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    GPWA Dan is offline Former Staff Member
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    November 2008
    Thanked 52 Times in 20 Posts

    Default Affiliate Interview Series | Phil Fraser - WhichBingo

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    Age: 52

    Hometown: Leeds, U.K.

    Living in: Leeds, U.K.

    Favorite Food: Gambas pil-pil, chorizo in red wine and pulpo Galicia

    Must-Read Book: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, by Stephen Covey


    You helped William Hill build its online casino, correct? What in your previous experience gave you the skills necessary to build an online casino?

    I was recruited by William Hill back in 2000 specifically to launch their first online casino, on Cryptologic software. Oddly, I do remember thinking at that time that we were late to the party. My background previous to joining William Hill was as an account director in an ad agency, and before that my career had been in magazine advertising sales. At that time I was working on the agency's nascent digital arm, servicing clients. This was probably what sold me to William Hill, along with my business skills honed on client work and ad sales.

    What made you decide to move from helping an operator build a site to becoming a bingo affiliate?

    To be honest, it was an accident, rather than an overt decision. While at William Hill we came across online bingo as a market. At the time there were only around a dozen online bingo sites, all in the gray U.S. market, and unsurprisingly William Hill didn't fancy it, but I did. I left Hill with the intention of launching the U.K.'s first pay-to-play online bingo site. Unfortunately I couldn't raise the capital for the project, but I did launch a bingo comparison site to pull together some research to support the (failed) business pitch. That site was, and after a while bingo sites started approaching me to advertise and almost by accident it became an affiliate business.

    Can you talk about the impact that the UIGEA had on the online bingo market?

    The UIGEA is long-gone history and really has no relevance to the U.K. and European market. At the time it was a dreadful shock, killing around 80% of our business overnight. Looking back now, it was arguably the best thing that ever happened as it kickstarted the U.K. market — a market we were already poised to take advantage of. So, odd as it sounds, the UIGEA was great . . . but not at the time. I see no relevance in it even being a topic of discussion nowadays, outside of U.S.-facing companies.

    It's much harder to find a "whale" in online bingo than in casino games or sports betting. What is the average player value for bingo compared to casino games or sports betting? Is there enough volume in bingo to make it a worthwhile gaming vertical for new affiliates?

    It's difficult, if not irrelevant, to compare bingo players to either casino punters or sports bettors. In general terms the demographic, age, gender and reasons for playing are diametrically different. As an affiliate we don't get to see figures from clients, but I would guess average lifetime value might be anything between £150 - £500, depending on the player and the site they're on.

    I always say that there's "enough to go round" in the online bingo market. With new bingo sites launching all the time, there are always opportunities for new affiliates. The problem any new affiliate might have is that, generally speaking, most of the big bingo brands have signed up a large majority of players, so inevitably it will be difficult for new affiliates to find new sign-ups for big brands.

    What types of promotions do bingo players find the most attractive? Do deposit bonuses matter? Free games? Or do big prizes like trips to New York or a Caribbean cruise tend to draw the most traffic?

    Different players look for different types of offers. In terms of recruitment, the key is to get players to at least sign up and “test drive” a game or site. In that sense, free money and free games are the best at getting players through the door but may not be best for conversion. Deposit bonuses and loyalty gifts are the best way to get players depositing, playing and hopefully coming back. I think players are savvy enough now to go into “big” promotions with the view of "I probably won't win but I'll give it a go." In that sense I'm not sure that they are huge player drivers.

    In 2008 you launched a Spanish-language site, QueBingo. Has that site been as successful as you hoped? What can you tell us about the Spanish-speaking market in general? Is it growing?

    Initially it went quite well, but the market died to a large extent pre-legislation. We haven't focused on QueBingo for some time due to the market being very small, but the change in legislation has incentivized us to review the product and to look at establishing a strategy moving forward.

    WhichBingo hands out annual awards to operators and software providers at the Bingo Summit. How long have you been handing out the awards, and what gave you the idea to start the awards program?, our original site, ran its first annual awards in 2001 under the title 'Site of the Year.' Over the years this expanded to include a 'New Site of the Year' award and then other categories covering marketing and promotions. During 2013 we decided that the title 'Site of the Year' no longer reflected our range of awards, triggering a full review and revamp of the whole thing. We wanted to continue to recognize the best of the online bingo industry, but in a much more high-profile and interactive way.

    The awards were renamed the "WhichBingo Awards." We added a new nominations period, increased the categories from four to 10, and most importantly, we introduced an awards ceremony. The first revamped awards took place in 2014 and the second was in May 2015, where we also added a judging panel of experts in the social responsibility area. On both occasions we have run the awards off the back of the Online Bingo Summit, which was a great win-win for both them and ourselves. The players and particularly the industry seemed to have really bought into the new awards, and they are highly popular. We had almost 200 attendees in 2015 onboard HMS President and a record number of player votes. All of this year's winners, along with video and a photo gallery from the event, can be found at

    How important are conferences like the Bingo Summit to your success in the industry? What advice can you give affiliates who are looking to attend their first conference?

    I have always believed that conferences are hugely important. At the end of the day, people buy people and you can really sell yourself when meeting clients face-to-face. Conferences are also great from a learning perspective, however inexperienced or experienced you are. Newbies can pick up the basics through talks and sessions, while old-timers can always find new angles or business tips (and rumors and gossip!) simply by chatting to old acquaintances.

    The Online Bingo Summit is great as it's the only conference where all sides of the bingo industry can get together to discuss, debate and learn about everything that's going on in our "little corner" of iGaming. It's not only affiliates that attend and over the years there have been some great speakers, including some of the sector's biggest names.

    What are some of your sites' unique selling points? How do you stand out from the crowd?

    Our key site is WhichBingo. Its key USP is that it's the only bingo portal that lists every U.K. online bingo site, whether we're an affiliate of theirs or not. This allows players not only to read our review of every site but also allows players to read and write their own independent reviews. We have many ways to stand out: We're the only bingo portal that has advertised on U.K. TV this year; we launched a complete site redesign this year, aimed at being totally mobile responsive; we host the industry's primary awards; and we're constantly improving and developing the site.

    What do you think is a better strategy for affiliates? To launch numerous sites, or to be laser-focused on creating great content for a small number of sites?

    Over the years we have done both. For many years, particularly when we were in the U.S. market, we aimed to have multiple portals — all on online bingo, but positioned differently — in an attempt to dominate the sector. However, as the whole iGaming sector has matured, you now need to be excellent in your niche to have any chance at creating meaningful revenue, so a single site strategy is where we are at the moment. From my perspective, if you are a “me too” site offering the same as tens or evens hundreds of similar sites, then you will struggle to generate anything other than "small" money. Having said that, I know there are many out there who work on a "churn and burn" policy and are probably making huge revenue!

    How many employees does your company have? Outside of people who work for your company, how often do you get to see and interact with other people in the industry?

    We currently have a full-time staff of 14. Whether it be myself or any member of the team, I guess we physically see other people in the industry (i.e., clients) maybe once a month, in addition to the conferences. We try to make a point of having face-to-face meetings with our clients on a regular basis, whether that be at a conference or outside of such events.

    What traits do you look for in an affiliate manager? How about in an affiliate program?

    We love dealing with affiliate managers who are personable and who are open to discuss options other than their standard offerings. Too many, particularly inexperienced affiliate staff, are hamstrung by the rates, whether that be CPA or rev share or are blinkered by a target of first-time deposits (FTDs) only. We will often take ideas, and they don't even have to be complicated or strange ideas, to AMs and their response will be "I can't do that" or "if it's not targeting FTDs then I'm not interested." In many circumstances this is caused by senior management or business structures.

    All we want from an affiliate program are up-to-date offers, creatives that match the offers on the website, accurate tracking, prompt payment and clear payment information. It constantly amazes me how many sites can't manage all five at once, if at all.

    What's your preferred method of communication with affiliate managers?

    It has always been e-mail, supported by online messaging. In the early days we always used MSN Messenger (ask your Dad!) and now we use Skype Messenger. However, we'll communicate any way any client wishes.

    What prompted you to join the GPWA? How has it helped you?

    Looking at my profile it seems I joined back in 2002! Wow, that's a long time ago. I have no idea why I joined, but over the years it has helped in various ways and continues to do so; we've recently bought a site via a contact we made on GPWA. I think in the early days it was helpful just to connect with other people in what was a very small industry. Nowadays I like to pass on advice to others where I can.

    What do you like about the industry?

    I often feel our industry is unique in that, while it's very competitive, it is also very friendly. Over the years I've met many people whom I now consider friends first and business colleagues second. The industry has also allowed me to have a flexible lifestyle that is hard to come by elsewhere.

    If you could change one thing about the industry, what would it be and why?

    I would stop affiliate programs paying through WorldPay. The lack of any client reference on payments has over the years wasted many, many hours of my life that I'll never get back.

    What do your family and friends think of your work as an affiliate?

    I think, and hope, my family is very proud of the success that we have achieved over the years. My friends constantly suggest that I do no work at all and just swan around, going on holiday and spending time at the gym!

    Do you gamble online? If so, what do you play?

    I am not a gambler at all. We take all new recruits to a bingo night as part of their welcome to the company, but apart from that, nothing.

    How do you manage your to-do lists? Do you use any special software to help you out?

    I use a bastardized version of the time management techniques taught in Stephen Covey's The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People. I start the day or week by scoring my tasks out of five by importance, and then out of five by urgency. I add up the points tally for each task which then gives me a to-do list in priority order. I spoke about this at AffiliateFest in October and will be talking about it again as part of my talk at LAC in February. If you'd like to hear more, please feel free to come along and listen (and ask questions!).

    How much time do you devote to SEO?

    We currently have a team of people working full-time on SEO. We must be doing something right as WhichBingo is three times more visible in SERPS than our nearest rival, based on a range of search ranking metrics and software.

    Outline your social media strategy. What's more effective, Facebook or Twitter?

    I use my individual twitter account @Mr_Online_Bingo as a B2B outlet more so than for the site. WhichBingo has a Twitter account (@WhichBingoUK) as well as a Facebook page ( which is particularly targeted at the CM community. Facebook is better for us than Twitter, simply because currently the bingo demographic is more engaged on the former rather than the latter.

    What's the most difficult thing about running your sites?

    We are now a "proper grown-up business," so all the issues that "real businesses" face, we also have to deal with. Specific to our sites, the most difficult issue we face is ranking on Google. Yes, we are the most visible bingo portal on SERPS, but trying to do what "Big G" likes and wants us to do, while fighting against black hatters, negative SEO and sites ranking above us that are obviously spamming, is often infuriating and at times highly challenging.

    What's the best thing about running your sites?

    I really enjoy managing, motivating and developing the members of my team. As an employer I have a duty to do so and it's great to be able to see that development in people over months and often years. Winning awards is always great and to be named Bingo Affiliate of the Year at EGR recently was brilliant. The whole team of 14 of us jumped onstage to take the award! A great way to validate all of the hard work and effort everyone put in.

    What do you do to stay in shape – both physically and mentally?

    I play five-a-side twice a week and I see a personal trainer twice a week. I also intersperse this with swimming (I did 40 lengths only this morning) and I have recently got into cycling through a friend. He took me on a "short ride" this year and I managed 54 miles. Mentally, I try to read business and management articles, which usually spark lots of new ideas, much to the annoyance of the team!

    What do you do with your spare time?

    Apart from the above, I'm a season ticket holder at Leeds United, which for the past 10 years or so has been no fun whatsoever, apart from the cup win against "The Scum" in 2010.

    What did you dream of doing, both professional and personally, when you were a kid?

    My dream as a kid was to play for Leeds United! I think that's as far as my planning went. I managed to leave university with a degree and still no idea what I wanted to do. My path to where I am now has been a mix of opportunities, gut-feeling decisions and a lot of luck.

    When you need to get as far away from work as possible, where do you go?

    We recently bought a villa in Nerja in Spain (just up the coast from Malaga). It is a great little town that's not too touristy with lots of bars and restaurants. Our place is right by the beach and has its own pool, so is perfect to just sit and chill with a beer and a book.

    What's your all-time favorite movie?

    I know it's a cliché, but I do like The Shawshank Redemption. If Bond is on TV I'll quite happily watch that, and I used to love the old black-and-white St Trinian's films.

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

    Billy Bremner, captain of the great Leeds team of the '60s and '70s.
    Moses, just to ask him if all that stuff in the Bible is true (and of course, what's it like talking to God).
    Joe Strummer, lead singer of "the only band that mattered."
    Bill Gates, a man who has truly changed the face of the world.
    My late grandfather; I was named after him but never met him.

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

    I keep chickens – we currently have nine, each with a name.
    I've watched Leeds United at 52 of the 92 league grounds, as well as at two FA Cup finals, a League Cup final and a Champions League Semi Final in Valencia.
    I'm a huge Undertones fan and still go to see them live whenever they are on tour.

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