Interview: Fehzan Ali (Adscend Media)
1. Tell us a little bit about yourself. How old are you? Where do you live?
I’m 21 years old and currently a full time entrepreneur and full time student at the University of Texas at Austin (Go Longhorns!). I’ll be graduating this May and am extremely excited to get out and continue doing what I’m doing with Adscend Media. I started with affiliate marketing at the age of 15 and moved my way up to where I am today through years of hard work.
2. How long have you been working in this industry and how did you get involved?
I have 7 years of experience within the affiliate marketing industry, primarily with incentivized affiliate marketing. My first involvement with the industry was FreeIpods.com. This was a freebie site operated by Gratis and I received my first free iPod from them! I opened a similar business model shortly thereafter and shipped over $700,000 worth of gifts to our users.
3. How long was it before you realized you could live off your affiliate income?
By freshman year of college, I was pulling an income twice the average salary of a university graduate. It still didn’t dawn on me that I could make this my career; I was hoping that I would get to work on Wall Street when I graduated. Wow did that change. By the end of freshman year, I decided that I was going to make a life long career out of this! I would now like to stay as far away from Wall Street as possible.
4. Tell us a bit more about Adscend Media and what you do over there?
Adscend Media is a CPA affiliate network with a focus in email submits and content unlocking. We were just listed by OfferVault last month as the #1 legitimate content unlocking network, which is very exciting to say the least. We are a team of six currently and growing our team quickly to meet the rapidly growing needs of our publishers and advertisers. My primary function at Adscend Media is oversight of day-to-day operations and driving the strategic vision of the company.
5. There are quite a few other CPA affiliate networks around - why did you start another one? What makes Adscend Media different? Why should affiliates consider joining Adscend Media?
I like to think I’m an innovator and out of the box thinker. It’s one of my talents and I decided that Adscend Media could bring value to the CPA industry by starting my own network with Jeremy Bash. We’re different because we don’t settle for less – we continually innovate and improve our technology to provide the best experience for our publishers while ensuring the highest EPCs for them. We currently offer a content unlocker, file gateway, API/virtual currency, and SuperURL (allows our publishers to create a short url on the fly that geo-targets users to the appropriate offer when clicked). Furthermore, we have recently been teaming up with various partners to provide content our publishers can monetize. We just partnered up with GameTreat to provide free game content! A publisher should join our network because we treat all of our publishers the same regardless of how much revenue they generate – most importantly, we realize our success is dependent on assisting our publishers to succeed. Email me at Fehzan [at] AdscendMedia.com if you are interested in getting started with Adscend and would like to learn more.
6. Do you offer bi-weekly or weekly payouts? If so, how much does one have to make to qualify?
We offer bi-weekly payments to certain publishers. There is no set amount of revenue required, and it’s all based on how much volume there is and more importantly the quality of that volume.
7. What kinds of offers are doing well right now on your network?
We are doing extremely well with email submits, download offers, and other lead generation offers both in the incentivized and non-incentivized space. Our publishers tell us time and time again that we have some of the highest EPCs around. We have extremely strong relationships with all of our advertisers and this allows us to improve the quality of the offers that are in our inventory.
8. I see you are using your own affiliate network software. What made you build yourself, instead of choosing HasOffers, Cake Marketing, LinkTrust, DirectTrack or HitPath, etc.?
We are not big fans of the out-of-the-box solutions currently available. Some of them are decent, however a custom proprietary platform is a competitive advantage because we can control every aspect of the code and tweak it to our publishers/advertisers needs as it becomes necessary. This is a fast changing industry and it’s important to be able to do that without depending on a third party to make modifications.
9. Does Adscend Media accept affiliates outside the US/Canada?
We accept affiliates from all around the world as long as they are legitimate.
10. What are the criteria for an affiliate to be accepted at Adscend Media? How does Adscend Media prevent and handle fraud?
This is confidential information; I would rather not give away an idea of how we do it just to prevent any fraudsters from having a better idea. We have a very detailed manual and automatic process that allows us to identify and reject unqualified publishers.
11. Does Adscend Media offer free training for newbie affiliates?
We work with all of our affiliates to set them in the right direction. I wouldn’t say we provide in-depth training from start to finish, however we are more than happy to point at appropriate resources and provide ideas to our affiliates so they can succeed!
12. For those who are interested in working with you and your affiliate network - What's the best way/time to reach you?
Email me at Fehzan [at] AdscendMedia.com. I am always around my email and will reply asap! You can also add me on AIM: AdscendFehz. I honestly think I’m faster via email most of the time, though. AIM can be all over the place too often.
13. What are the differences between a Super Affiliate and an Average Affiliate?
A super affiliate focuses on his/her core strengths and branches out from there. In my opinion, finding and then playing your strengths is crucial to become successful in this industry. Everyone has his or her own talent! It’s just a matter of finding what that talent is and unlocking it. That combined with unyielding perseverance and a positive outlook are top qualities to become a successful affiliate (and person for that matter).
14. What are the keys to building successful relationships between Affiliates and Affiliate Networks? What are some of the challenges of being an Affiliate Manager/Owner?
The publishers that are most transparent with us and play by the rules are the ones that we have the best relationships with. We’ve helped some of these publishers go from making a few dollars to 7 figures a year, albeit that’s the absolute best-case scenario we’ve had. However, we have many that are now making a decent living and quit their job! So, one big thing to take away as a publisher is that if you work to build a solid business relationship with your network, the network will also take care of you! The biggest challenge is that there are many publishers who don’t play by the rules and hide their traffic sources. Fortunately, we’ve developed a few proprietary tools to ensure compliance of our network with all applicable laws/policies.
15. How do you feel about the health of the Affiliate Industry overall? If you could change one thing about the affiliate industry, what would it be?
I think we're growing rapidly and still in the infancy stage. The awesome thing about the affiliate industry is that most of it is based on performance marketing so advertisers generally only pay for the results they are looking for. This is a huge opportunity over some traditional forms of media where tracking results of a campaign can be difficult. The one thing that needs to change… we need to clean up as a whole. At Adscend Media, we strive to obey all applicable laws and not only that – but go above and beyond to maintain the highest of ethics. Yes, that means less money, but we would rather focus on building something legitimate and long term. I wish more people in this industry viewed it the same way as a lot of the industry is just churn and burn. If I could change something about the industry, I would ask for a few networks to be shut down that give the industry a bad name and enable illegitimate publishers.
16. What do you think about where the industry is going? Where Adscend Media may be going? What advice would you give to affiliates to keep up the pace.
Nowhere but up! I’m a bit biased because I focus on the positive whenever I can. I think Adscend Media is constantly evolving and we have so many ideas – our publishers have not even seen the best from us yet. Innovation is our number one focus. For affiliates/publishers to keep up, they just need to keep learning and keep up with all of the traffic sources. Never become complacent! Traffic sources and affiliate marketing methods are rapidly changing and what works one day no longer works the next day.
17. What are Adscend Media's goals in 2011?
To continue innovating and empowering our publishers with improved/additional tools to generate even more revenue/income. And of course, to continue working with our advertisers to ensure they are happy with the traffic quality we are sending them! I won’t say too much right now, but we have some very cool things lined up for our publishers in 2011.
18. What industry conferences do you usually attend, and which is your favorite?
I’ve only been to Affiliate Summit (East & West) and Ad Tech. I like both, however Affiliate Summit is my favorite since the sole focus is affiliate marketing. It’s a perfect networking opportunity and allows everyone to get together and just have a good time. It’s important to put a face to all of the names!
19. What affiliate marketing blogs do you read regularly and why?
I often read OfferVault, IndustryPace, and RickyAhuja. Huge shout out to Pace Latin for his awesome and insightful articles on Offervault and IndustryPace!
20. What are your hobbies/interests/passions?
I love working and doing what I do. I find nothing more satisfying than working on Adscend and everything that entails. When my work hours are done, I like to spend my time working out in the gym, running the trail at Town Lake Austin, playing my acoustic and electric guitars, reading physics/chem. books, killing some Nazi Zombies in Call of Duty Black Ops (nerd status), and traveling.
Many thanks to Fehzan for sharing your time with us and for sharing some great insight tips here! If you have any experience with Adscend Media, please write a review for them on the Adscend Media Review page. PS. If you are an affiliate marketer, AM or Network owner and are interested in answering a few questions about you, your network and affiliate marketing, please drop us a message.