Something Awful & Express.com
Imagine you've managed to create a pretty cool site. It's become popular enough that you think maybe you can make some money. So you contract with a company to sell the ads for your site - and they deliver all the ads you can display.
Been there; doing that. I'm with my third ad network over the past three years. One collapsed under overdue payments. Two were excellent. I only left the second network because I had a more lucrative offer from the third one.
They've all treated me right, although I am out several thousand after the demise of the MacTimes Network. With the other two networks we had written contracts. It's worked out very nicely. I'm not able to run Low End Mac on a full time basis, but I get a decent return for the 30-40 hours a week I invest.
But imagine if I'd been dealing with someone less honest. Each of the networks I've dealt with promised a fixed percentage of ad income. If they didn't sell paying ads, neither of us made money. But what if you contracted for a fixed level of income - and the network found a way to weasel out of paying you?
It's happened many times in the history of the Web, most recently with Something Awful. Now I can't say I really understand the Something Awful site, but I do understand the story the tell.
Something Awful had a contract with Gamefan to handle all ads for the site at $2.50 CPM ($2.50 per thousand ads displayed). Simple enough to understand.
Not really. Apparently Gamefan, which is now owned by Express.com, had a clause in the contract stating that "network ads" (that is, ads for sites in the network) didn't count. In simple terms, it means that they could display all the ads they wanted to for Gamefan and Express.com without ever paying other sites a cent.
Well, maybe for Express.com. It was a no-lose situation. If their staff was unable to sell ads, they could promote their own sites and services for free. They had little to gain by selling ads and could also profit by not selling ads.
Their position is morally bankrupt but legally defensible. Always read the fine print.
There are a few things we the netizens can do to help Something Awful and other sites taken advantage of by Gamefan/Express.com.
- Visit Something Awful, which is now with a reputable network and read their story. Not only do they get a hit, but you can click on the link and send email to Jonas Gray, the Vice President of Express.com, letting him know how you feel about this mess.
- Boycott Express.com and Gamefan.
- Tell others that you're boycotting these sites. Explain why.
- If you're a webmaster and an affiliate, hit them in the pocketbook. Let Express.com know you have reason to believe they may try to find a way to avoid paying the affiliate fees they owe you - and that you can just as easily steer customers to Buy.com, Amazon.com, and a host of other sites that have good reputations.
That's what I've done. I'm telling you the story, I've written Jonas Gray, I've told several other Mac webmasters what I'm doing, and I'm prepared to remove links to Express.com from my site if they don't do the right thing for Something Awful and other sites they took advantage of.
- Follow-up on Miscellaneous Musings, 10/16/00.
Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 1997. If you find Dan's articles helpful, please consider making a donation to his tip jar.
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