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  1. #1
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    It's been a few weeks and I wanted to touch base and give you an update on what we are doing in response to your feedback.

    We heard loud and clear your concerns which I would sum up with the following two statements:

    1. Some affiliates are interjecting themselves in the clickstream and directly claiming commissions from other affiliates.

    2. Shopping plug-ins and ad-supported software vendors are popping up on top of merchant sites and if they're not directly taking commissions, they're distracting the end user and drawing them to a competitive site.

    There are other issues, but these are the two that I feel we can work to address directly. And I have a strong impression that these are at the core of the issue where resolution will have the most impact.

    We’ve taken a good hard look at these business practices. We do understand and agree that these practices are unfair to affiliates and we have been actively taking steps to address them over the past few weeks.

    We are presently in discussions with Scott Eagle and Mitch Weisman at Gator as well as the several other well-known companies in this space. We at Be Free are working hard to address affiliate concerns and we are determined to achieve resolution.

    I’m confident that we will make great progress with these issues. I'll give you another update later next week.

    Best,

    Steve

    Steve Pike
    pike@befree.com

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador
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    quote:
    interjecting themselves in the clickstream and directly claiming commissions
    Gosh, what an elegant way to describe theft!

    I'm glad you're f i n a l l y getting the message that there's a problem!

    Elisabeth Archambault

    Free Classifieds for Your Website

  3. #3
    Member Clicks4Nut'n's Avatar
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    Steve,

    Glad to see you are updating affiliates, but when are you going to address the problem of so many of your merchants being elusive about their cookie durations? Your network is one of the few allowing merchants to do this.

    These should be listed upfront when joining programs. Response??

  4. #4
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    Steve,

    I admire your tenacity in coming back after the last debacle.

    Now this is just a thought, but if, as you say, "these practices are unfair to affiliates" then one resolution would be to drop the companies using them.

    Doesn't really need ongoing discussion and a weekly update, does it ?

    Search Engine Positioning - 1 Design 4 Life

  5. #5
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    I agree with MarkyMark. Maybe you just want a chance to hear gator's side of the story. That's cool, but in the meantime disable their accounts or something ... this is a no brainer as far as I'm concerned.

    Sal @ PHATBargains.com

  6. #6
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    >>then one resolution would be to drop the companies using them<<

    I'd hazard a guess that the phrase "contractual obligations" is about to enter the conversation.

    "The only thing that helps me maintain my slender grip on reality is the friendship I share with my collection of singing potatoes." -- Holly, from Red Dwarf

  7. #7
    ABW Founder Haiko de Poel, Jr.'s Avatar
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    All,

    Trust me they are doing something

    Let us all await the next update and not poo poo the actions they ARE taking, they know very well what is needed to be done.

    Haiko


    The secret of success is constancy of purpose. ~ Disraeli


  8. #8
    Pimp Duck popdawg's Avatar
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    contractual obligation = accessory?
    [edited cause I am easily distracted]

    I am a stat addict.
    Acknowledging the addiction is the first step.

  9. #9
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    I will be driving to BeFree's "Gator on the loose" Party on Sep. 24th. Haiko, wanna come?

    This Gator has been on the loose for so long that its became a predator! Let's go and see what is being done about it.

    - BluesX

    ---------------
    Affiliate Marketing is built upon honesty. Tracking is not affected.

  10. #10
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    >>Trust me they are doing something

    Haiko, YOU I trust.

    BeFree, OTOH, will have to take visible action to BEGIN regaining my trust.

    I await the next update with bated breath...

    "The only thing that helps me maintain my slender grip on reality is the friendship I share with my collection of singing potatoes." -- Holly, from Red Dwarf

  11. #11
    Affiliate Marketing Consultant Andy Rodriguez's Avatar
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    Folks,

    BF is taking action. BF is making changes.

    Not everyone knows this, but a senior BF rep was in our offices two weeks ago. This person spent nearly 3 hours with me and several other Tiger people in a meeting. We addressed many issues, one that was discussed at lenght was the Gator issue. We even called in Haiko and conferenced called him in the loop. Specific examples were shown and I felt that it was a very productive meeting.

    Trust me, when Steve said "heard loud and clear", he meant loud and clear.

    Give them time. BF is a huge company, the wheels are turning. Big wheels take time to turn. I have 100% trust that BF is making changes, I have spoken numerous times with Steve and I can attest that he is a man of his word and that he is making the needed changes to make BF a more affiliate friendly company.

    Let's communicate in a proffessional and freindly tone, they are really here to help. No flames please. Let's keep the communication channels wide open.

    I want to thank and congratulate the BF people that have been listening, been reading on this board and have taken the first steps. Kudos to you !!

    Andy Rodriguez,
    Online Advertising / Affiliate Marketing Manager

    TigerDirect.com
    P: (305) 415-2313
    E: andy.rodriguez@tigerdirect.com
    ICQ: 175010
    AIM: miamitigercub

  12. #12
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    Hi,
    I've been with BeFree since the beginning. I have to agree with Andy that there have been real changes for the better there this year. I hope they continue because BeFree still have a LONG way to go.
    Robert

  13. #13
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    I'm glad to see that Steve has come back and is discussing the Gator issue. Personally, I will hold my judgement until I see what has to be said in future updates.

    Although I'd love to see Gator's affiliate program shutdown at BeFree, this will by now longshot solve the problem. I can see them just moving to another network or bringing their program in-house. This would also not address the acquistions by Gator through drive by downloads and direct advertising deals with websites to get their program on ppls computers.

    It would however show a good faith practice by BeFree towards their affiliate base. One small step at a time I suppose....

  14. #14
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    Thanks for coming back.
    Hopefully we can find a way for merchant and affiliates to come to some sort of middle line.

    There's a lot of issues, and hopefully we can work out some bugs.

    ------------------------------------------------------------Minds are like parachutes - they only function when open. Thomas Dewar

  15. #15
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    I think it is very important to note that BeFree is under new management. The group that mismanaged BeFree from its leadership role in the affiliate marketing space to dead last sold the company for less than cash earlier this year.

    ValueClick only recently completed the takeover. Mr. Pike's appearance on this board coincides with the first chance that ValueClick has in rebuilding this asset.

    BeFree is now under new management. I am willing to give the benefit of doubt that the new management team is willing to see why the original team failed, and to actually take the steps to make beFree a workable asset.

    Right now, Valueclick has an opportunity to turn the asset around.

    Personally, if I were at Valueclick and saw the absolute distrust and rancor that affiliates and merchants feel toward the set of clowns that ran the original company into the ground; I would be thinking in terms of a complete rebuild and rebranding of the product, and not just incremental changes.

    The name "BeFree" is Mudd. The business plan under Hoffstein was garbage. Like it or not, reporting.net is an affiliate network. Claiming that it is a technology company simply diverts the company from its purpose. If ValueClick acknowledges that reporting.net is a network, then it should be clear that scam artists like Gator and the other companies that strip affiliate tags for free branding have crippled the network.

    If the new management listens, and is willing to take the step to fix the brain dead actions of the last team, then I think we should give the new company all the support we can.

    If not...well, BeFree has always worked well as butt of bad jokes.

    Missoula - Short Stories

  16. #16
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    It's a shame Steve that it took some abusive ABW flaming to get Befree to come out of it's cave and openly communicate. Your positive actions often get overlooked due to the abuses of some merchants and we all will help BeFree stay a leader in this arena if our moaning gets some action.

    I'd personally would love to see more Befree merchants adopt TigerDirects approach and get some real action from our members. Little guys like Computer Geeks do convert and give affiliates a chance to make some commissions. They and some of your other affiliate friendly (not lip service) merchants could benefit by participating here.

    I'm a horrible gold miner and seemed to pick from your dead pool or some major branded folks, who just have wasted my limited traffic efforts. I'd sure wish more of your real converters would come and post some honest networkwide conversion stats. Most here can't take the risk to muster 100 clicks a day to a specific merchant to get a check in 3 month's time...and not have it happen!

    WebMaster Mike

  17. #17
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    Hello,

    As promised, here is an update to the issues we've been working. To reiterate (in case you're just joining us), the issues that we're looking at are twofold:

    1. Some affiliates are interjecting themselves in the clickstream and directly claiming commissions from other affiliates.

    2. Shopping plug-ins and ad-supported software vendors are popping up on top of merchant sites and if they're not directly taking commissions, they're distracting the end user and drawing them to a competitive site.

    We at Be Free are looking at a way to reach anyone and everyone participating in the above activities. Instead of playing games of cat and mouse and chasing down each one as they appear, reappear, and retool themselves, we're proposing a standard which any player in the game can follow and know that they'll not step on the toes of affiliates. Since I'll be posting this in a few locations, I've written up something a little less personal than this note. We are talking to all of the vendors about this. I'll paste it below.
    As for Gator in particular, I don't have resolution yet, but I want to ensure you that we are taking a very, very strong position with them to encourage them to take affiliates into consideration with their advertising practices. I think you'll agree after this all plays out.

    As always, I look forward to your feedback. Again, see below for more detail on our proposal.

    Steve

    ==========================================

    The affiliate community has long provided strong feedback concerning the issue of shopping plug-in software popping up over affiliate links and claiming their commissions and traffic. Be Free has listened to this feedback and as a result we are proposing and promoting a standard to ensure fairness in the assignment of affiliate commissions.

    We have spoken with affiliates, shopping plug-in vendors and merchants and incorporated their feedback into this proposal. This standard applies to the affiliate community as a whole and is not vendor specific. Agreement on and compliance with this proposal by all the affected parties will allow you as affiliates to be confident that you are getting the credit you are due.

    This standard that Be Free is proposing builds on some of the concepts that have been discussed previously outlining technical solutions by which providers of shopping-plug ins can operate without interfering with affiliate marketing channels. We have refined and articulated a specific solution that will ensure that all affiliates can benefit regardless of the merchant or affiliate solution provider.

    Of course, a proposal like this doesn't do any good without the cooperation of the shopping plug-in software publishers. We are proud to announce support of this proposal by Wurld Media, who powers such shopping portals as the Morpheus Shopping Community. Wurld has demonstrated themselves as a leader in this arena and their product offering is already above compliance with what we've proposed.

    Other vendors have agreed in principle, but have chosen not to divulge their names at this time. We are committed to strongly promote this solution until all of the shopping-plug-in vendors implement this or an equivalent solution.

    Please review details on the proposal here: http://www.befree.com/proposal.htm

    I look forward to your feedback and our working together to achieve fairness in online marketing.

    Steve Pike
    Executive Vice President, Client Services
    Be Free, Inc.

    Steve Pike
    pike@befree.com

  18. #18
    ABW Ambassador Ron Bechdolt's Avatar
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    Looks like we are moving in the right direction.

    Ron
    7 Days A Week Marketing

    "Keep your hands out of my cookie jar!"

  19. #19
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Nice move Scott and one which would eliminate the parasite function of the shopping plug-ins. I knew this could be an easy fix, since the abusers all could block domains within their software.

    Getting them all to agree to this will be like pulling teeth without novacaine. It forces them to either feed off of SE traffic or generate their own portals to originate clicks. They never planned on having equal footing and playing field with other affiliates. The added benefit to all affiliates is the merchants are going to have to give us more attention.

    No Ad serving company like ValueClick or Doubleclick has been able to beat the actual consumer targeting that comes from the pool of affiliate site publishers. This is why the parasites chose to cherry pick our traffic.

    With extra effort paralleling what OverStock -TigerDirect -Coldwater Creek and others are doing to increase conversions by focusing landing pages the affiliate base becomes a more productive force for merchants. Loyality and incent Duperaffiliates when all is said and done are actually a drain on the merchants ROI. They sell loss leaders at a premium and charge a fee to do it!

    WebMaster Mike

  20. #20
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    Steve:

    A copy of something I posted on another thread ...

    ***********
    Regarding the Be Free proposal ... If I understand it right, it means that there will be no pop-ups or commission code changes or overrides on the traffic that comes from my site. That sounds good.

    A question, though ... will the prohibitions put in place by the proposal last for the entire length of my cookie, or only for the initial visit?
    ***********

    Regards;
    Ed

  21. #21
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    Kudos to BeFree for listening to affiliates and taking this stance on their behalf.

    I am interested to know how this standard will be enforced -- both the question of "policing" and and what actions will be taken if an instance of parasitic activity is brought to light.

    I look forward to hearing the resolution of the Gator issue.

    -------
    Dawn is nature's way of telling you to go to bed.

  22. #22
    Defender of Truth, Justice and the Affiliate Way
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    Steve,

    The proposal sounds good, but a proposal is just a proposal. What are the chances of the those putting out the parasitic software actually complying?

    You stated:

    quote:
    We are proud to announce support of this proposal by Wurld Media, who powers such shopping portals as the Morpheus Shopping Community. Wurld has demonstrated themselves as a leader in this arena and their product offering is already above compliance with what we've proposed.



    When did Wurld Media agree to support this proposal? And when was compliance performed with their software? I downloaded Morpheus recently and did a test on two of my affiliate links for merchants on the buyersport.com site. As of last night, they showed pop-ups on both of the merchants links encourgaging me to earn my "rewards" with them. When I clicked to earn rewards, it opened a new browser window which was not my affiliate link.

    Isn't this the exact type of behavior your proposal is against? If Wurld Media is the example of the solution, then your solution isn't any type of solution I would be interested in.

  23. #23
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    The proposal sounds like a start in the right direction. Unfortunately, there will be a lot of ways to squeak around your rules.

    For example: Let's say I sent a book buyer to BN.com. I use a bfast link. Gator lets it through (since snagging bfast hits is taboo). The user then clicks a link to add the book to the cart. Well, gosh, this internal link goes to BN.com. Being an internal link, it does not have an affscr tag. Bang...Gator issues a reward popup and does a mid sale cookie shuffle.

    Although I get credit for the click...I don't get the commission on the sale. Which is the thing I was looking forward to.

    Even worse, the parasiteware firm can now point to your rules and claim legitimacy.

    We get back to Steve Pike's famous quote about "well if it's not illegal, then it must be okay." If the heat of the debate simply results in rules that parasiteware can subvert, then we have nothing. All we've done is legitimize the practice.

    A case in point is the non law non-law "Bill s.1618 Title III" regarding unsolicited email. Apparently bill s.1618 was not passed by Congress and is not a law...but spammers quote it religiously to claim that they are not legally spammers since they have a disconnected hotmail address, and an unsubscribe button that doesn't work.

    Rather than just looking at a formula, there really needs to be a spirit of fair play, and trying to do what is right.

  24. #24
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    Yes this is a step in the right direction but Yintercept you are correct when you say that these rules can be easily subverted.

    I appreciate BeFree working to minimize the theft of commissions from our sites but the only really effective method will be the unconditional removal of these dupers and their BHO's from the networks.

    Mike

    Don't Worry Mama, It Won't Get Freaky!

  25. #25
    ABW Ambassador LinkShare Moderator's Avatar
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    Hi Steve,

    This is great news! LinkShare thanks and congratulates Be Free on their formal support toward the benefit of the affiliate community.

    LinkShare changed our Network affiliate agreement 8 months ago to include language against such activity. Since then, we have been requiring the players in this space to sign an addendum confirming their agreement not to interfere with the rights of other affiliates to fully benefit from their affiliate marketing efforts. We commend Haiko, obstinatedon, and others who were instrumental in LinkShare's drafting of this agreement, which Wurld Media and others have already signed. Steve, LinkShare would be happy to share our agreement terms with you in an effort to establish a standard formula for companies with this business model.

    Many of you have already thanked Haiko for his work on this front, but he deserves a special thanks for his ongoing efforts to bring other about network announcements, such a Be Free's, to fruition. LinkShare looks forward to Be Free's continued support of the affiliate community, as well as to future cooperation from all network providers.

    Thanks,
    Sarah

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