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  1. #1
    GPWA Aaron is offline Former Staff Member
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    Needham, MA
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    Default Affiliate Interview Series: Mark | Planet Mark

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    Age: 43
    Hometown: Reading, England
    Living in: Budapest, Hungary
    Favorite Food: Indian curries
    Must Read Book: Anything by Kurt Vonnegut, maybe Galapagos or The Sirens of Titan
    – and several more sites

    When did you launch your sites?
    Over several years, starting in 2007. New ones are always coming through, and some others are being retired.

    Why so many sites?
    I only have five or so I consider core at the moment. It looks like I have a number of neglected and non-core sites listed at GWPA.

    How did you become involved in the industry?
    I quit a successful corporate career and did a year of traveling without a real return plan in 2006, and caught the poker bug for a while. After a stint as a writer I got curious as to how people were making money with the articles I was selling them. After a little analysis of the industry I decided to grab a slice of the action for myself.

    How long did it take for you to start earning money?
    Around a year, after writing and running my own site at the same time there was enough potential apparent for me to postpone going back to corporate life. It was less than two years before affiliating became a full-time income source.

    Which of your sites have the most traffic and bring in the most revenue?
    Sit and Go Planet is my highest traffic site. Strategy traffic is always harder to convert, although over the years I have found creative ways of doing this. My country-specific “Bonus Club” themed sites are lower traffic, although for far better targeted terms.

    Your Sit and Go Planet site is a training site for SNG players. What prompted you to start the site? And why do you think it's been so successful?
    Sit and Go Planet is more diverse than just SNG training these days, covering all types of online poker tournaments and satellite qualifiers.

    The concept was to fit into a gap in the market for newish and recreational players who want to improve their game. What I figured at the time was that there are a ton of absolute beginner sites and a ton of the “I’m a grinder who wants to teach others to be grinders” sites. In the middle there are players who are not brand new, and do enjoy poker, although they do not want to dedicate their lives to being multi-tabling, rakeback-accumulating “small-stakes pros.”

    I targeted that crowd, since it felt like they were not spoken to very often and there was a gap in the market. Sit N Goes are a great way to get some poker experience, and the bigger tournaments are fun for the novices, so that was the initial direction I decided on.

    Sit and Go Planet is available in eight languages, and you have a number of other sites that are in other languages. How many languages do you speak? Do you manage sites in languages you don't speak? If so, how do you accomplish that?
    I only speak English. I do live in Hungary (long story) and sometimes “attempt” to speak Hungarian – although generally people look at me like I just walked up and announced that their pet dog died, which can be a pain in the ass when you’re trying to order a beer.

    For the sites I spotted and filled gaps in the market five or six years ago and did very well with bonus searches in Russian, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian and more with my local domain extension “Bonus Club” themed sites. At the time the big affiliate players were not active in those countries, and I was able to rank very well.

    Now things have changed in two ways. First, the bigger sites came in and it is now harder to rank for the money terms (still possible, just harder). Also the boom is over in those countries, and any player who is good enough to make a profit in Eastern Europe will get together with “a friend of my cousin’s friend” for an under-the-table rakeback/cash back deal. What you find is that they either deposit $20 and then give up, or they do well but you suddenly lose them – killing off the average value.

    I do not blame the individuals, since the extra money goes a long way in some locations. This is frustrating from a business perspective, though.

    Russia is a different beast altogether, with more money and a lot of keen players. There are now legal issues popping up in Russia which prevent me from investing too many resources there, although I remain active.

    There are still opportunities out there. I did a Spanish version of SNG Planet recently, targeting Latin America, and maybe I’ll also become the first tournament strategy site in Chinese at some point down the line!

    All of your sites are poker-themed. You posted recently that you might decrease the all-poker-all-the-time sites by 30 percent. Any plans to branch out into other areas this year?
    Yes, I have a site in development at the moment which will broaden my portfolio into other verticals. This site is themed on “High Tech Gamblin’” and will focus on tablets and phones, with a full mobile version with side menus + mini-graphics right from the start. Rigorous testing of casinos, sportsbooks and poker sites on different devices will be central to the content of this site, and I’m aiming for 500+ pages by the end of the year.

    This is the first new project in a few years to get me truly excited – nobody has claimed the mobile device market properly yet – so there is a huge opportunity.

    Do you think Sheldon Adelson will succeed in his efforts to “persuade” the U.S. government to ban online gaming?
    Dangerous guy. I believe he has the money and the influence to make a big difference and should not be underestimated. Even if he does not get a full ban, this guy is a spanner in the works for any federal regulation and could even buy opposition to bills at the state level. An ugly situation for sure.

    Are you a one-person shop or are you part of a larger organization?
    I have one full-time employee who does an excellent job of looking after the running of the sites, and a great team of remote part-time and freelance colleagues including translators, technical experts and writers.

    Describe your work environment. Do you work from home or in an office? And how often do you get to see and interact with other people in the industry?
    I work from a co-working space called “TheHub” in Budapest, where I have two permanent desks. There are a lot of tech startups and some very smart people here. At home the line between working and not working gets too blurred for me and I find myself doing half of each. Not too much interaction with others in the industry nowadays, but I do chat with some of the longer-established poker webmasters from time to time.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?
    I prefer AMs to be hands-off, yet responsive to any serious player issues. For programs I primarily look for their ability to retain players, and for this reason I go with the bigger and better-known brands.

    The number of programs I have written to and had no reply from is simply amazing. A few quick and easy responses would have meant a lot of players over the years for several different programs.

    What’s your preferred method of communication with affiliate managers? Do you like to talk on the phone, by e-mail or via Skype?
    E-mail is fine for me.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA?
    Pretty sure it was the magazine which triggered my original sign-up, although I don’t clearly recall joining.

    You've been a member for nearly five years, but after just six posts in your first four years, you've become much more active on the message boards lately. Any particular reason why? (P.S. – We love seeing you more often!)
    For many years I found the community over at PAL more relevant for my poker-focused world and I developed alongside a lot of webmasters there. That crowd has largely dispersed now (moving on in many positive ways) and I am more aware of the need to diversify into casino and sports-betting – which is where GWPA is stronger.

    I look forward to learning about the nuances of the other verticals at GWPA and also look forward to getting to know many of you better.

    What do you like about the industry?
    Many things: the creativity, the psychology of converting players, the financial rewards when it all goes right, the ability to try out new ideas, many of the great people involved. . . .

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be?
    The way that people communicate drives me nuts sometimes – particularly in the case of disputes with operators on public forums.

    What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?
    My family and people I know well are pretty cool with it. I find that people I know less well and new people I meet tend to assume I am doing something dodgy or outright spamming. This can be frustrating sometimes.

    Do you gamble online? If so, what do you play?
    I’m pretty sure that if I had not started the websites then I’d have drifted away from online poker after a year or two like most people who started in the boom years. Now I donk around now and again, and do test out the newest games.

    I have a lot of casino testing (on mobile devices) to do in the near future for my High Tech Gambling project – which should be fun. I’m open to offers from AMs who are doing interesting things in the mobile space. If you’d like to make it easy for me to test your products then let me know, although I can’t guarantee any top spots at this stage.

    How long do you give yourself for answering e-mail?
    I am pretty quick on the whole.

    How do you manage your “to-do” lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?
    As a project manager for many years I’m pretty good at organizing and prioritizing and tend to work very intensely for 10+ hours a day. I feel genuinely annoyed with myself if I’ve had an unproductive day; I'm my own harshest critic.

    How much time do you devote to SEO and/or social networking in order to drive more traffic to your sites?
    Not much, really. I understand both areas and make an effort to get my on-page optimization right. Some of my content gets shares and likes reasonably frequently, although this is almost impossible for things like bonus code pages.

    What’s the most difficult thing about running your sites?
    Technology – I really have no idea how it all works.

    What’s the best thing about running your sites?
    The psychology, getting into the heads of the readers and working out how they think, what they want and how to convert them.

    What do you do to stay in shape – both physically and mentally?
    I run three times a week and eat healthy food.

    It blows my mind how badly some people treat their own bodies. I look at it like a game with a house edge – which the Reaper will win in the end. Why give him an extra 10 percent edge by eating junk food, 10 percent more by eating excess processed sugars, 20 percent (at least!) by smoking, 15 percent by not staying fit – and so on? People seem to play the game of staying alive and healthy very badly.

    For mental health I practice gratitude and visualizing positive outcomes – and occasionally break things.

    If someone were visiting you, what’s the one place you’d definitely take them to see?
    Here in Budapest it would have to be the Szechenyi Baths. These are natural thermal baths in an historical building.

    When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?
    Getting away from work is not something I am very good at. I have never really understood the concept of relaxing, so my answer would have to be that I get away by making myself extra busy.

    What’s your favorite vacation spot?
    I love the Thai Islands, with Costa Rica a close second.

    What’s your all-time favorite movie?
    Difficult one. I liked Inception and like sci-fi in general – and anything with orcs.

    If you could invite any five people, living or dead, to dinner, who would they be?
    This is a hard question. There would have to be people present whom I do not agree with – too many people spend their days in the bubble of those who share their worldview. I’ll go with these:

    1. Shakespeare – I think he would have a cool sense of humor, and that 16th-century banter would be worth engaging in.
    2. Rene Descartes – For a good debate on artificial intelligence.
    3. Kylie Minogue – For decoration. She would need to promise not to sing.
    4. Kurt Vonnegut – To gather writing tips and insights into the human condition.
    5. Maggie Thatcher – I’d like to ask her views on Vladimir Putin. I think they would have got on well.

    What are three things that nobody knows about you?
    1. I run a private content service in addition to my websites, supplying content which blows away run-of-the mill writers to some of the most successful affiliates out there – in a number of different verticals. You’d need to be very nice to me to be allowed in, although the door is not entirely closed.
    2. Many of my close friends know me as “Evil Mark” or just “Evil.” This is because of my dry sense of humor rather than anything evil in the theist mythology sense (or at least that is what they tell me). Melted Felt was my outlet for this for many years, and still gets the occasional update.
    3. My degree is in psychology and I’m on a lifelong mission to uncover the mysteries of the female mind. Yeah, I know – mission impossible!

  2. The Following 3 Users Say Thank You to GPWA Aaron For This Useful Post:

    -Shay- (30 July 2014), rdoroshenko (27 November 2015)

  3. #2
    thebookiesoffers is offline Former Member
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    November 2009
    Leicester, UK
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    interesting read, Mark, if you dont mind me asking what the story about being from Reading and living in Budapest?

    always find stories like that interesting

  4. The Following User Says Thank You to thebookiesoffers For This Useful Post:

    Renee (3 August 2014)

  5. #3
    Planet Mark is offline Private Member
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    Sure, here is the short version:

    I was sent to Budapest by a corporate to set up a service center here. We needed to recruit more than 100 people quickly and things were not on track. I requested that the agency we used send someone to me to explain how they were going to fix these issues... they sent a very smart and very beautiful woman who managed the agency branch... and 9 years later we are still together.

    If things had gone to the original plan, I'd have moved on to my next project after a year and probably never returned to Hungary again.

  6. The Following 2 Users Say Thank You to Planet Mark For This Useful Post:

    -Shay- (31 July 2014), thebookiesoffers (31 July 2014)

  7. #4
    Mia Kerr is offline Non-sponsor Affiliate Program
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    April 2014
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    Good interview, was really interesting to read

  8. #5
    sportsfreak is offline Public Member
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    February 2014
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    very nice interview, extremely inspiring. keep up the good work Mark.

  9. #6
    GavinQTA's Avatar
    GavinQTA is offline Non-sponsor Affiliate Program
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    July 2014
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    Interesting read Mark, good interview

  10. #7
    edgarf76's Avatar
    edgarf76 is offline Private Member
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  11. #8
    RacingJim is offline Public Member
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    May 2013
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    Good interview that, interesting!

  12. #9
    rdoroshenko is offline Private Member
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    November 2013
    Thanked 12 Times in 11 Posts


    Really inspiring ! Thanks

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