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  1. #1
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Question Free Web Service Data Feed Client - red flag?
    Calling all Affiliates/Affiliate Managers:

    Has anyone heard of this before?

    An Affiliate just joined our program the other day, and emailed me to ask about access to our in-house feeds. Some correspondence went back and forth before he mentioned he wanted our feeds so he could incorporate it into his "datafeed tool subscription service," promoted at a particular URL.

    At this time, Rugman.com offers both our own in-house feeds available directly through our own feed site, as well as a dynamic feed available through AffSolutions' PSC. Both options use CJ tracking to track Affiliate sales/commissions.

    Back to said Affiliate. This guy has created a tool that allows user's to integrate a datafeed using either a web service datafeed client or javascript (much like AffSolutions product showcase creator).

    What concerns me, is that he says it costs us nothing, and that all he needs is our datafeeds so he can stay up to date with new feeds weekly.

    So, my questions arise:
    -How is he making money?
    -How is he tracking the sales?
    -How are HIS affiliates making money with our feeds?
    -WHO are his affiliates?


    His responses are as follows:
    "The datafeed subscription service is a monthly charge to the affiliates.

    19.95/month for up to 2 subscriptions
    39.95/month for up to 5 subscriptions
    69.95/month for up to 10 subscriptions
    99.99/month for unlimited subscriptions

    We have our own in house tracking system that gives the affiliates detailed page view and click through information.

    On click throughs, the links hit our servers and than are directed through the normal click through url provided by your datafeed."


    So, it seems he is acting like another network, whereby he brings merchant feeds complete with his OWN in-house tracking, together with fellow Affiliates who want to host said merchant feeds.

    On the other hand, he's acting like an AffSolutions, in that he's making our feeds dynamic, with regular updates, and asking Affiliates to host a javascript or whatnot, in order for the updates to be reflected on their own sites.

    What's even more interesting is that he's hosting feeds for various ABW trusted merchants, yet I spoke with one of those merchants, they had no idea who he was, nor that he was hosting their feed. All news to them.

    Upon investigation, this merchant found 0 activity to their site from this Affiliate's PID thus far.

    More interesting still: His CJ profile cites his location as USA, meanwhile the URL he provided where this service is promoted, includes content indicating the service is offered out of Indonesia.

    Notice how I didn't get an answer on how his affiliates get paid by promoting our feeds? By approving him as an Affiliate to our program, any sales through on his PID make HIM the commission - not them. So my question is, how is he paying the affiliates?

    Can anyone provide insight as to whether or not they have info on this issue, or whether this is ethical or not?

    I don't want to condemn the Affiliate without having any hard evidence to go on - at this point it all just seems a little fishy, but I'd like to be sure.

    And your thoughts please...?

  2. #2
    Outsourced Program Manager e-Gazer's Avatar
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    Error - not indonesia
    Hi there,

    Sorry - this guy is not operating out of Indonesia after all. The merchant I had spoken with had accidentally mixed up the URL name with someone similar who IS operating out of that part of the world.

    Everything else still stands however, and your thoughts are appreciated.

  3. #3
    2005 Linkshare Golden Link Award Winner  ecomcity's Avatar
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    Smile
    Here's the problem with permitting an affiliate, organizing a group of un-named uncontrolled sub-affiliates, access to the only online asset your company owns....it's product database. Who do you stangle if disposable Phishing sites popup using Rugman products to steal credit card and privacy info? How do you control or limit SERP penalities from having mirrored Rugman e-catalogs all over Google and Yahoo. Who do the sub-affiliuates come after if they don't get paid for spamming the SERPs and pushing the 3rd world PPCSE's with your feed?

    A product feed is a loaded gun. Proper use by an experience database affiliate programmer gives him/her the ability to out SERP his competition with no work once it's automated. The exception...not the rule...is a feed used to enhance a sites static pages.

    Want to be safe and fair to non-feed affiliates? Just stick with a PSC frontend and force affiliates to integrate the feed into an existing site so all show a variety of customized results geared to their audience or page theme. Only those affiliates with a displayable ranked feed site should be allowed access to your complete product e-catalog. Then again for years every ABW AM just jumps on the "we got feeds" for the SERP spammers and doorway page builders just like they advertise "we got coupons".

    Sounds like the Feed tricksters are branching out into furnishing spam food for others faster then the BHO's can multiply....for a fee. My take is Rugman should build me out a completed feed template site I could customize in 10 minutes with a 9.95 domain investment ...then pay me commissions for my hard work. The hard work being how to out SEO/SEM the other spamming scumbags.
    Webmaster's... Mike and Charlie

    "What have you done today to put real value into a referral click...from a shoppers viewpoint!"

  4. #4
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    Can anyone provide insight as to whether or not they have info on this issue, or whether this is ethical or not?
    There's a few possible scenarios I can think of. The first one (directly below) came to mind first, but I think that Possibility #2 has about an equal chance of being the case.

    If! he's doing what I'm guessing, it would be ethical--provided he discloses to his customers, the fact that his PID will be running through the "subscription service" at least part of the time (and is accurate about how often/how the deal works) . In the scenario I describe below, the programmer doesn't usually charge a subscription fee *along with* reserving the right to show his own PID. But it could be, that he figures the service is worth more than just the sub. fee and wants a way to "painlessly" (to his customers) get more for it.

    It sounds like he's going to run his PID through the links a certain percentage of the time, as his method of augmenting his payment for some kind of software or service. I've seen posts about some places that do that, and I've seen some sites that work that way. It's basically an alternate way for programmers to charge software/access to service. They don't pay affiliates, per se--it's an exchange deal.

    In exchange for having access to certain functionality (whatever that functionaity is), the programmer gets to run his own link X amount of the time. He keeps those X of commissions, and that's his pay (or in this case, part of his pay). It's a way to reach people who won't just buy the software outright.

    I'm not familiar with the specifics of many of these offers, but that type of run-programmer's-links-in-lieu-of-direct-payment setup has been around for a while.
    As for the "functionality," (or, the value of the deal to the customers) it depends on the place. It's like any other kind of programming that's offered, IMO--some is good, some is bad, and some is plain junk.

    Personally I prefer to deal in the standard way (Just pay and be done with it), so I haven't done in-depth checking of these offers. I would figure that they run the gamut from good to bad, just like any kind of software...

    NOTE: The above is just if my guess about the deal is correct. OTHER POSSIBILITIES I can think of include:

    Possibility #2: A pseudo-network. There's a way to track subaffiliates in CJ. This makes it possible to know who made what sales. Pay can be determined based on these reports. Other networks may have similar functionality.

    He could be using this functionality to be a middle, middleman and basically set up as if he's got a little network of his own. In these cases, they advertise to affiliates as if they're a network, send payments from their own bank account, etc...never letting on that affiliates can go to CJ directly and sign up there for free, get more merchants, and get higher commissions!

    There would actually be a way to ethically do something very similar, if one was so inclined--simplify things, and then market to those who are baffled by the standard processes of being an affiliate, and who are willing to give a place a "cut" in order to have that simplification--but all the pseudo-networks I've run across take the low road of pretending they're actually a CJ-level network themselves.

    Possibility #3 An out-and-out scam: All the sales are belong to him, and when payday comes, it's plain old "thanks suckas!"
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  5. #5
    Resident Genius and Staunch Capitalist Leader's Avatar
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    then pay me commissions for my hard work. The hard work being how to out SEO/SEM the other spamming scumbags.
    That IS INDEED a lot of the real w*rk! Gotta outwit all the other lions in the jungle! The actual act of putting up links is just clerical. Copy/paste, or "Generate Pages," old methods or new...that's not where the thought power comes in. Success is in:

    1) Getting anybody to see it
    and
    2) Getting them to BUY once they do see it!

    And yes--the competition is all scumbags.
    My sites, on the other hand, are so good that Mother Theresa would have bookmarked them

    Only those affiliates with a displayable ranked feed site should be allowed access to your complete product e-catalog.
    ?!
    Oh yeah, that's right...some people actually make feed sites with the back pages unreachable from the front! Pbbbt on that. If I have unreachable pages, they're either 1) Deadder than a doornail and I haven't gotten around to deleting 'em yet, or 2) I forgot to put the links up! And if it's 2, I end up cussing, as the Googlebot zooms on by without realizing that there's something I wanted it to rank!

    Better to have the site show up, IMO, rather than generate some customer-baffling, cookie-stuffing spam cloud that makes people hit Back instead of buying things.

    Just stick with a PSC frontend and force affiliates to integrate the feed into an existing site so all show a variety of customized results geared to their audience or page theme.
    If you want to see a mass exodus from the program, leaving only newbies, just try that. Nobody with any skill is going to want any part of making a special integration for each merchant--nor will they want to be stuck using one person's idea of a good tool!
    There is no knowledge that is not power. ~Hemingway

  6. #6
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    Cool Follow ups to above thread
    Hi and thanks for your input. That was tough on the eyes but holy moses - there are some good ideas in there, and they're basically what I had figured as well.

    FYI - Here are said Affiliate's responses to my inquiries:

    "The commission doesn't come to me. The affiliate is asked to provide
    their PID during sign-up and than the affiliates PID is inserted into all the buy url's of their datafeed subscription.

    The benefit to them is that they get a super easy way to incorporate a
    a full datafeed into their site with no programming and they have
    access to multiple datafeeds as well as content feeds in the future.

    I don't have my *his URL where he promotes this service* site setup under my account. I really need to setup a separate account for this. I just thought I would initiate the contact and get the ball rolling. I actually don't
    even need to have an affiliate account, just access to your datafeed.

    On the home page, I will have a link to a demo for each feed, which could act as an affiliate account for *his URL where he promotes this service* but that's about the only reason I would even need an affiliate account."


    In a later follow up to same thread...

    "If it helps at all, you would still have all the tracking information from CJ. We don't remove cj from the loop we simply do our in house tracking first and than forward it to the cj link.

    The only reason we are doing this is because we can give the affiliates more detailed information about exactly what products are generating the most page views and click throughs. The cj data will still be there for both you and your affiliates."


    Based on his description of the service, what he's doing is not necessarily completely unethical depending on HOW he promotes it to Affiliates and HOW MUCH he discloses to them on how it actually works. BUT - because of its ambiguous nature, it just seems to me like it might be more trouble than it's worth.

    I like full disclosure, and NO ambiguity.

    But again, that's just MHO.

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