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  1. #1
    webanalysissolutions is offline Private Member
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    Default We Need an Affiliates Union

    I've been in this industry 10 years and I've seen most things. There are some great advertisers out there, and great companies to work with and there are some bad ones too. If you read the forums you'll see many negative stories (yes, I accept people may only tend to post when they're disgruntled).

    However, what cannot be denied is the number of anecdotes that run along the same themes:
    • Lack of payment
    • Lack of communication from advertisers
    • Bad terms and conditions
    • Changes to terms and conditions at the drop of a hat
    • Accounts being closed
    • Player accounts going missing/stolen/skimmed/de-tagged
    • Spamming/scamming/harassment
    • Legal issues


    This industry just seems to get worse sometimes, and although we're all affiliates, and you could therefore argue we're all competing to sign up players and earn money, we do have a common interest in having a lot of issues ironed out through collective bargaining.

    It would take a while to set up, and a while to build momentum, but if the end game was that we had an affiliates union representing x million visitors to various categories of affiliate sites, we would then have a collective amount of power to challenge, guide, and set the way that advertisers work.

    For example, no longer would we have to put up with a company just moving to a new affiliate system, dropping your cookie length from 14 days to 72 hours, and moving to a system that reduced transparency by 80% https://www.gpwa.org/forum/ladbrokes...rs-213770.html

    At the moment the way most affiliates work is in isolation of each other, with the odd few coming to forums like this to vent their concerns, usually when it's too late. We then all complain about stuff, and the odd person gets in touch with the advertiser, and sometimes things do get changed. Sometimes the odd affiliate walks away from an advertiser and drops them from their sites, but it scratches the surface, the advertiser doesn't care, and moves on.

    Put it another way - if we had some sort of affiliates union that we could then use as one voice to go to advertisers and negotiate then this would be much more effective. If an advertiser did not want to negotiate change, then ultimately as a collective we have the power to walk away from that advertiser, removing affiliate traffic for a period, or permanently (timed strikes would dent an advertiser's traffic if they really did not want to play ball, and moreso would affect their reputation as a good advertiser). Advertisers rely on affiliates - i've seen it estimated that 40% of business comes from affiliates, so they can't do without us.

    How this union would be set up is up for debate - it would essentially operate like a traditional trades union - perhaps funded by a small subscription, run like a company with staff and an elected head etc. The elected head could be voted in each year, so any affiliate could lead the union if they so desired. Those putting their effort into running the union for the collective whole would be paid a salary. This structure would give us a permanent and established structure on working with advertisers, instead of how we all operate today. It would be an outlet for any affiliate to use to get the above issues resolved.

    Any thoughts?

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  3. #2
    -Shay- is offline Public Member
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    An affiliate union a good idea on paper at best in my opinion.

    For starters, the agenda of webmasters is too different. For example, when looking at an operator, the most important thing to me is player experience (fair terms for the player, pays them in a timely manner, strong history, helpful support, attractive & fair games). Some webmasters, sadly, do not care about those things as they have no problem promoting the Lock Pokers or Lock Casinos of the world despite cashout times for many players exceeding 9 months & numerous lies/avoidances coming from their management team to both players and affiliates. Thus, the webmasters who either do not care, don't pay attention to player issues, don't know the industry beyond "marketing", or can be bought off will promote/continue to promote rogue sites of that nature regardless of what you, me, or a Union tells them.

    Second, you'd probably find that some people will disagree with the head of the Union. There would be constant wonder if they are pushing their own agenda or if they're in the pocket of some casino that "the membership" doesn't agree with. Thus, you'll have dissent amongst the rank and file members.

    Third, unless you completely agree with leadership, agenda, standards, etc. of the Union - are you going to pay a subscription fee?

    At the end of the day, we're all businessmen and women and it is quite simple. If you've done your homework on a program and operator, you'll work with quality ones who will not spring massive, unwelcomed changes or unfavourable terms on you. If you keep an open line of communication with the programs, you'll sometimes be consulted when change within the organization is being considered, as they will value your opinion.

    If in that relationship, things begin moving south - utilize a venue of this nature (GPWA) to help resolve things after you've discussed with the program rep. If things do not improve, then drop the program. You'll find that taking this (open dialogue) approach will reduce (but not 100% prevent) the number of times you have to resort to "name dropping" in the forums or dropping a program.

    There's no perfect formula to "right" this industry but I personally believe a Union would be a step in the wrong direction and would never join such an entity. Having standards, sticking to said standards, and establishing/building/maintaining a two-way communication between yourself and the programs you work with are the best way to keep "bad things" from happening.

    (note: the above was written during coffee cup #1 of the day, apologies if the thoughts were incomplete or bordering rambling)

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  5. #3
    webanalysissolutions is offline Private Member
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    Good perspective on the matter. However, we've tried open dialogue for years with operators, and we still keep seeing bad practice, and it seems to be getting worse.

    I certainly vote with my feet and drop programs if they perform badly or are not good partners. I just wish other affiliates would do the same. I think perhaps some sort of loose collective that could take action like stopping advertising an operator when they behave badly would be better than 5 or so of us on GPWA taking action on a post or two on the forums. At the moment operators plough ahead with change as they know it will only scratch the surface when it comes to losing the odd affiliate as a result.

    Not saying a union is the answer, but perhaps something with more power than a handful of affiliates on a forum.

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    As long as there's people out there who will accept a listing fee + high percentage for "shady" programs, this won't ever happen.

    Again, going back to Lock Poker, there's a "news rewriting" site who pushes them hard. There's also gambling 911 pushing them hard and some affiliate portals who I will not name that are also pushing them hard - never once mentioning payout issues. This all goes on despite two plus two dropping them as a sponsor (tip of the hat to them for doing so) and despite that community and other similar communities putting pressure on Lock Poker. As long as a few "big fish" continue to create the illusion that they are reputable, they will continue to be shitbags to affiliates and players alike.

    The same stands true for other programs who jack us around or don't do right by the traffic we send them.

    Basically, I think it would take nothing short of the ENTIRE industry taking a stand in order to right things of this nature here.

  7. #5
    webanalysissolutions is offline Private Member
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    Very true. Agree whole heartedly. Just damn frustrating some times that you have to keep an eagle eye on certain programs you work with to ensure you're not either deliberately getting ripped off, or mistakenly getting ripped off (e.g. true data errors).

    Alternatively you can just work with the good guys, and drop anyone who plays badly and never go back to them. I've had a few conversations in the past few weeks where i've had to take a hard line and say goodbye to some programs. They do come back begging a few weeks later, but you have to stick to your principles.

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  9. #6
    -Shay- is offline Public Member
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    We have levels of tolerance within our scheme of whom we will work with. Generally, we only encounter problems being paid "on time" around conference times or due to stated "Jewish Holidays" (both of which is my personal pet peeves, as programs know well in advance when both of them fall). We are pro-active in issuing warnings, suspending, and even terminating campaigns if a program shows signs of not being "player friendly" on a temporary or long-term basis.

    We do have a "vetting process" in place, which results in our turning down most offers when we're approached to work with someone. Too many people (in my opinion) jump at every high percentage rev share or big CPA offer thrown their way. When we were new to the game, we did this as well. However, when we started knowing what we "didn't know", we smartened up.

    Generally, when a program approaches us, we do some research into their background. We first look at who "owns" and/or operates the program and where they are located vs. where they are licenced. If a program is located in Malta for example, but licenced in Curacao - we will not do business with them. Likewise, if they are situated in one jurisdiction but licenced in another, we often want to know why. Generally, we will not conduct business with any operator or program that is situated in a few different countries (Cyprus for example) due to various personal preferences and past experiences.

    We are also critical depending on what licence the program holds. We also will not do business with anyone who actively markets to a US facing audience within the same platforms on offer at the program we're considering (again personal preference that has kept us "out of trouble" for the most part).

    Providing the program passes the "background check", we then look into whether players have had issues. Are there "legitimate" complaints about the program? If so, how were they addressed? Was the program proactive in resolving the issues? Did they put the "blinders" on and pretend there were no issues? How long ago did said issues occur? What has changed between now and then?

    After investigating for problems and presenting any concerns to the affiliate manager that we have questions about, we then dive into the affiliate terms and conditions. If the terms are not "affiliate friendly", we won't do business. This hasn't always been the case with us though, as there are a few programs that have quite horrible terms and somehow we have an account with them (Paddy Partners comes to mind - Luke is a great guy and Paddy Power is a solid brand, but truth be told - that only gets you so far).

    We're also trying to sort through to a resolution for an operator buying out another operator we used to promote (and somehow a year's time went by with both parties accusing the other of having the players tracked to us). However, we are in the process of divesting in such programs at the moment (programs that fall into Paddy Partner's set of circumstances).

    Aside from the above, we've managed to avoid any "serious" issues, which I firmly believe it is due to our "standards". Going forward, we are committed to being even more "selective" with whom we begin working.

    All that said, I share your wish that other webmasters were as critical - or even nearly as critical with who they work with. There are so many big portals in our niche that will advertise absolutely anyone who ships the money listed on their "rate sheet" - regardless of the operator's reputation. As long as there are "prostitutes" like that in our industry, any efforts to "organize" some sort of union or even an alliance will fail if the goal is to be effective. Until then, all I can do is continue to be critical of whom I work with and speak up as an advocate for players/affiliates and against programs that do not treat players and webmasters the way I believe they/we should be treated.

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  11. #7
    webanalysissolutions is offline Private Member
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    Great post Shay, it's reassuring to know that the entire process you go through we do too. I sometimes feel a bit over-critical of programs but we also did "wise up" to the industry and carefully choose who we promote. We've probably still got a few "bad" guys on our sites, but as long as they keep working for us and paying out then they can stay. However we keep a close eye on them.

    Agree with you on headline offers - quite often you'll get a massive CPA offered and you think "well, what's the point having $xxx CPA when you're giving with one hand and taking from me with the other?".

    I don't like programs and people who try to pull the wool over your eyes too. Far too often I've seen blatant lies just so that some affiliate manager can meet their KPI of getting space on your homepage in order to achieve their own performance bonus. Sounds cynical, but you have to be in this industry to succeed.

    If any advertiser passes my vetting process I then monitor them on a 2 weekly basis. We have a lot of traffic, so it doesn't take us long to put through a few thousand clicks to an advertiser. As far as I'm concerned if it's not performing after a good number of clicks, and you can't explain it, then it's not worth it. I've had advertisers say to me after 2 weeks "you need to give us another month", when I've just given them 3000 click throughs and zero conversion!

    I also do filter out by physical & licence location, although not as a strict rule. I've been fleeced a few times by operators in a certain location, so it's a shame to tar them all with the same brush, but I don't trust certain locations. Just experience, and when you get your fingers burnt a few times you're not going to put them back in the fire.

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  13. #8
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    I read the first post on this and agree some type of collective bargaining would be good especially for small and new affiliates. I may be reiterating some of what you guys have already said in the subsequent posts but my two cents is that all you really need is a big affiliate to have your back.

    A big enough affiliate that if they pull their traffic from the program it will hurt the program. That way if a smaller affiliate has a problem they try to resolve it on their own. Then if they do not get resolution they contact the big affiliate who steps in. Problem solved. Before I started making a decent amount of money I use to have to wait for resolution on a lot of things. It was frustrating!! Now that I drive a good bit of traffic - magic - my concerns are address quickly and resolved.

    Unfortunately, as with any business this is just the way it is. 90% of the affiliate managers time is probably spent on 10% of their clients. If you could get someone who has enough pull to go to bat for you I think it would work. The problem is most bigger affiliates really do not have a lot of time to do that. A fee would almost be a must so they could maybe hire someone to do the leg work and only have to get involved if things could not get ironed out.

    Good luck!
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  14. #9
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    Sports betting affiliate here.

    The biggest problem, in my opinion, are not the companies providing affiliate programs, but affiliates who won't stand up for the fellow affiliate. If company XY hurt one affiliate, and he writes a bad review and warns other webmasters not to work with them, guess what - they still will. Especially if a big affiliate is making money and a small one got hurt. The big affiliate doesn't care.

    We need to hang together or we'll hang separately.

    Most affiliates are amateurs just working from home and not really knowing how to do real business, and if they're small affiliates they don't have strong negotiating positions. That's the source of the problem. I've been thinking about forming a similar union in my region but I know a webmaster will always choose profit over standing up for what's right.

    You can only get negotiating power if you got a group of affiliates which are men enough to say "no". If you don't have that, the affiliate programs will sooner or later realize you're soft and you'll be nothing other than a fictional union with no power. 72-hour cookie length isn't illegal, you can only make 14 days a standard if you got a strong union demanding it. Or if you have a website comparing all the aff programs and the ones with 72-hour cookies just stand out.

    It doesn't have to be an official union. A website reviewing and detailing affiliate programs and the ways companies do business (an opinionated article) would be enough. Plus a badge which would instantly say a webmaster is informed and is supporting the transparency and is capable of saying "no" to bad terms and conditions.

    Or a badge issued to the operators. You set the standard to 14-day cookie length, and anyone who doesn't fulfill that requirement can't get a badge. You set the standard for what "lifetime" revenue share is.

    Widespread transparency is the way to go, not the crusade. Teach the affiliates what questions to ask the affiliate manager who approached them with an offer. Teach the affiliates what are the key points. Otherwise they'll still fall for "50% revenue share for the first three months", which is basically 50% of peanuts as RS is a long-time partnership and you can't accumulate enough players in three months. Unless your site is huge.

    To conclude, people who drive traffic won't have any power until they develop the capability of pulling the plug on traffic.
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    A union would no doubt be ridiculously complex and as there's no governing authority at the minute, a lot of people would have to step up to the plate. But a lot of these would be big affiliates who have enough leverage that they don't need to worry too much about it, so why go to all the effort they might think. A bit of a catch 22...

    Quote Originally Posted by DanHorvat View Post
    Sports betting affiliate here.

    The biggest problem, in my opinion, are not the companies providing affiliate programs, but affiliates who won't stand up for the fellow affiliate. If company XY hurt one affiliate, and he writes a bad review and warns other webmasters not to work with them, guess what - they still will. Especially if a big affiliate is making money and a small one got hurt. The big affiliate doesn't care.
    If something were to be put in place, looking at from my position, some sort of trusted board/mediators would be appreciated. There can be instances were people can jump the gun.
    An example that's happened a few times is misunderstanding of payments. Someone doesn't get paid on the 8th, makes a complaint and posts about on a forum. Immediately the aff program looks bad. But the terms state 8 business days after 1st of the month and the affiliate is 3 days under schedule. Now there's an online backlash, some aff's might never see we did nothing wrong and associate us with payment issues, which we work so hard to keep quick and smooth.
    So basically in short: I can't see any drawbacks to a Union, I just think it's an almost impossible endeavour but I guess talking about it is the first step.

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  17. #11
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    The collective group of affiliates here at the GPWA have done more for the industry then any union wannabe group ever could.

    It is true that many affiliates do not feel the same about each other as they used to, and many that have joined the industry and us here the last few years are more concerned about temselves then they are about the overall health of the industry, but the idea of a union has come up manymany times over the years and it would not work netter today then it would have years ago.

    What can and does get things done is for affiliate to openly and honestly discuss issues without fear of ridicule, looking for collective solutions to problems. The only way this works is when those involved in the discussions are willing to leave there own preconceived notions about things in advance and honestly and openly look at facts.

    Sadly that seems to happen less now, and there is too much of a feeling of "us and them" (those that agree and those that disagree).

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    Quote Originally Posted by universal4 View Post
    The collective group of affiliates here at the GPWA have done more for the industry then any union wannabe group ever could.
    I think a union would have a different purpose and structure to a set of independent affiliates on a forum. For example, they would take action as one body rather than all independently add views and hope that an advertiser changes something for them. In the most extreme case a union could strike against an advertiser, withdrawing support and therefore affecting their profit in a direct way. A set of affiliates on a discussion forum would never have that amount of power or collective agreement to take that sort of action.

    We see far too many companies not changing bad terms and sitting on them and basically saying "well, if you don't like it, go somewhere else", and people do go somewhere else, but the fact is the company does this because they know at LAC next year there will be a load of new fresh faced affiliates they can suck into advertising them on bad terms. I'm talking session cookies, no cross product earnings, total lack of transparency in stats, paying months late or not paying at all. All of these practices have been around and will continue to be around for however long GPWA exists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by universal4 View Post
    It is true that many affiliates do not feel the same about each other as they used to, and many that have joined the industry and us here the last few years are more concerned about themselves then they are about the overall health of the industry
    Don't you think though, yes, every affiliate is ultimately wanting to make money for themselves, just as in every company each employee wants to get that pay rise ahead of other employees, but collectively with a bit of marketing and education people would understand that a 30 day cookie is better than a session cookie, and having more transparency in stats is better than companies migrating to new systems and completely hiding information.

    No matter how big or small an affiliate you are you would have some collective interest in changing the industry for the better, and with a bit of momentum in terms of number of people signed up to this collective agreement, as a big affiliate you may probably not be able to not afford to be part of it.

    For a start, my two sites get 10 million page views per month - not small. I'd be happy to challenge companies on bad terms not only for my own benefit but for the benefit of the industry as a whole. In the long run if terms are made fairer across the board then all advertiser companies have to pull themselves up to the minimum workable standards. I'm not talking about harassing companies into putting in place terms heavily in favour of the affiliate, but things like session cookies or no cross product earnings are below standard for this industry.

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    A union is not the answer. It only reinforces the "us vs them" theory that Universal mentions and politics will invariably interfere at some point.

    The answer is simply to build a good relationship between yourself and the programs you work with. That means you have to give as well as take but what it does do is put you in a good position when it comes to negotiating positions.

    Relationships are the building blocks of business (and of life) and what you don't do is make yourself awkward to work with. Which is what a union does.

    Shay's first post in this thread is brilliant and spot on in every aspect IMO.

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    Fair enough point. Not saying that a union would be awkward or aggressive, or be an us and them sort of thing, just a collective and channelled discussion outlet - like here, but more structured in terms of what issues are addressed in a certain time period, instead of thousands of posts that go unanswered and just fall by the way side and nothing ever done. For example, how many times can you go back through posts and find an affiliate 5 years ago complaining about a company moving to a new affiliate system and stitching up the terms? It happens over and over again.

    It would save the advertisers talking to 40,000 affiliates (and no, they can't talk to anyone, hence we get emails never replied to etc etc), and would avoid the situation where big affiliates hold all the chips.

    Like I said before, I'm not coming at this from a small affiliate position myself.

    I can see the other side of the debate though. It's just frustrating that the way we all work now is not ideal - far from it, and I keep seeing changes in the industry that make me think that in 2 years time a lot of the short-sightedness we see from some of the big affiliates will result in an industry that just focuses on a handful of big affiliates. It's almost like that already.

    For example, as a sports (or any) affiliate have a look around and you're busting a gut pushing some standard banners with a sign up bonus, but big affiliate x will have a custom banner with a sign bonus double the amount. Your miniscule traffic cannot compete with the big guy in the first place as he'll most likely cookie the customer after you and overwrite yours, and on top of that they're able to talk to the advertiser and get a better, more attractive offer than you.

    I wouldn't be surprised if some affiliates get a longer cookie length than you do. That's the way it's going - perhaps as an affiliate with more bargaining power on your own you could negotiate this.

    To be honest, as a big affiliate myself (I think we were top 10 or top 15 in the affiliate guide at BAC last year based on Experian Hitwise stats) I'm happy to continue "looking after myself" but I do acknowledge that I would benefit from being part of a larger bargaining group.

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    I think a union would have a different purpose and structure to a set of independent affiliates on a forum. For example, they would take action as one body rather than all independently add views and hope that an advertiser changes something for them. In the most extreme case a union could strike against an advertiser, withdrawing support and therefore affecting their profit in a direct way. A set of affiliates on a discussion forum would never have that amount of power or collective agreement to take that sort of action.
    This is exactly what the GPWA did many years ago. In fact, the very idea that any affiliate program offers a No Negative Carry Over is an idea that was born here at the GPWA and it was the collective support of affiliates here, as well as the support of a few other forums that were active during those days, that convinced programs to accept it.

    You make mention of reading old threads where a program made changes which had a detrimental effect on affiliates and although this is true, having a union would not stop these changes.

    Groups like the GPWA can not stop these changes either, but allowing affiliates to independantly decide whether to continue to work with those programs has the largest impact. All a union would do is cause more conflict within itself since a union would have to fight internal battles between those in support of the said program against those who would not support it. (allowing affiliates to stay independant is the fairest for all involved)

    I'm happy to continue "looking after myself" but I do acknowledge that I would benefit from being part of a larger bargaining group.
    You are part of a larger bargaining group, it's just that too many of those individuals within that group either don't understand that fact or they have forgotten it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by universal4 View Post
    No Negative Carry Over is an idea that was born here at the GPWA and it was the collective support of affiliates here, as well as the support of a few other forums that were active during those days, that convinced programs to accept it.
    and most programs still keep negative carry over and won't change it.

    Either way it's done, companies will only truly have to make their terms fairer is when it hits their bottom line. However this is done that means affiliates pulling their support from them. I've heard it estimated (by operators) that their business is 40% reliant on affiliate traffic, plus it's a lot cheaper than expensive TV ads etc. As you said:

    Quote Originally Posted by universal4 View Post
    but allowing affiliates to independantly decide whether to continue to work with those programs has the largest impact.
    Problem with this independent approach is, for whatever reasons, affiliates don't pull their support and we see, even very big sites, still advertising the companies with the worst terms in the industry. I suspect they have a sweeter deal to do so, which other affiliates don't/won't get. I also suspect that a lot of affiliates are not that savvy in keeping an eye on how programs are performing for them and what the T&Cs mean to them - I saw someone on this forum the other day asking what "no cross product earnings" meant!

    Even myself, it took me 5 years to get around to using the affiliate forums. I admit I was probably in that na´ve category before that, and was probably stitched up a number of times.

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    From an affiliate perspective, I have never seen a comprehensive overview of sports betting affiliate programs - or even decent individual reviews - where I could see which operator keeps negative carryover, which doesn't, and which lies about not having it.

    So I have to learn on my own, most affiliates do, and that's the prime reason why they get burned. An average affiliate has no idea what's going on on the operator side, can't even begin to understand it, all he knows is that he's earning money for nothing and is happy with that.
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    Quote Originally Posted by DanHorvat View Post
    An average affiliate has no idea what's going on on the operator side, can't even begin to understand it, all he knows is that he's earning money for nothing and is happy with that.
    Even an experienced affiliate has no idea sometimes too. For example, try to work out what the definition of "net revenue" is for most bookmakers. There are usually some vague terms in there about net losses minus bonuses minus a load of other ambiguous stuff like "software costs". So, basically they can tell you whatever they want.

    I've seen some affiliates try to get this definition, sometimes successfully, but it's a pain to have to go around all your advertisers like a lawyer trying to work out every interpretation of everyone's 30 page contract.

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    I happen to know the exact calculation of net revenue for a grand total of 1 bookmaker. But I don't know the cookie duration and the lifetime of a customer though. Didn't bother to ask as I'm preocuppied with actually running a business instead of nitpicking.

    But if I had that information available somewhere in form of a nice easy to read article, I sure would be reading it before I even start a partnership.

    Do you think it's possible to decypher the exact calculations for net revenue? For example, if I wanted to check how much I earn if my customer loses $100 with various operators, could it be done?

    Is there a way to find out how many referred players are stolen by the operator and never appear in any stats?
    Last edited by DanHorvat; 6 December 2013 at 6:03 pm.
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