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    GPWA Daniel is offline Associate Editor
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series - Jason D.

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    (This interview was originally published in the April 2021 edition of the GPWA Times Magazine)

    Loquax launched in 1998 as a competition/sweepstakes/community site, and yet here you are more than 20 years later still making a living as an iGaming affiliate. Did you ever think when you started the site that it would turn into a life-long project?


    Itís unreal that weíre still here 23 years later. Iíve looked back on old blogs we wrote when the site reached 10 and even then we thought our time was limited. The project initially started as a way to learn about websites and the internet, not to become something this long term. When it started to attract users, we thought itíd have a few years lifespan, but itís kept ticking along. Weíre just thankful that itís worked out as it has and try to continue to enjoy the trials and tribulations this journey brings.

    I think weíve survived because weíve kept ourselves grounded. When things started going well, we didnít look to expand, bring in lots of people, open an office, etc. We were (and still are, to be fair) also incredibly frugal and have always refused to pay for anything that we didnít think was good value. In some respects I think we know our limitations. As much as itíd be nice in theory to have developed Loquax Ltd more it then would have become something neither myself or business partner wanted. Once you stop enjoying what youíre doing then thatís a problem.

    For something to last this long online, evolution is important and weíve always looked to make improvements to our site and service. Back in the day that kind of evolution used to be quite drastic ó regular site redesigns, for example ó but these days itís just fine tuning, tweaking and seeing if small changes can make big improvements, not just for the business, but our users too.

    When we interviewed you for the GPWA Times Magazine back in 2014, you told us that your company was made up of four people. How many people do you employ today and how has that number fluctuated over the years?

    Weíre down to three now and weíve never gone higher than four. Itís unlikely to ever go higher. Nothing is outsourced ó other than hosting ó the rest we manage ourselves. We used to outsource content, but it wasnít quite what we wanted and when it started to end up being rewritten too many times we called time on that arrangement. Back in 2014, you could create content for bingo brands almost daily, but now player promotions are pretty limited so thereís less to write about ó and thereís time to do that in house. I love the fact weíre hands on and I guess maybe that could be another reason why weíre still here.

    Earlier this year, you created a ďCompetitions OnlyĒ version of Loquax that allows visitors that arenít interested in lottery, bingo or slots to avoid that kind of content. What made you decide to make this move and has it been well received?

    We cover different ways of winning online from free prize draws to gambling. For the most part, we keep these things in their own distinct sections, but the lines between these subjects do sometimes blur. For example, a gambling brand may appear in the competitions listing because they had a relevant promotion (e.g. Twitter giveaway, free-to-enter prediction competition, fantasy football).

    To make sure weíre compliant we have to make sure these are listed appropriately and if the promoter is a gambling company then itís tagged accordingly. We already had an extensive opt-out system that our users could use to tailor their competition content and so this allows them to opt-out from seeing anything tagged as a gambling site.

    That got us thinking, if those who opt-out have no interest in gambling sites then they wonít really want to see links to bingo/slots/lotto in our navigation. So we extended the opt-out to create a ďCompetitions OnlyĒ version. Any logged-in user whoís opted out canít access gambling content or follow any of our links. Itís been well received and I think, or at least hope, it demonstrates weíre being responsible in our approach.

    Tell us about your newsletter. How has this option of content marketing benefitted your business and what suggestions would you give to fellow affiliates if they were thinking of launching a newsletter?

    Our newsletter is currently on hiatus at the moment and is a bit of a sore subject. Itís for our competition users and has been since compliance became a thing back in 2017. Many gambling operators donít permit direct newsletter marketing and thatís fine, we donít do it. Well, at least we thought what we were doing was fine.

    Recently an AM refused us access to a program because they said that we do direct marketing (SMS/Email). We donít do either! They then said because we send a newsletter to our competition users we ďindirectlyĒ may link a subscriber ó who is self-excluded ó via our newsletter to our site, who may then end up in a bingo/slots section, then see their advert and who may then go to their site. Really?

    Apparently, weíre meant to scrub our list against GAMSTOP, but they have told us affiliates canít do this. So weíve contacted the UKGC for advice and to see if weíre acting in a compliant way. It seems absurd to me that we canít have a newsletter for a section of our site about stuff that interests them and keep operators happy. But such is life as a U.K. affiliate these days. You spend a lot of time dealing with compliance and these kinds of frustrations in equal measures.

    My advice to iGaming affiliates looking to start a newsletter is probably donít until youíve checked the terms of every brand you work with. Weíve only really used a newsletter to act as a reminder to folks to revisit our competitions community and keep them updated with what weíre doing. As a monetary tool itís never been great, but it can be a good way to get people to re-engage with you.

    Please tell us more about your PennyBingo and Spins.co.uk sites.

    Iíd love to say these two sites were doing great but theyíre not. Theyíve always been backburner projects and other than a few fleeting moments have struggled to get off the ground. Over the years, time has been allocated to work on them and something has happened which puts them back. I guess this is where having limited resources goes against us. Also, blood, sweat and tears have been invested in Loquax and we donít have the same feeling towards the other sites.

    With the uncertainty over the U.K. market, itís also hard to get motivated in making any massive changes to either site, overhauling them or investing in them. Operators keep pulling programs, wonít let you on programs, changing commission levels, swapping links, etc. In the end itís become easier to focus on the main Loquax brand and keep the other two bubbling away maybe for a rainy day.

    Before compliance we had a couple of other sites, but it was easier to bin them rather than revamp them. Additionally, we had some white label sites and theyíve since been relinquished too. In truth, we probably should have spent more of our time building one brand and doing that well. However, itís easier to have courage in your conviction when looking back.

    What would be your advice to someone who told you that they wanted to try and break into the iGaming affiliate business?

    Go for it, but try and be different from what already exists, which can be quite hard to do. Most sites, including ours, are basically welcome offers, reviews and then try and have content unique to get good positions in Google. Iíd also suggest focusing on being honest with your visitors so that you build respect and reputation. Not every site review deserves five stars!

    Itís also not going to be an easy ride. It has become a lot harder for a lot of affiliates due to compliance, social media restrictions, limits what you can/canít do, but thereís still room for those who want to try whether theyíre going solo or a bigger company. A good example is Wayne Howe (ex-Which Bingo) has just launched his first site (howaboutbingo.com) and it looks great. Yes, it has the usual reviews etc., but also a unique style which hopefully will pay off for him.

    Your blog at Loquax is updated regularly. Is the motto ďcontent is kingĒ still true?

    Iím not sure content is king for the user, itís more for Google. People like snippets of information in 140 characters or less and thatís the world we live in now. Sound bites of information which hopefully interests someone enough to read more. Unfortunately, as a gambling affiliate, using social media is either not allowed or an egg-shell-walking process thatís often best avoided.

    However, I do like writing and if nothing else creating the blog content keeps me interested and entertained. A lot of our blog content currently surrounds ďwin a house raffles/competitions.Ē People put their homes up for sale via a competition and people buy tickets to enter. Itís an interesting sub-category of our site and also one of the most popular. Itís helped get us noticed by the press, which gets us a link here and there, which I guess all helps in the grand scheme of things.

    Tell us about the name Loquax.

    We established the site in 1998 and back then it was on an ISPís hosting (Demon Internet if anyone in the U.K. remembers them). We chose ďLoquaxĒ as it sounded distinctive and more importantly could be anything we wanted it to be. Originally, we started building a shopping site but that lasted about two hours when we realized how boring it was. Who knew that voucher codes would be a big part of affiliate marketing, eh?

    As the original site grew we had to move to proper hosting. We had limited funds so we stuck with the same people we knew when we bought our first .co.uk address. I think it cost around £100, which was a sizable chunk of our savings at the time. I donít even know if a keyword domain like ďcompetitionsĒ or ďbingoĒ was available back then. I didnít know that theyíd have been good acquisitions, so never looked.

    In many respects itís been a good asset for us. We added a duck character into the logo around 2010, I think, which knitted things together really well. However, thanks to the good old UKGC we had to drop it because an operator wouldnít work with us as the duck in the logo was too ďchild appealing.Ē

    Before starting an affiliate business you were a Geochemistry PhD. Is that something you always wanted to be? Did your experience in that field help you in run and successfully become an iGaming affiliate in any way?

    I did enjoy chemistry at school and started working at SmithKline as a Lab Tech. I then left there to do a degree but really wanted to get into Environmental Science óespecially nuclear related ó but there weren't many openings. I looked at doing an Environmental Science Masters, but at the interview read about a PhD that was available and talked my way into getting that offer instead. It wasnít planned, but the opportunity arose and I took it.

    Has it helped in any way? Itíd be nice to say ďyes,Ē but Iím not so sure. Actually, thatís not true. It did help because the first couple of years of Loquax were run on the side whilst I was working as a researcher. I guess if Iíd been allowed to stay in a laboratory environment doing the experiments rather than put in front of a computer churning data others had created then more than likely Loquax wouldnít exist. I suppose it has helped in terms of problem solving, research, reaching conclusions, etc.

    Ultimately, doing the PhD also made me unemployable, which may explain why weíre still going as thereís no other option (Laughs). Doing a PhD was great, but finding a suitable job afterwards was impossible. I did stay on for a couple of years as a full-time researcher, but that experience also made me aware of how much I hated working for other people. When I eventually left, my then-boss also said I was unmanageable, so Iím probably in the right place!

    What's your approach to SEO and drawing traffic to your sites?

    We probably donít spend enough time on SEO, but then we also donít spend too much time worrying about SEO. For me thatís a healthy balance! First and foremost, we try and put together a site that is for the user and that works. We are mindful of SEO and do checks on various sites to make sure there are no glaring errors. After the site moved home last year we did find a large number of basic errors, broken links, poor redirects, etc. then we managed to break other things in the process.

    But as a small team we donít have the time/resources to focus on SEO, link building, PR, etc. So we just do what we like doing and, by some weirdness, it seems to work. Iíve spent a lot of time online, at times too many hours, and Iíve reached a point in life where itís not the be all and end all to be working.

    What have been some of the biggest changes to the industry since you started and how have you managed to adjust and survive?

    When we started, Google didnít exist, no one had an iPhone, social media was unheard of and no one was gambling online. So weíve pretty much seen everything change. When affiliate marketing started to develop in the U.K. it was mainly bedroom affiliates creating websites. Now itís companies and folks half my age!

    I would say that compliance has obviously been the biggest change to the industry in recent times and Iím all for the aims itís trying to achieve. It would have helped us all if the powers that be knew what they wanted from the start. It would help us even more now if operators all had the same approach. But weíve adjusted, including changing our logo and making it easier for ourselves to update content so that it is uniform across the site.

    Other changes have been the way operators conduct themselves. How many of us thought that operators would honor their agreements when we first signed on the rev-share dotted line? Sky closing their program to some affiliates left a huge hole financially for us as weíd been with them since Day 1 of their bingo program. We had experienced closures before, but nothing of that scale comparatively. However, we have always been financially savvy in terms of rainy day savings and trying to make sure weíre not totally dependent on one brand for income.

    Itís not always easy, but my advice to affiliates is donít become too close to just one program, or if you do, make sure you have reserves just in case. Always assume nothing is going to last forever and enjoy the experience as you go.

    How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected you both personally and professionally?

    Professionally, weíve used it to make changes to Loquax, including changing our server hosts for the first time in 20 years. That was quite a long-winded process as weíd accumulated several years of old content, broken code, lost pages. As we all work from home anyway and our business is online weíve been lucky in the respect that the pandemic hasnít had too much impact.

    Personally, I think Iím like everyone else and have good days and bad. Iím fortunate that I live by the sea and can get out for walks with the dogs, but it is strange to think Iíve not travelled anywhere further than 10 miles away in almost a year. I see people say itís been a wasted year, which is sad. Itís been a different kind of year, but Iíve watched films, walked the dog, taken photos, exercised, chilled out, spent time with my partner etc. and none of that was a waste of time.

    What do you like to do when you are not working?

    Exercise is very important, which is something that in the last interview Iíd never have contemplated telling you. Just before Christmas 2015, I had an emergency operation which ended up with me having part of the colon removed. The surgeon was 90% certain it was cancer, but fortunately on that occasion he was wrong. Looking back now, I was pretty ill for quite some time and I didnít want to be that bad again. Or if I was, then Iíd be in better shape. So I decided that it was a good time to start taking care of myself better.

    My neighbor is a PT and I thought a few weeks training with her would be enough. As it happens I could barely do a push-up, couldnít lift 1kg over my head and had no idea what burpees were. Five years later, Iím still training with her, doing Llanelli Beach Bootcamp twice a week and a sprints session. I never thought Iíd enjoy it, I never understood why people did it, but I get it now. Itís all well and good making a decent living from this industry, but health and enjoying life with the people around you is a lot more important.

    Apart from that, I do a bit of photography (see jasondale.co.uk). As part of my hospital bed epiphany I decided I was going to travel a bit more so Iíve done a few wildlife trips to Greece, Spain, South Africa and Alaska. Lockdown has screwed that up a bit, but hopefully Iíll be back on the road again in the near future. However, I do take photos of other things including LEGOs! And in case youíre thinking ďwhy,Ē thereís a blog on the site that explains it. Itís not as insane as it sounds. Honest!

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?

    As itís been ages since anyone came for dinner thanks to the pandemic Iíd be happy just with a few mates. Itíd be nice just to sit around a table and chat. If it was famous people Iíd go for Eddie Hall, Rik Mayall, Louis Theroux, David Goggins and Nigel Adkins. The latter is an ex-Southampton FC manager, but I love his approach to life. During his time at Saints, heíd go on about controlling the controllables, which made more sense coming from him then any self-help guide Iíve seen. Once you realize what you can and canít control, things become much simpler.

    Name three things that people reading this magazine don't know about you.


    1. Iím now tee-total and also no longer drink tea or coffee. That followed the health scare above, so itís partly forced, partly choice.
    2. In 2009, Loquax sponsored The National Dodgeball Championship in the U.K. We only did this because of the movie. It cost next to nothing in financial terms and did next to nothing in media/PR terms, but it still makes me smile thinking about it.
    3. Iíve spent the last 12 months learning Spanish using Duolingo. This is the best Iíve done trying to learn the language. It's just a shame I canít travel to try it. Fortunately, my wife speaks fluent Spanish, just none of the stuff Iíve learnt.

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    Cash Bonus's Avatar
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    Good interview with Jason. The other big changes to the industry that you didn't mention is their strangling regulations.

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    Topboss is online now Private Member
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    Great interview Jason. Thanks for sharing. Many of your comments I could relate to myself, having also been in the industry for many years too!
    Things certainly have changed!

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    GPWA Maria is online now APCW/GPWA Program Manager
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    Hi Jason,

    Thank you for sharing.

    Great photos, specially the White Horse Portrait. When my son was little, we used to make short videos with his Legos, so I totally get your love for the Lego figures.

    Keep safe!
    Feature your Affiliate Program with us and enjoy the rewards!

    Regards,

    Maria Florides
    GPWA Program Manager
    GPWA.org | iGamingAffiliatePrograms.com | FinanceAffiliatePrograms.com | GPWAtimes.org | iGamingPocketDirectory.com | APCW.org

    Mob: +35796453758 | Skype: Maria.florides1 | Email: Maria@gpwa.org

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    Amazing inteview.
    Seven times fall, eight times stand.

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    Really enjoyed reading this! Thank you for sharing.

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    newcustomeroffer is offline Public Member
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    Brilliant, I remember using the Loquax site to promote a free scratchcard competition that I was running for a fledgling car insurance comparison website in a previous corporate life, must have been early 2000s.
    For the latest bookmaker new customer offers visit https://www.newcustomeroffer.co.uk/

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    Thanks for this interview.. was interesting to read about your own affiliate experiences over the years that you didn't mind sharing with us (especially when I've been aware of your brand for years) .. Cheers!

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    Cleo P is offline Non-sponsor Affiliate Program
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    Thank you for sharing!!

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    Wow, very interesting interview!

    Thanks a lot for sharing!

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