Renegade Publishing Ltd can count themselves as veterans of the affiliate marketing industry, having launched their first website back in 1998.
Owner Joe Connor is a longstanding friend of Azam’s and happily now one of our clients, and so we were delighted when he agreed to tell us more about the sites in his extensive portfolio and his perspective on the affiliate marketing industry.
Thanks for your time, Joe. Please tell our readers a bit about yourself and your background…
I left school at 16 and served an engineering apprenticeship and ended up as a design draughtsman before I was made redundant in the early ’80s. I went back to college which led to a career as a product designer in London before I “retired” to become a house husband.
Aside from looking after the kids, I realised I needed something to challenge my brain and since I was already involved with early home computers I saw that the web was the place to be. Renegade Publishing Ltd was initially formed to promote our Atari Computing magazine. Shortly afterwards I hand coded CantBarsed.com and the rest is history!
Why did you decide to become a full time affiliate?
I got involved in affiliate marketing thanks to Buyagift’s Dan Mountain, who asked me to add their gift experiences to CantBarsed.com. Making our first sale opened my mind to the possibility of making CantBarsed.com into a shopping directory and everything followed on from that moment – so thanks Dan!
Tell us about the sites that you manage
CantBarsed.com is a shopping directory which has been online since 1999 and has become a bit of a classic. We work hard behind the scenes to keep the site up to date without destroying its retro charm.
We bought DiscountCodes.tv when we realised we were losing sales to dedicated voucher code sites and it’s currently our main website. DiscountCodes.tv isn’t like other sites of its type – it’s a .tv domain for starters – and we’ve created dozens of useful video tutorials and money saving videos which can also be viewed on our YouTube channel.
We have put together a massive database of discount codes, retailers and services, brands and product keywords and you can pretty much mix and match your search. For example, you can search for all stores stocking a particular brand and then show those with codes – we’re not aware of any other sites which offer this level of functionality.
One the most exciting things about affiliate marketing has been the entrepreneurial spirit of my peers and I love working with other affiliates. I currently work on several sites in partnership with other affiliates most notably BillyBargain.co.uk which is an awesome multimedia price comparision and price tracker site – give it a try next time you’re buying books, CDs, DVDs or console games.
Why did you decide to set up discount code sites?
Back in the day CantBarsed.com ranked top or thereabouts for most code related search terms in both Google and Yahoo but as dedicated code sites started to take business from us we realised we needed to adapt to survive and that’s when we bought DiscountCodes.tv. We’ve been running the sites side by side ever since.
We own and maintain several other code sites but they’re not really profitable – anyone who thinks it’s easy to make a profit from these sites without serious financial backing is going to be disappointed. However, we’re in the sector for the long haul and will continue to adapt.
What have been your greatest successes/challenges?
Our greatest success has been survival and it also remains our biggest challenge. As the affiliate industry has grown and become more corporate it’s become much harder to survive and prosper.
Renegade Publishing has to compete with companies and agencies who employ dozens of staff, but on the plus side the affiliate marketing cake has got bigger and we only need a small slice to remain profitable.
How has the affiliate marketing industry has changed since you started out?
I’ve seen our industry completely change over the last decade. At the first affiliate get together I attended there were loads of individual affiliates and a mix of merchants and network staff – it felt like a roughly equal three way split back then and we even bought our own beer!
Fast forward to 2010 and individual affiliates are few and far between – simply put, there are more suits and less geeks! I don’t like it but I accept that affiliate marketing is just part of the wider advertising industry and am pleased to still be in the game – unlike quite a few affiliate friends who have fallen by the wayside over the years.
What do merchants do that you wish they wouldn’t?
Merchants that remove affiliates from their programs without warning is my main gripe. As well as applying to all programs that have codes, I often sign up to other programs which have promise but unless a new merchant interacts with us, they quickly disappear off our radar. If you ignore us, we’ll probably ignore you too!
When the first communication from a merchant is to terminate our relationship it feels like a missed opportunity on their part. If merchants made an effort to turn dormant affiliates into active affiliates they would have a wider affiliate base and more sales in the longer term.
What do other affiliates do that you wish they wouldn’t?
It would be great if all affiliates followed network terms and conditions and the IAB guidelines but inevitably some don’t and, much to my annoyance, they get away with it for months, and even years in some cases, without any repurcussions. We’re not perfect but if we make a mistake we’ll admit it, correct it and move forwards.
I’m also not impressed by other affiliate sites feauturing our domain names on their sites in an attempt to steal our traffic – that’s something we will not tolerate.
That concludes the first part of our interview. In part two, Joe reveals the names of the people he admires most in the industry as well as sharing his top tips for new affiliates.