 Performance Affiliate Summit meeting where a few gave the OK to parasites to steal our commissions.
    Once the parasites are allowed, there's nothing you can do to control them... OneCause is just an example.
    Once the toolbars will be allowed, there will be nothing to prevent them to change their behavior.
    Brian IT'S A SHAME. You mislead your affiliates for years to build a strong enough base to give to a few.

  11. #11
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Zeus,

    We aren't trying to convince anyone as to what is acceptable or not, those decisions always lie with affiliates.

    Our committment to protecting site based affiliates hasn't changed... on the contrary, we need to take on this issue in order for it to continue. This is my opinion of course, but I feel it is something that requires action as opposed to non-action... so that is what we are doing.

    We are using the "roundtable" concept because there are hundreds of people in this industry whose opinion is extremely valueable. Instead of just assuming or guessing as to what their input is, I would like to include it directly into any decision making process that we have. We'd love to have you join in.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  12. #12
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Are toolbars really necessary for customer service and support? I have an email form on my site if they wish to email me. I could easily add phone numbers or mailing addresses. I could even install a little chat app that works within the browser if they want real time communications. I can put a "reminder" on my site across the top that is completely dynamic and isn't a part of the browser itself. It seems the only use for a toolbar would be to "remind" someone visiting my site that the site where they got the toolbar has deals too. I'd prefer toolbar affiliates not get free advertising when they visit my site.
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
    - Silence is golden. Duct Tape is silver.

  13. #13
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Tuesday February 3rd at 3pm Central is going to be another November 7, 2002 Performance Affiliate Summit meeting where a few gave the OK to parasites to steal our commissions.
    Once the parasites are allowed, there's nothing you can do to control them... OneCause is just an example.
    Once the toolbars will be allowed, there will be nothing to prevent them to change their behavior.
    Brian IT'S A SHAME. You mislead your affiliates for years to build a strong enough base to give to a few.
    Zeus,

    I disagree. We aren't giving in to anyone - this is our initiative which we feel is important due to what is going on around us and in this industry.

    I encourage you to read all the bullet points I laid out - they (I believe) lay the framework for a discussion which can allow customer service aids without allowing for stolen commissions.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  14. #14
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    Are toolbars really necessary for customer service and support? I have an email form on my site if they wish to email me. I could easily add phone numbers or mailing addresses. I could even install a little chat app that works within the browser if they want real time communications. I can put a "reminder" on my site across the top that is completely dynamic and isn't a part of the browser itself. It seems the only use for a toolbar would be to "remind" someone visiting my site that the site where they got the toolbar has deals too. I'd prefer toolbar affiliates not get free advertising when they visit my site.
    I understand.... and a "reminder" would qualify as more of a "Marketing" purpose, as opposed to a "customer service" purpose. Again, I would encourage a close reading of the bullet points that I've laid out - there is a clear difference between customer service and marketing, and we plan to spell that out in our guidelines.

    In short. "Reminders" to shop somewhere else are marketing messages. I.e. not customer service.

    Added (forgot to address this): Some affiliate sites can require than email addresses or phone numbers for customer support/service. At volume, customer support is a very difficult thing to provide (well) and some affiliates are utilizing technology available to help ...
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  15. #15
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    NO WAY. I saw what has been going on during that meeting in New York in 2002 and how affiliates had to accept to compromise. To go to that meeting is already accepting the fact that Shareasale is considering accepting these downloads.
    You have my opinion. NO TOOLBAR ALLOWED.

  16. #16
    ...and a Pirate's heart. Convergence's Avatar
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    I have RSVP'd via your email, Brian.

    Have to admit - initially this is very disconcerting.

    ~ Denis
    Salty kisses, Sandy toes, and a Pirate's heart...

  17. #17
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian - ShareASale
    Zeus,

    I disagree. We aren't giving in to anyone - this is our initiative which we feel is important due to what is going on around us and in this industry.

    I encourage you to read all the bullet points I laid out - they (I believe) lay the framework for a discussion which can allow customer service aids without allowing for stolen commissions.
    Let me ask these questions... What do you mean by "customer service aids"? And what "customer service aids" can be accomplished by a toolbar that can't be accomplished by an app/script inside the web page itself?
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
    - Silence is golden. Duct Tape is silver.

  18. #18
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    I'll be there.
    Continued Success,

    Haiko
    The secret of success is constancy of purpose ~ Disraeli

  19. #19
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    WHO exactly will be monitoring these toolbars for compliance on a regular ongoing basis? SAS, Affiliate Managers, WHO?

  20. #20
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    Nobody!!!

  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador VampireSkunk's Avatar
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    Sorry, if they don't buy anything they're not customers.

    Let's be precise on terminology if this discussion is to have any meaning.

  22. #22
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    To understand the situation, you have to remember Tim Storm / FatWallet was considering moving into downloadable applications in 2002 (Like WhenU, eBates and others)
    He didn't for a while, but he's trying again with the ToolBar.
    That's a real SHAME!!!

  23. #23
    ShareASale President/CEO and ABW Veteran Brian - ShareASale's Avatar
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    msladybug,

    WHO exactly will be monitoring these toolbars for compliance on a regular ongoing basis? SAS, Affiliate Managers, WHO?
    That would be ShareASale. This process of allowing any toolbar will be on us, and will be extremely strict and limited. Based upon the rules that I have already set forth for discussion, and assuming that more restrictions will be put in place, I do not expect the majority of toolbars to come close to qualification.
    Thanks,

    Brian Littleton
    President/CEO - ShareASale.com, Inc.

  24. #24
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    Come on, you don't have enough people already to monitor your merchants...

  25. #25
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Brian - ShareASale
    msladybug,



    That would be ShareASale. This process of allowing any toolbar will be on us, and will be extremely strict and limited. Based upon the rules that I have already set forth for discussion, and assuming that more restrictions will be put in place, I do not expect the majority of toolbars to come close to qualification.
    Will compliance be monitored frequently or will the toolbar just have to be approved once?
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
    - Silence is golden. Duct Tape is silver.

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