Whenever big events happen in the online poker industry I try to reach out to people who I respect and might have some insights not necessarily being presented in the news. Most of the time the people I speak with don’t want to go on record and don’t really even want me to share much of what we’ve discussed. They’re happy to share for my benefit in understanding or perhaps they just feel like they need someone to talk to as well. I respect that.
One of the people who always seems to have a more informed than most view of what’s going on is Jeremy Enke. Jeremy is the founder of the largest poker affiliate forum in the industry at PokerAffiliateListings.com. Jeremy has been a poker affiliate and consultant within the online poker industry since 2004.
He was kind enough to answer a few questions about where things are going in the affiliate world and share his answers here.
What was your first reaction when you heard the news about Black Friday?
I initially read about this news in a post on PAL and thought that it was a joke. Then I began thinking perhaps some of these sites got hacked. Needless to say, after an hour so, it became very clear that this was indeed the real deal. It gave me a chilling feeling of Déjà vu from September of 2006.
Without going into too much detail, what’s the personal fallout for you?
Since 2006 after losing a significant portion of my affiliate revenue, I have worked hard to diversify my business both inside and outside of gaming. Without question though, I am losing affiliate income by these rooms exiting the U.S. market. However at the same time I have also increased my promotional efforts with the poker sites who have decided to stay in the U.S.
Trying to completely replace the monthly revenue from a few of these rooms will be no easy task though. With no guarantees what the overall landscape will look like in the future, I have also been embracing new marketing projects that are not as dependent on affiliate revenues.
How many affiliates do you think are going out of business because of Black Friday?
While there is no question that several poker affiliates have taken significant hits in their revenues do to Black Friday, I think only small percentage will actually go “out of business”. Instead I foresee many choosing to simply leave the gambling affiliate niche altogether and pursue more stable verticals within affiliate marketing.
Regardless of the top four poker rooms leaving the U.S. market, there is still a great opportunity to convert U.S. players to new rooms right now. Since 2006, there have never been so many U.S. based online poker players searching for new rooms to play at. Likewise from a global perspective, there is still a wealth of opportunity for poker affiliates to remain in the industry and continue building or (re-building) their affiliate businesses.
What is the best advice you can give to affiliates right now who have taken a significant hit in their earnings?
The best piece of advice I would give is to take action right now so that you never find yourself in this position again. Let’s face it, the poker affiliate market is one of the most lucrative affiliate niche’s. Unfortunately, as it has been for years, it is also one of the most uncertain niche’s.
Affiliates should not only be diversifying within the online poker market, but also exploring new industries and businesses. The best course of action for affiliates moving forward is to continue building their businesses within poker affiliate market with a decreased focus on the U.S. market. Poker affiliates should also leverage their Internet marketing skills to diversify and build multiple sources of income throughout other niche’s.
Long story short, don’t put all your eggs in one basket.
Prior to all of this Bwin as well as other online poker operators seem to be heading towards a more confrontational or even predatory approach towards their affiliates. What do you think has caused this about-face and are affiliates better or worse off after Black Friday in terms of further changes coming?
There is no question that over the past three years, online poker executives have been looking for ways to decrease the amount they pay affiliates each month. Whether it is decreasing our commission rates, placing quarterly minimums to stay active, or imposing nonsense 60-day conversion rules; it is being discussed in the board rooms.
It’s unfortunate that although poker affiliates were a key marketing factor for some of these poker sites becoming powerhouses; our perceived value (even before Black Friday) to these operators has since diminished. If there was ever a time to see the gauntlet dropped on poker affiliates by large operators, this would be it. With the exception of a few solid affiliate programs, in my opinion, affiliates will be worse off with these large operators due to Black Friday.