Jason Calacanis Doesn’t Understand Affiliate Marketers

Written by Zac Johnson
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Before any Affiliate Summit sessions even started, Jason Calacanis had set the stage for what would become one of the most controversial Affiliate Summit yet. From past reputation, it was expected that Jason Calacanis would provide a useful keynote, or take a hatchet to the industry and do whatever it takes to turn the event around and make it his own. While most of Calacanis’ keynote was on how spammy the affiliate marketing industry is (by his terms), it was also a bash fest on many well known figures in the affiliate industry such as Seth Godin, Shoemoney, myself and Ted Murphy. The keynote will also go down with some memorable quotes, such as “Affiliate marketing is bullshit. Thank you.” and “Anyone here from PayPerPost? You need to kill yourself. I’m kidding. Well, I wouldn’t mind it if you did.”.

I’m Not Hiding… I’m Happy with My Life and My “Pathetic” Six Figure Checks.

Love him or hate him… Calacanis made some valid points during his keynote… but how much will actually be done as a result of his keynote or commitment to the affiliate industry. Some of you may have thought his Affiliate Summit Keynote was simply amazing, and it’s about time someone stood up to the industry. However, his Affiliate Summit keynote really wasn’t that original at all. Just refer back to when Jason did his keynote at the Le Web conference. It’s almost like we are watching the Affiliate Summit keynote all over again… he even says the same exact things. I can only imagine Calacanis took a few hours to browse through the affiliate industry to pick out some new targets to liven up his multi-purpose keynote speech.

A new focus for his keynote this time was to point out “pathetic” top affiliates who posts large checks from affiliate earnings, such as Shoemoney and myself. Calacanis goes on to say You guys think small. Holding up a 6 figure check is just pathetic. That’s your industry’s biggest success? Really?. Yes, it may be pathetic to the boys in Silicon Valley who live and die with venture money and only count money in millions. However we are the “affiliate” industry, and more than not, we enjoy our “simple” lives of dedication and earning what we earn while working out of our homes. I would never trade my life or income levels to impress anyone or work outside of my current work ethic.

The whole intention of releasing my check post (which was less than 2 weeks ago), was to inspire and help others achieve that dream. Telling someone who is just starting out in the industry to go out there and make $25 million is just irrational. I am not a long sales page… I am trying to help and inspire. The Calacanis keynote at Affiliate Summit only angered, confused and discouraged any new life that was in the audience that day… it should be the other way around.

Whether it be WickedFire or ABestWeb, everyone seems to have a different opinion on the guy. If Calacanis’ intention was to come to Affiliate Summit and stir up some attention for himself, he has done a good job. Here are just a few of the blogs which have posted on his rants about affiliate marketing.

Blog Coverage:
You’re Not the Boss of Me | My Thoughts on Jason Calacanis | Jason Calacanis Keynote | Thank You Jason Calacanis | ASW08 Calacanis Keynote | Jason Calacanis Keynote Recap Affiliate Summit | Don’t Pollote the River, Affiliates Told | Keynote Jason Calacanis | Jason Calacanis at Affiliate Summit West 08 | Are You an Affiliate Marketer? You Suck! | Affiliate Summit Day 1 Speech | Affiliate Summit Day 2 | ASW 08 Looking Back | Why Mahalo will Fail and the Problems with General Search | Controversial Jason Calacanis Summit Keynote | Affiliate Marketers Pathetic | Jason Calacanis Insults Affiliate Summit Attendees | Jason Calacanis Embarrasing ShoeMoney

Revenews Coverage:
Live Blogging the Jason Calacanis Keynote at Affiliate Summit | Mahalo’s Missing DNA Back at You Jason Calacanis | Calacanis and the Real Hurdles of Affiliate Marketing | Four Thoughts from Affiliate Summit West 2008

The bottom line is, Calacanis came to Affiliate Summit with the intention to get attention and that’s what everyone gave him. Not to mention the awesome viral exposure it has given to Affiliate Summit itself. I agree there is a great deal of problems in the affiliate / marketing industry, but do you think the same people causing these problems are the ones paying $1500 a head to attend Affiliate Summit? As for the personal and industry attacks from Calacanis… (if you weren’t able to attend the UnKeynote at AffiliateSummit), it’s all water under the bridge. I’ve been pointed out before for my efforts and dedication to this industry and I’m still as motivated as ever… if not more!

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38 Replies to “Jason Calacanis Doesn’t Understand Affiliate Marketers”

  1. Depends on how you look at it, but maybe marketing in general is bull shit. I don't think that our business is much different from other industries regarding promoting products/services. Somtimes ads on TV or newspapers, etc. look to me also pushing or spammy. In the end, everyone want to makes sales and that's the entire ball game.

  2. Calacanis does have a valid point when he compares the earnings in the affiliate industry vs.Silicon Valley (or for that matter lots of other industries). A few hundred thousand dollars may sound like a lot to people who never had well paying professional jobs, but for literally millions of people it's not a number that impresses. Affiliate marketing tends to attract many individuals who never have experienced any degree of financial success and who are impressed by such numbers. That's not a criticism of affiliate marketing (it could even be construed as one of affiliate marketing's virtues). The dollars available in affiliate marketing really are peanuts compared to what people make who excel in other industries. Ultimately, the only valid path in this life is to do what one enjoys. If affiliate marketing is your thing, do it.

  3. You know Zac, I was driving home in my black Jeep (wrangler) yesterday and was thinking about you and you Hummer (still have it btw??) and I always say I don't care what I make, or what I have, but as long as I am happy and have fun, that's all what counts, I admire your accomplishments (with your Dad too), and I thank you for the posts with the check, because as you said this should inspire others!!!, and I bet you did!!!.

    Keep up the good work, and please don't stop doing what you do.

    btw didn't I read somewhere that you refused a multimillion offer on ZacJohnson.com ?? to me that is even stronger than grabbing the 25 Million!!


  4. It certainly was controversial but I thought it was interesting. Personally I found his comments on curation a whole lot more interesting than the affiliate bashing.

    Check out my thoughts

  5. Zac,

    Your blog and pictures of your checks are inspiring to other affiliate marketers. Keep up the good work! Maybe Jason brought more traffic to your blog… keep us posted!


  6. I am glad that affiliate marketers like yourself Shoemoney and John Chow display their earned checks. You earned it and deserve it. Keep up the good work.

  7. kudos, zac! definitely you are an inspiration to everyone who reads your blog and who meets you.

    i had mixed feelings about calacanis' speech (and i think i missed the first few minutes). the way he came off to me was someone who got lucky — big time — a while back and is now using that to vindicate his predecessors. yea he got attention, but it doesn't make me respect him as a human being. i may respect some of his business decisions but he's not someone i'd want to hang out with and eat bbq with at ASW 🙂

    to say that someone who works from home, makes a few million dollars, and helps others do the same is pathetic, i'd have to say he's a hater and he should take a look in the mirror. i mean, he stood up there ranting on about how he's the guy who gets invited to parties now. one thing he did do for me is to inspire me to make sure i succeed in this industry and do it in an ethical way. it can be done.

  8. First time commenter, long time reader.

    I say fuck him. Hes just after a reaction/linkbait. Will his Silicon Valley businesses keep running and earning if he was to stop working? Mine wont.

  9. While he is spot-on about the holding up large checks to brag on your website is pathetic, and a sentiment shared by many many people in this industry, the guy is a total douche. It gets affiliate marketers angry when an outsider labels us as spammers, but most of us will admit that, at a core level, we are just that many times.

  10. Thanks for the feedback on the talk. You leave out half the talk however, when you focus on the parts about affiliates being deceptive (most are) and it being pathetic to hold up these checks (it really is).

    I spent much time saying how brilliant I thought the folks in SEO and Affiliate Marketing were.

    I spent much time saying that I thought "you guys" — the folks in affiliate marketing and SEO — were *much* smarter than most of the folks at big companies like AOL, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

    I spent much time talking about how you would add a couple of zeros to your checks if you moved from short term affiliate gaming sites to long-term brand building.

    I don't think you're a bad guy, far from it. I think you're brilliant and spinning you're wheels! If you can make a couple of million bucks with these affiliate links you could build something of true lasting value like digg, slashdot, engadget, Twitter, Pownce, or even–wait for it–Google or Yahoo.

    My lasting impression of the affiliate summit is: really smart folks who think small.

    Dare to be great… (and when you get your $300m check don't hold it up. 🙂

    all the best, jason

    1. Awesome Jason. Your speech was inspirational and you are dead on right, too many people in this industry think too small. This industry is full of incredibly brilliant people that are chasing their tails.

  11. I understand Affilate Marketers. I want to be one of them, but I don't know the bussiness as good as I need to know. But Affilate Marketers are people who just want to make big money like me.. Am I right or not?

  12. i didnt even notice the potential of affiliate marketing but since lots of ppl earn much money from it, i started to think different

  13. Their words cannot harm already established affiliates but discourage those starting afresh… want to earn? believe in Zac, Shoemoney! No!! Jason is waiting there…

  14. $300,000.00 pathetic? I'll take being pathetic anytime over my teacher salary…Keep posting those checks Zac.

  15. Hey Zac…

    I don't always agree with you, but it's good to see you have a good head on your shoulders and don't take things to heart like so many others.

    Hehe, if only I could be so level headed!

  16. Sometimes you "think bigger" and lose bigger aka. Netscape 2.0.

    As Jason said in his keynote, "Kevin Rose would laugh at you", kind of what he's doing now that Netscape's Digg rip-off is dead.

    That said, Jason's points about polluting the pool that pays your bills is valid. I think a lot of his perspective comes from working on Mahalo and daily sifting through the endless piles of internet garbage by hand (which is their differentiator).

    Anyway, the fact that we're even discussing the Keynote means Shawn and Missy got their money's worth:)

  17. Seriously, I watch his keynote and I think the person is right. He said you could earn much more by building a great service versus promoting others products. He is right, a lot people build a website only to put a link and get their paid link. Is it good or bad? I do not know but the real thing is an ethic question. Do you care about what you leading? Do you give a great experience to the visitor? I think this is the biggest issue

  18. Everyone can have his opinion and I believe that affiliate marketing has lots of SPAM as well, but if affiliate marketing in general is a spammy business? I doubt that, it's like any other industry. Look for example at those annoying and unwanted ads on TV, newspapers or billboards!

  19. I am sure Jason Calacanis has no idea what he is talking about, as far as spam is concern yes affiliate marketing do have spam however other industries do have spams as well. Affiliate marketing industry is as legitimate and valid as any other industry, including the one Jason Calacanis is in.

    Zac, i love your post and truly admire your success and proof of check is definitely a big inspiration to guy like me who is still in making 🙂

    keep up the good work

  20. There was a lot of truth in the keynote, but as long as people are still clicking links and buying it's not going to change…

  21. Zac you hit it good here. Jason isn't an affiliate marketer, Affiliate Marketing and Web 2.0 is COMPLETELY different.

    Sounds like he was giving Web 2.0 advice to affiliate marketers, but Web 2.0 is about building user rich, ajax, pretty applications that people use. Affiliate Marketing is about making the sale/lead. And getting the best ROI regardless if its pretty.

    Kevin Rose would laugh at the checks? Kevin rose isn't an affiliate marketer, he builds highly rich website applications, affiliate marketers are different. You hit it right now, he doesn't get affiliate marketing obviously. What am I suppose to do build a highly ajax user community site that promotes Flycell or something? comon, Affiliate Marketing comparing to Web 2.0 is like comparing apples and oranges.

    Affiliate Marketing is completely different.

  22. I was waiting for you to do this. Way to go! And you DO inspire people. In fact, I just posted one of my checks on my blog. It was only 4 figures though. LOL Take that Jason! Ha!

  23. Zac, you just keep on earning those 6 figure checks! I'm old school – I believe in hard cash rather than obnoxious valuations. Hope to pay you a 6 figure one soon too!

    Behind the hype and hyperbole of so many so called new media companies you'll find a stack of burnt investors and no real business model.

    For my money I'm always in favor of a full bank account 😉


  24. I do tend to agree with the whole spam thing, but bashing the income that can be made by people who work from home compared to his industry is not too cool. I love the fact that I don't have to commute, work for a jackass, or make money for someone else anymore. And I don't make anywhere near what you do, but I can still pay my bills and spend time with my wife.

    Sorry for the rant.

  25. Maybe Jason is the one who is small potatoes!

    In an industry where people sell their businesses for a 100 million to over a billion,

    he got a mere 25 million. Pathetic!!

  26. Well…No matter what you do in life, you will always have someone to disagree with what you doing…I just think that Jason Calacanis should be a little more respectfully and approach the matter with a little more respect.

    He could have gotten his point out without insulting anyone….I say…once you paying your bill. noting else really matter…

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