Want to know how other publishers monetize?

Publisher Roundtable can help!

pub roundtable

We are very excited to announce the second Publisher Roundtable interview, and you’re invited! Publisher Roundtable is designed to provide insights that will help you grow your website in an effective manner. This is achieved by giving publishers the ability to make well-informed business and marketing decisions based off of information collected from those who participate in each of the quarterly interviews.

This Publisher Roundtable interview is focused on an aspect of  marketing that everyone can relate to- monetization. Who wouldn’t want to know how to get a few extra $$ into their bank account each month? After the publishers have completed the short survey, information will be anonymously aggregated, analyzed, and packaged into a helpful “Tips” report exclusively for members. In the report you will be able to compare your specific answers with those of all the other participants. This will help you understand what changes you can make to your online strategy that will help build your business.

Publisher Roundtable was founded on the idea that marketing insights should be collaborative, simple, and free. We are achieving that goal by keeping the surveys short and to the point. That being said, the amount of information that will be collected will be vast and invaluable. Data often comes at a steep price, but participation is all that is required as it is our mission to keep this a completely free service.

Get started now!

Written by Hanna Fritzinger

ForumCon 2014 Highlights

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Last week was our annual conference, ForumCon, and what a conference it was! Here are the most important takeaways from each of the day’s sessions.

What does “Mobile-Optimized” Mean for Communities?

In the opening session, moderator John Boitnott led panelists Tyler Smith, Zach Hobbs, Craig Dalrymple and Howard Steinberg in a discussion on increasing Internet consumption via mobile devices and the effect that is having on forums. The panel emphasized that forums will need to adapt as users increasingly use mobile devices to consume forum content but less so to create new content. Developing countries in particular have many users who access the Internet solely through their mobile devices.

The Lean Community: Simple Tactics for Building Thriving Communities

David Spinks spoke about his first experience in building an online community that was centered around Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. David argued that forums are far more likely to succeed if they are built as an outlet for an existing community, rather than an attempt to build a new community based on corporate interest. Additionally, David informed the audience, despite conventional wisdom, debates between community members could be key to developing stronger community bonds.

The Top 5 Forum Insights that Changed Our Business

Crista Bailey emphasized the importance of encouraging community members to openly  share their content. As the CEO of TextureMedia, Bailey has built the largest online community for women with curly hair. If TextureMedia weren’t an environment where women in this historically-marginalized community felt comfortable sharing their stories and pictures, the brand would not be what it is today.

Moderation and Management of Your Community

Dan Gill moderated the talk about managing online community with panelists Greg Childs, Justin Isaf and Patrick Clinger. The panel members had important insights about who ought to be responsible for electing community managers. One great example was, if someone asks to be a community manager, they probably aren’t a good choice. Instead, ask an active and influential member of your forum to be a manager. There’s a good chance that they are the type of member who plans on being a part of the community for an extended period of time.

Conversation about Online Community

Conversations about Online Community gave attendees the chance break into groups and answer assigned questions. They then chose their best insights to share with the entire ForumCon conference. Attendees made a series of clever suggestions such as, making sure that each community manager receives individual attention and emphasizing the importance of randomized checks on manager decisions. There was also plenty of discussion about whether to remove “downvote” features altogether.

ForumCon Tech Fest

This year’s ForumCon featured the first ever Tech Fest competition with a series of entrepreneurs pitching their products to a panel of expert judges. Each of our presenters had a great pitch, but Panjo and their advertising marketplace for forums ultimately prevailed.

Using Proven Science to Create Highly Addictive Communities

Attendees had the opportunity to learn about proven methods that increase their community’s retention rate from Richard Millington. One of his most interesting pieces of advice was messaging someone right after they join your community might not necessarily the most effective use of your time, especially if your goal is to get them to contribute to the site. Instead, Millington found that responding within five hours to a new member’s first contribution resulted in a 53% increase in the chance that they would contribute again. Additionally, responding within the first hour increased that figure even further.

The Future Discussion of the Web Panel

ForumCon’s final panel was moderated by Nellie Bowles and featured Jeff Atwood, Josh Miller, Daniel Ha and Thomas Plunkett. Our most forward-looking panel spoke about the need to encourage civil discussion online and some of the ways previous efforts to do so had fallen short. For example, insisting that users login through Facebook doesn’t seem to have any effect on their being civil to one another. What’s most important is for people participating in online communities to realize that even without face-to-face interaction there is someone on the receiving end of their comments.

How Purposeful Design Increases Engagement

Courtney Couch explained the power of purposeful design (the holistic approach you take to your site). Couch suggested that every design decision ought to be evaluated on the basis of its benefit for users and not simply because it “could be done” or might look “cool”. His talk tied to previous comments made at ForumCon that the most successful forums are very basic with user-friendly designs.

Thank you to all of you who came and a special thanks to our wonderful sponsors: FORUMS.net, tapatalk, Vanilla, BoardReader, Panjo, Internet Brands, Hi-def Ninja, Vbulletin, Verticalscope and Topix.  Other great wrap-ups have been written byJessica Malnik and Evan Hamilton. You can also check out a great collection of content from the ForumCon Storify and visit our blog for videos of the sessions.

Written by Hanna Fritzinger

Investing in VigLink

VigLink example Today we are incredibly proud to announce the closing of $18 million in Series C financing. The round was led by RRE Ventures and existing investors Google Ventures, Emergence Capital, and First Round Capital are also participating. Additional investment comes from Correlation Ventures and Silicon Valley Bank. We are also very excited that Eric Wiesen, a General Partner with RRE Ventures, will join the VigLink Board of Directors. Eric brings deep experience in technology and business and an infectious passion for where we plan to take the business.

This new infusion of capital is a bet on VigLink — our team, our vision, and our technology. It backs our belief that content creators struggle to capture the true value of their influence. It’s no secret that traditional affiliate marketing vastly undervalues the role publishers play in driving commerce. Our investors understand this and they’ve seen that what we’re building dramatically increases publisher yield.

Looking forward, we aim to finance three areas of expansion:

  1. Publisher and network development
    We plan to invest significantly in our publishers. That means more sales staff to reach out to new publishers and more account management staff to work with our existing publishers. It means businesses interested in working with VigLink will be very pleased to see extremely competitive terms.
  2. Advertiser tools
    We also intend to build out our advertiser offerings – providing them more control and visibility into their targeting and performance.
  3. International expansion
    We intend to finance aggressive international expansion, particularly into Europe and APAC where e-commerce and content publishing are thriving.

We’ve come a long way in the last few years. The VigLink Publisher Network is now more than 10 billion pageviews a month and represents a diverse cross-section of the Internet, from household media brands such as Elle, Road & Track, and CNET to independent bloggers, forum owners, and mobile apps. Over 35,000 advertisers work with VigLink to drive sales, including eBay, Amazon, Nike, Nordstrom, Hilton, and Best Buy. And we’re mapping all of this publisher supply to advertiser demand via the VigLink Exchange (VLX), the world’s first platform on which these site-to-site clicks are priced, bought, and sold.

Still, in many ways, this feels like the beginning. We’ve made it to base camp, and now it’s time to summit. We couldn’t be more excited.

For more information, please refer to our press release.

Posted by Oliver Roup, Founder and CEO

 

Urban Outfitters: Get Out of Town Sale

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The Get Out of Town Sale begins today at Urban Outfitters through Monday 5/26.  For women, this means an additional 25% off all dresses! For men, take 25% off all shorts and tank tops. The discount will automatically be applied to the cart at checkout so no promo code needed!

Be sure to also check out new arrivals and see what’s trending in fashion. With new modern swim from Bond by Chromat, Bing Bang X UO, their newest collaboration of delicate jewelry with NY label Bing Bang, and the newest tees and tanks. Start linking today and earn 8% commission on every sale.

 

 

Update on the Recent SSL Vulnerability, “HeartBleed”

As you may have read, a serious vulnerability was recently discovered in OpenSSL, a widely-used cryptography library that helps protect the privacy of communication on the Internet.  Many sites have been affected by this bug, including VigLink.

Like many other sites, we have updated all of our production servers to a fixed version of OpenSSL and have re-keyed and re-issued all of our digital certificates. In addition, we have reset all open publisher sessions as an extra precaution, so you may need to log in again the next time you access viglink.com.

We have no indication that VigLink has been compromised in any way by this vulnerability.  But we do recommend that all of our customers consider changing their passwords as a precaution.

VigLink takes our customers’ security very seriously.  If you have any further questions about this matter, please feel free to drop us a line at support@viglink.com.

 

Top Photo Gear for Fashion Bloggers

If you’re serious about fashion blogging, sooner or later you’re going to start taking your own photos. Serious photos require a serious camera, but that doesn’t mean you can’t sprinkle in some fun snaps from your phone. With an iPhone 5s and a photo editing app like Snapseed, you can get some great images. But when it comes to getting truly stunning images, a digital SLR is the the only way to go. Here are the top two cameras to consider:

  • Go Full Frame with The Nikon D610
    The Nikon D610 is the best value in a full frame sensor. Full frame sensors offer a few important advantages for the fashion photographer. Physically larger sensors (not number of megapixels) perform better in low light situations, they generate more bokeh (less depth of field so more background blur), and they go wider for less money. With a 24.3-megapixel full-frame CMOS sensor, the Nikon D610 is the most affordable way into full frame.

  • Go anywhere with the Canon SL1
    If want your camera with you at all times, go for the lightest, smallest DSLR you can find. The very affordable Canon SL1 is currently the smallest DSLR in the world, but still packs a solid 18-megapixel sensor and a 3 inch screen.

With any SLR camera, you’ll need to consider the right lens. While lenses can get pricey, with the resolving power of today’s sensors, lens quality has never been more important. For fashion, if you only get one lens, get the best 50mm prime lens you can afford, ideally one with an aperture of 1.8 or lower. 50mm works great for portraits and walking around, and they’re fairly compact. Zoom lenses are big, bulky, and just don’t produce images as nice as prime lenses.

In the end, it’s all about getting the right tool for the job. You don’t need the $44k medium format Hasselblad H5D-200, but you should seriously think twice about going for a prosumer point and shoot like the Canon PowerShot G1 X – a do it all camera never really does it all well. Nothing matches the image quality of a DSLR, and when it comes to the content of your blog, quality is king!

Forums Rock and Our Report Proves It

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At VigLink, we obviously love forums. We operate ForumCon, the largest conference for forum owners. Part of why we love forums is, plainly put, they deliver. In our Q4 Content-Commerce Report we found the only type of content site that outperformed forums in terms of EPC (earnings per click) was deals and coupon sites. Forums outperformed blogs and editorial sites by more than 50%. They even beat out pin boards, which is one of the fastest growing content categories and highly focused on shopping.

As people who have spent a lot of time with forums, we weren’t surprised by these numbers. Forums consistently deliver clicks from users who have sought out a recommendation for a product or who trust the posters to provide unbiased, relevant product guidance.

What makes us even more excited about forums is that we see a huge transformation taking shape in the space. The general (and somewhat correct) view of forums is that they are something of an Internet dinosaur, well-loved but a bit crusty. Many forums are running on archaic software. Too many forums in the past have opted for saturation-style advertising that overwhelms the discussion threads.

Many of our savvy forum customers have been reducing the display ad pollution to make their sites more friendly. Some have stopped subjecting registered users to display ads of any shape or form, opting to monetize those loyal visitors only through affiliate links on products mentioned in native content. That behavior is actually being echoed by large publishers who have steadily reduced the number of impressions and ad units available on their sites after remnant firesales made it hard to sell ad inventory at premium rates.

The forum category itself is enjoying an exciting wave of innovation. NextDoor, the red-hot hyper-local online community and social network, is growing like crazy. Quibb, Quora and other modern QA sites are reinventing the old forum as something more general yet more interesting.

You also have Jeff Atwood, co-founder of Stack Exchange and founder of the new startup Discourse.  His new company is about to release its 1.0 version of a new type of open source software designed to power forums. Discourse aims to radically improve the user experience and social interactions by allowing forum visitors and posters to focus on what’s most important – civility, participation and high quality discourse. Atwood is explicitly aiming to replicate the success of WordPress by creating a vibrant ecosystem of services and tools around open source forum software. Then there’s Huddler, which truly represents the next generation of forums with a compelling mix of expert editorial and community engagement.

In fact, we think forums will perform even stronger as a category as we route more traffic through the VigLink Exchange via broader product and merchant coverage. Since we launched our link optimizer technology (which allows merchants to bid for traffic on links to product mentions), EPCs for these exchange-priced clicks have roughly doubled.

As we continue to invest in the platform, we are connecting more merchants to more publishers more often. The total number of optimized and auctioned links is growing. Total revenue is rising for our forum owner customers, even though they already generate some of the most valuable clicks on the web. That’s great for forum giants like Internet Brands, ProBoards and Huddler as well as smaller but vibrant online communities like AskAndyAboutClothes. We can’t wait to see what the next quarter and next year brings for our friends in the forums.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Sears Days: lowest prices of the season

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Don’t miss the lowest prices of the season during Sears Days starting today! Tell your readers about Sears’ biggest sale of the year on thousands of items in Tools, Outdoor Living, Electronics and more plus 2 Day Super Buys.

Now all VigLink users will earn 7% commission on Sears. Help your readers save big and start linking today to earn more.

 

 

Affiliate Managers: Close the Gap on Mobile EPCs

Last month Oliver Roup, founder and CEO of VigLink, spoke at Affiliate Management Days San Francisco on the topic of mobile affiliate marketing. The audience was primarily composed of affiliate managers at large networks, agencies, and brands and Oliver’s talk came as a bit of a wake up call.

He began by providing context around e-commerce and mobile shopping: mobile shopping is mainstream, but actually buying from a mobile phone lags big time.

  • Overall, online sales are cannibalizing in-store sales: E-commerce sales are up 30%, while in-store sales are down 3.3%
  • Of all these online shoppers, 57% of them use mobile sometimes, and full 1/3rd use mobile exclusively.
  • Surprisingly, a full 50% of time spent shopping is done on mobile
  • Even more surprisingly, just 16% of online sales come from phones and tablets.

For affiliates and publishers, the net result is that mobile clicks are worth less than desktop clicks. On average, for every dollar earned from a desktop click, only $0.53 is earned from a mobile click.

mobile epc vs desktop

To explain why this a discrepancy exists, Oliver pointed to three main reasons:

Small screens are challenging 
Mobile phones and tablets demand a different user experience to really drive sales. The most successful retailers get this. They build intuitive, clean, easy to use, and fast mobile web shopping experiences. Some do this so well that they actually drive more sales per click on mobile than desktop. It’s definitely possible.

Mobile is, well, mobile
Much of the time spent on a mobile device is done away from the confines of a desk. By its nature mobile is wherever the user is and often, these environments are distracting. Waiting in line, watching TV, riding the train – these are not ideal moments to go through the 24 screens required to complete a purchase.

Mobile has tracking issues
It’s a difficult (but not insurmountable) technology challenge to track all the mobile clicks that lead to purchase. Clicks on mobile that lead to purchase on the desktop are hard to track back to the referring website. Clicks on mobile that lead to purchase via a retailer’s mobile app are also hard to track back. But since when was anything worth doing ever easy?

If retailers want to compete for mindshare among the content producers that drive commerce, they need to close the gap on mobile earnings per click before their competitors do.

Posted by Oliver Deighton, VP Marketing

Facebook Bests Twitter in Traffic Quality

The latest findings from Publisher Roundtable show that Facebook ranks #1 when it comes to how satisfied publishers are with the quality of traffic. That’s the good news. The less good news is that only 40% of publishers are actually satisfied with their Facebook traffic. The next best was Pinterest with a discouraging 31% satisfaction rate.

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The current Publisher Roundtable interview probes questions around how publishers build their audience. Over 250 publishers have already joined in. So far we’ve learned a lot about which channels drive repeat visitors (Social), which channels drive first time visitors (SEO), and which channels don’t help much at all (SEM).

To see more results, check out our press release. If you haven’t yet, join Publisher Roundtable and see where your numbers stack up compared to publishers of a similar size and type. It’s totally free and takes about 15 minutes.