Innovation in affiliate marketing

Former Hearst staffer, Richard Bean, is working with affiliate marketing technology business Monetizer101.  In this interview he talks about some of the issues facing publishers and why he believes affiliate marketing is a ready and viable opportunity for FIPP members.

What has been your career so far?

Hi! I began my career in newsstand distribution at Future progressing through publishing roles to international business development. Dennis hired me to head up its international licensing operation until Felix sold his US business and sold me with it.  After a period running my own business I was recruited by Hearst. I consider myself very fortunate to have worked for Chris Anderson & Felix Dennis – two of the most successful global publishing entrepreneurs of the last 50 years and also for Hearst, the biggest publishing company the world has ever seen.

For all three companies I worked in international business development roles so I’ve partnered with some of the world’s biggest publishers such from Televisa in Mexico, to Axel Springer and Bauer in Germany and SCMP and Straits Times over in Asia.  Plus hundreds of privately owned smaller but equally talented businesses.  

It’s offered me a brilliant insight into the issues faced by publishers on every continent, which are pretty much the same everywhere.

Richard Bean

So what are the key issues facing the publishing industry at the moment?

Without wishing to sound blindingly obvious; being profitable!  

In turn this means increasing – or at the very least maintaining – revenues and managing costs.  Which in this industry has meant looking to replace rapidly declining revenue streams with new and innovative ones which don’t significantly increase costs.

A favourite saying of Felix was, ‘Turnover is vanity, profit is sanity and overhead walks on two legs’ and he was so right. The history of the publishing industry is littered with great ideas that drove revenues into companies, but also drove expenditures and had to be abandoned because they just didn’t deliver a healthy margin.

So while it is crucial that media companies look to broaden their revenue base, they must do so without overloading their business with costs.  

It’s one of the reasons I think Monetizer101 is such a great product. It’s been designed to give the power to the content creators without the need to develop a central team.

You are now working with Monetizer101.  What is it and what problems was it set up to solve?

Monetizer101 (M101) is an affiliate marketing technology platform which allows publishers to be part of the commercial transaction between a consumer and a product. I’ve always believed that the very essence of consumer media (with a few notable exceptions) whether it be specialist interest or lifestyle is to sell products.

The problem is that while publishers review, entertain and educate to create demand and brands promote themselves in pages or on sites the moment the consumer takes their credit card out to make a purchase, they are sent off to a shop or website and the publisher is removed from the transaction.

M101 makes the publisher part of that transaction and pays them for it. We call it closing the sales cycle and it’s at the heart of what M101 does.  

It goes without saying that for obvious reasons there has been an explosion in on-line retailing over recent months which M101 has benefited from.

Crucially – and I can’t stress this enough – it does so without requiring much investment in new resources.

How does it work?

Nicola Ghezzi (M101’s CEO) will talk more about it in his FIPP World Media Congress presentation so here’s not the place for a full explanation. But there is certainly more to it than simply chucking a widget next to a piece of content.  It requires a rethink on how content is written and presented.  Not a massive overhaul, but thinking about how to make content work harder.  And it opens up the potential for new and exciting commercial conversations with retailers.

I began my career selling magazines via retailers and the one thing they would always want to hear – apart from how much money you were going to make them – was how your product would ‘Create Theatre in Store’.  They wanted you to enhance their consumers’ shopping experience.  And in many ways this still holds true today.  

Surely there’s a world of difference between bricks and mortar versus click retail?

I’m not sure there is. Shopping is an emotional experience.  It’s why unboxing videos are so ridiculously popular on YouTube.  It’s why peeling off the protective film from your new iPhone is so satisfying.  

It’s a publisher’s job to use the content it creates to deliver an enhanced consumer experience. In an analogue world (as far as retailers were concerned) that meant creating theatre in store. In a digital world it can mean exclusive offers, special prices, rewards, competitions. There’s a whole host of ideas and retailers want to hear them.  

Where does Amazon fit into all this?

Well, for a start we don’t believe publishers should try to compete with them! Publishers’ core strength lies in creating brilliant content and they should concentrate on doing just that. Let the retailers be retailers. Of course M101 works with Amazon. But it also offers alternatives. It doesn’t have to be an exclusively Amazon world.

Where do you think affiliate marketing will go in the future?

Have you ever noticed how we’re obsessed with talking about the future and often overlook the here and now?  With affiliate marketing, the opportunity is today. There is revenue on the table right now from retailers keen to work with publishers.

In the past, publishers have tried to be retailers and failed. In the future, if you think you may want to be a retailer, then you should go for it.  

However, if you think that your future is about being the very best content company in the world, then you should stick to doing that and build cost efficient initiatives in your business that maximise revenues. 

Affiliate marketing is not a silver bullet that will single-handedly cure the ills of the publishing world. It’s one part of what Claire from Future called the ‘monetisation wheel’. 

But it is an important opportunity – a really important opportunity – for publishers to make their content work harder to drive revenues.

Monetizer101 is a platform that allows them to do that today in a flexible and efficient way. 

I would urge people to dial in to Nicola’s presentation. 

Monetizer101 CEO Nicola Ghezzi’s session, ‘Transform your content strategy to generate profitable affiliate marketing revenues’ will be broadcast on the FIPP Congress WMM Feed on Tuesday 22nd September at 4.30pm.

Or you will be able to view it on catch up 48 hours after broadcast.

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