About Our Guest
Adam Weiss, a veteran in the digital space for over 20 years, has had a successful career filled with notable achievements. In the early stages of his profession, he was employed at 24/7 Media and later moved on to work at the widely recognized platform, about.com. His time at about.com proved to be pivotal, laying the foundation for his expertise in the industry. In 2003, Weiss secured a position at Link Share, a company that was a household name among industry professionals. Eventually, Link Share was acquired by Rakton, undergoing several transformations along the way. With an extensive background in the digital and affiliate space, Adam Weiss began his own consulting venture after leaving Rackton. Currently, he offers his expertise to clients seeking guidance in the affiliate industry.
In this episode, we have a special guest, Adam Weiss, the founder of Weiss Digital Consulting, who will be sharing his deep experience in the performance marketing space. As the former GM and SVP of the affiliate PNL at Rakuten LinkShare for over 14 years, Adam has witnessed the evolution of the industry and has a wealth of knowledge to offer. Join our host, Marshall Nyman, as they delve into Adam’s journey in the digital and affiliate space, his experiences at LinkShare, and the ever-changing landscape of publishers. Get ready for an insightful and informative discussion on the past, present, and future of performance marketing.
Marshall Nyman [00:00:02]:
Hello and welcome to the performance marketing spotlight. I’m your host Marshall Nyman, founder and CEO of Nymonco. Each episode the podcast brings you someone with deep experience in the performance marketing space where they highlight their experiences within the industry. Today I have Adam Weiss who is founder of Weiss Digital Consulting. Welcome to the podcast Adam.
Adam Weiss [00:00:24]:
Hey Marshall, thanks for having me.
Marshall Nyman [00:00:26]:
Of course. Appreciate you joining, very excited to have you on. Let’s get right to it.
Adam Weiss [00:00:31]:
Let’s do it.
Marshall Nyman [00:00:33]:
Would love for you to introduce yourself to the audience so they could get to know you a bit.
Adam Weiss [00:00:37]:
Sure. Well, my name is Adam, like you said, I’ve been in the digital space for over 20 years. Early in my career worked at 24/7 Media I email@example.com which is now I guess, but this was way way back in the day. And then in 2003 I landed at a company called Link Share and all the old school folks will definitely remember that which then became was acquired by rakton various iterations of the business. So all that to say, been in the digital and affiliate space for a while and after my time at Rackton started what I’m doing now, which is consulting in the affiliate space.
Marshall Nyman [00:01:31]:
Awesome. So how did you get started in the Performance marketing space?
Adam Weiss [00:01:38]:
Good question. I think performance marketing could probably be defined very broadly right and early in my career. It is relevant even though it was a very long time ago when I was at lot of what we did there. And again very early days. But it was what I would characterize as CPM based advertising. And then when I firstname.lastname@example.org the product I worked on there which was called Springs, no longer exists, but that was more CPC based advertising again in its infancy. And so when I left about I was kind of thinking about what’s next for me and I guess everyone could guess where this is going but CPM, CPC, CPA at least that’s the way I had kind of thought about it. And this opportunity opened up again at sort of that’s just when the snowball started rolling downhill and I sort of got really heavily involved.
Adam Weiss [00:02:43]:
I took a real interest in the distribution side of the business. I really liked the company, I liked the people that I was working with. And I think when you kind of have that, simply put, when you have that interest in the business, that sort of really gets you going. And that’s become my thing, I guess, as yourself and most people in the space can probably attest to as well. So yes, that’s how I got started was simply just applying for a job at LinkShare and the rest was history as they say.
Marshall Nyman [00:03:17]:
I think you’re a rare bird. Most people like I knew somebody my friend forced me to get involved in the industry. I think very few people say I applied for a job and got it. So that’s pretty impressive.
Adam Weiss [00:03:28]:
I’m old school. I wasn’t going to share this, but I will. I think don’t quote me on this, but I think I actually saw an ad on Craigslist if I’m dating myself.
Marshall Nyman [00:03:39]:
I remember looking on Craigslist for jobs back in the day, and I probably my personal information out and I shouldn’t.
Adam Weiss [00:03:47]:
Have, but no, it all worked out in the know.
Marshall Nyman [00:03:54]:
Yeah, that’s know, you say CPC and CPM, and I think those were like, things that kind of went out the door and now they’re starting to come back. I see a lot of publishers starting to look at doing things on those CPC and CPM basis, so even those are some of the old school techniques. It’s interesting to see them kind of coming back.
Adam Weiss [00:04:13]:
Yeah, well, I think it’s just about diversification at the end of the day for the publishers in terms of the types of advertisers they work with and ultimately what those economics look like.
Marshall Nyman [00:04:23]:
Yeah, I think with those models, it kind of shifts all of the risks from just the publisher to kind of balancing it out between the two sides, which I think is nice. So, yes, you’re a rakuten link share for 14 years. You’ve probably really seen the company change in a lot of different iterations. What different types of roles were you in while you were there?
Adam Weiss [00:04:43]:
Yeah, like you said, I was there for a little over 14 years, and I sort of put my career there in maybe three chapters. I started I think I mentioned on the publisher side of the business, publisher account management, ground floor, sort of understanding who our partners were, what they needed, and then internally putting some sort of operational structure around it as well. And I had a lot of great mentors and managers and leaders there that sort of helped as we sort of shaped that part of the business. And it was a small team, frankly. And I think fast forward to today, it’s sort of what helped to start to shine a light for me, that there was a need for strategic help for publishers in different ways and shapes and forms. But it was a small team compared to the advertiser side of the business. And we built that team up on the account management side, business development, even the support side, and network quality and strategic partnerships. So it was a good run there and that was kind of the first part of it.
Adam Weiss [00:05:59]:
And then sort of the second chapter, I think I had some really long title, which I can’t even remember sometimes. I always joke that I never got, like, a new job, I got an additional job at the company, but I was always sort of tied to the publisher side. But then I was fortunate to start to get a little bit more involved in some strategic partnerships and helping shape the roadmap of the business from a product strategy perspective as well. As even sort of in some cases being involved on some of the M A stuff that was going on either on the peripheral or getting a little bit more involved as what it would mean for the business. And that was really interesting. And then the third sort of chapter was as the GM SVP of the affiliate PNL. So at that point, I guess I had probably been there for maybe years at that point, and we were no longer this just affiliate business. There was a lot more to it with display and search and attribution, et cetera.
Adam Weiss [00:07:15]:
So we sort of had multiple PNLs, and I was fortunate enough to be asked to run the North American affiliate business, which was everything soup to nuts. And so that was sort of the next, I’m going to guess about four years of my time there.
Marshall Nyman [00:07:34]:
Awesome. So you really kind of got to see everything. Nice bird’s eye view.
Adam Weiss [00:07:39]:
I think so. Yeah, I think so. I hold that place in high regard. The people, the company. My time there was great. I feel like it really that’s where I grew up. From a career perspective, that’s definitely where I grew up. I learned a ton, met a lot of great people in and out of the company, and I was given a lot of opportunities there that I think helped sort of shape ultimately where I am today.
Adam Weiss [00:08:13]:
Marshall Nyman [00:08:14]:
Yeah. You basically were talking about doing publisher development in the early days and thinking about what publishers looked like back then versus what they look like now. It’s really changed a lot. It was really only a few types and now there’s so many different types of publishers. What have you seen change as far as publishers from them to now?
Adam Weiss [00:08:33]:
It’s a good question. Well, first of just back then, it was like I hate the kind of term the Wild West, but it sort of was like just figuring out what was going on, who was who, how are they making money, how do they drive traffic, like all those types of things. And I think with that there was a lot of learnings and I think the publishers themselves were figuring it out as well. Right. So when you ask about kind of what’s changed, I think the publishers and how they operate, the publishers, how they drive traffic has changed. The sophistication on their side has changed, as well as the networks and platforms when it comes to tracking and distribution. But I think in general, I do feel like there’s been a real maturity in the market as a whole, and I think a lot of that has come through the growth on the publisher side of the business and the businesses that they have. I personally feel in a lot of cases, what changes is how consumers shop online, driven by the innovation that we’ve seen over the last 20 something years from a publisher perspective.
Adam Weiss [00:10:02]:
So I think the big change is that idea of I get cash back, I could find a coupon, here’s a tool to help me, whatever, save a product and track the price and stuff like that. I think the publishers have really drove the innovation on the e commerce side of things and ultimately how people are shopping online, which I think is a great thing.
Marshall Nyman [00:10:26]:
Yeah, I think innovation is a good way to put it. I think the other thing know, there’s a lot more transparency now. I think back in the day when you say Wild West, you just didn’t sometimes understand what the traffic was or where it was coming from. I think now with the networks, maturing and publishers being a little bit more transparent, it’s easier to understand some of those things and so you can make better decisions where you sometimes weren’t sure. You kind of took a little bit more risk maybe because things weren’t as clear.
Adam Weiss [00:10:53]:
Yeah, people were experimenting. It was still the early days and I mean, you didn’t even have traffic from social and things like that. So that’s changed and we’re seeing another shift sort of happening right now in terms of how Google is constantly changing, how results show on their page and the inventory that’s available and everyone talking about artificial intelligence and what that’s going to mean for results and consumers finding information. So there’s always been sort of this it’s just an ongoing evolution at the end of the day, definitely.
Marshall Nyman [00:11:34]:
So after working at Rakuten Link Share for almost 14 years, you made a little bit of a pivot and then eventually you started your own business. Would love to hear a little bit about your own self and what you’ve been sure.
Adam Weiss [00:11:49]:
So yeah, I left Ratton a little bit of a stint at a startup. But like I was saying earlier, what I always sort of saw in the space was there’s a lot of great resources out there helping the advertiser side of the business. Right. But if you’re a publisher and you need some strategic help and there’s multiple ways to sort of look at it, sort of who do you call? Right? And throughout my career would always kind of have these conversations with folks and who are trying to figure things out, whether it’s getting into the affiliate market, maturation in the market, and what are the things they need to do.
Marshall Nyman [00:12:43]:
Adam Weiss [00:12:43]:
Do we reach out to from a partnership development standpoint, et cetera, et cetera. And on top of everything, typically if you’re an advertiser, you have your network that you work on and your agency that you work with and it’s sort of this one view into your affiliate program if you’re a publisher, it’s extremely fragmented. Right. And so that sort of led me to where I am today, which is being able to help publishers in a few different ways, which is strategically and that can mean a lot of different things. But what does the market look like in the competitive landscape and what’s the opportunity for them and what should an organization look like? All these things and that’s a little more hands on. Or it could be some type of coaching around the industry. You and I can talk about it and we could use all the inside baseball terms, but if you’re coming from the outside in, it could be confusing for folks, it could be very confusing. And so I sort of think I can help reduce some of that friction.
Adam Weiss [00:13:52]:
And then there’s advisory stuff I do for them and partnership development in some cases as well, hopefully removing some friction and kind of accelerating a path to revenue and then depending what their needs are as well. Best thing I could do really for a publisher is listen and hear what they need and if it’s something I think I could help with, I’m always more than happy to explore that as well.
Marshall Nyman [00:14:20]:
Awesome. What does an ideal publisher look like for you to work with?
Adam Weiss [00:14:25]:
I wish I had that answer. Like I said, there’s varying sort of engagements that I’ll have with them and sometimes they’re brand new and like I said, sort of removing the friction and the ramp time into the market. Sometimes they’re more mature, but they have specific strategic objectives that they’re trying to accomplish and they come to me to help. So I have thought about that. It’s a good question, I struggle with it, but I think it really depends where a publisher is at in the lifecycle sort of drives where it could help as well. So I’m cognizant of are we just starting up or have we been around for 15 or 20 years?
Marshall Nyman [00:15:11]:
Makes sense. What were some of the major hurdles that you experienced with starting your own business?
Adam Weiss [00:15:18]:
That’s a big question. I’m going to ask you that. I think at the end of the day, it’s like just started. You just got to sort of rip off the band Aid and just start. I think from a subject matter expertise perspective, I think I like to think I know what I’m talking about, so I could get out there and start doing things for clients. But you got to do biz dev and you got to set things up operationally. All the back end stuff, everything from setting up your email to all the back office stuff, legal accounting and all that stuff. Not that it’s a huge burden, but when you’ve never done it before, what’s the expression? Sort of building the plane as you’re flying it? But again, I mentioned this earlier, I’m fortunate to have a lot of great people that I’ve worked with over my career and who’ve been around to give me guidance and advice.
Adam Weiss [00:16:30]:
I remember talking to my friend Melissa and she was just like, Just start, just start, just get going, don’t worry about the website, don’t worry about anything else, just start. And I sort of just took that. And Dove got to you got to also over time learn how to balance all that stuff as well, right? Because for me, I’m a one man shop and so doing everything from that back office stuff, business development, going to conferences, sales, and then most importantly the actual projects and things I do for clients and making sure that those are done according to plan and all that stuff. So it’s an ongoing balancing act, but over time you start to learn and get better. Now people reach out to me and they’re like, I’m thinking of starting and I’m like, I want to help because I know kind of I’ve already kind of had those pitfalls and made mistakes, and I’m going to help you avoid it. And I’m sure you experienced the same thing, right?
Marshall Nyman [00:17:42]:
Yes. So I’m just sitting there laughing with a big smile on my face because I think that’s probably exactly how I would have answered the question. So yes, I think get started right away. And that’s the approach that I took. But I didn’t realize that I was getting started right away. I just took some consulting work as a side project for something that needed a little bit of help. And I worked on that business for a while, and another one came my way, and I just kind of worked on one or two. And I just kind of never thought about, should I have a business name, which is Marshall Nyman Consulting at the time, and what should I be doing? And it just kind of just happened in the background and then kind of like, okay, I have something to build.
Marshall Nyman [00:18:23]:
So, yeah, I think if you do want to be an entrepreneur, you do want to start your own business, just get started and nothing’s going to ever be perfect. You’re always going to be updating your website, you’re always going to be rebranding, you’re always going to be figuring out all these things. And I think being an entrepreneur, there’s so many things you don’t know, but you have to learn. You don’t have a choice. So all those things you’re talking about, yeah, maybe I’m not a finance expert or I don’t know that much about HR, but I’m in charge of that for the company and so I need to become an expert on that. So there’s definitely a lot of learning. And I was telling my wife this week and everybody wants to be an entrepreneur until they have to be an entrepreneur. And so many things that you have to deal with and the people side of the thing, you’re not dealing with that yet.
Marshall Nyman [00:19:04]:
But that’s a really big piece as well, being an entrepreneur and kind of figuring the right people and then having the right staff. So, yeah, there’s definitely a lot of challenges with starting your own business. That’s why I asked you the question, because I knew there was no shortage of answers there.
Adam Weiss [00:19:17]:
Totally. And also I’ll say also two things. One. I also made the point, though, very early on, I reached out to a ton of people that I knew for feedback, which someone had. Kind of the term they use was, I was on the listening tour, which I liked that expression, because I was calling people and saying, hey, I’m thinking about doing this, or what problems do you have that need to be solved? And I think that sort of was really helpful because one, it was feedback for me and how to start thinking about structuring what I’m doing. And two, a lot of times you talk to them and it’s like an introduction to somebody else. The dominoes start falling. And then the second thing, I was talking to my friend Jesse, Jesse Lakes, he runs a business called Genius Link.
Adam Weiss [00:20:07]:
And I forget how it came up, but we’re talking about some of the back office stuff and he was just like, Hire the experts. Just hire the experts to do it. Because I found myself getting wrapped up in trying to figure it all out by myself and do it all myself. And he was like, Find the experts, let them do it. You focus on what you’re good at. And that was great advice.
Marshall Nyman [00:20:29]:
Yeah, I think that’s always good advice. Focus on what you’re best at. And I think that’s just kind of like how delegation should work. You let the stuff that’s most important that you need to focus on that should be the top of your list and then the stuff that’s falling to the bottom of the list just start pushing that off to other people because it’s low value and somebody else can probably do it. So I think for everybody, it’s just kind of figuring out what can to take off my plate and then how can I do it effectively?
Adam Weiss [00:20:53]:
Who’s doing things like us, who are experts in other areas, functional areas that you could go to and say, listen, can you take care of this? Whatever it might be.
Marshall Nyman [00:21:03]:
Yeah, but I think another good piece of advice is and you kind of touch on it was the networking side of things. Like if you want to be an effective business owner, an entrepreneur, CEO, you have to network with other people and you have to talk to as many people because everybody’s going through the same thing. So the more people you can hear say one thing or the other, the more it’s going to help you kind of decide what you should do. And ultimately for me to go out, it took everybody else I was on the Listening Tour, too. I asked everybody else, what should I do? And I was the one that said maybe I shouldn’t go do and everybody was like, no, you got to go do it. You got to go do it. And after I got off the phone with about ten people I was like, well, everybody said the same thing and I thought I was going to get some mixed answers and would be hard for me to make a decision. So you got to have those people that are a good sounding board to help you go in the right direction because sometimes you think something might be right but your brain kind of clouds things and you don’t know what to do.
Adam Weiss [00:21:53]:
Yeah, I mean, ultimately if you trust your gut, you’re usually moving in the right direction, but it’s good to get validation from people that you trust and who have different perspectives as well. And I found that to be really helpful.
Marshall Nyman [00:22:08]:
So just to shift a little bit now, we’ll talk about maybe some challenges the industry is facing. What do you see? I know AI is a hot topic now, but what are some challenges that you see affiliate marketing currently facing?
Adam Weiss [00:22:21]:
Listen, I think at the end of the day, I think the industry is in a really good place, as we were talking about earlier, just from an evolution perspective, it’s maturing, there’s more focus on it, more investment, et cetera. I think some of the challenges, it’s nothing new, I don’t think I’m going to say anything like totally off the rails, but look, we’re always trying to solve things like Attribution and I think Attribution is something that is determined, it’s specific meaning how particular brands or advertisers look at their budgets and how they measure things, right. So I don’t know if it’s binary meaning across the industry. So everyone’s going to have sort of a different view of that and that can make it a little bit confusing for publishers. So I think that in and of itself then creates some fragmentation right, with how to manage programs at scale, looking at it from the publisher side and sort of solving for some of those things. So I think we definitely do have there’s definitely that kind of fragmentation in the market for publishers like we touched on earlier and sort of balancing what is the best opportunity for me from a partnership perspective, what it means for my customers and from an economic standpoint as well, because most folks are in this to drive revenue. And I think, like I was saying earlier, actually, I don’t think traffic generation is a challenge. I think there’s a lot of it out there and publishers doing a good job with their newsletters and social followings, et cetera.
Adam Weiss [00:23:58]:
But I do think publishers need to or will need to start thinking a little bit more about brand building over time and investments there. I think we’re seeing some of that already with some of the larger publishers who you see advertising more broadly on TV and radio and all that stuff. But I do think you have limited sort of attention from consumers. It’s going to become even more and more important in terms of how we strategically think about kind of generating traffic to a site from a publisher perspective as well.
Marshall Nyman [00:24:36]:
Yeah, I think for me, Attribution and tracking usually are the top thing of things that the industry needs to kind of do a little bit better. There’s definitely some challenges there. And then last question that I have for you is any predictions on the future of performance marketing and maybe where things potentially are headed?
Adam Weiss [00:24:56]:
Yeah, I hate making big predictions. Here’s what I’ll say. I think the industry always perseveres, right? There’s ups and downs. There’s hiccups, there’s challenges, there’s lots of good stuff that happens. The industry perseveres. I think that’s a good thing. I think publishers will continue to innovate and that to me is sort of the driving force of the space. I’m biased from the seat I sit in today.
Adam Weiss [00:25:31]:
And I also think we’ll see technology evolve and that technology could be, like you said, ongoing refinement of tracking and Attribution and reporting around that, the tools that exist to make it easier to work in the ecosystem as well. And also a technology perspective. Just some of the things that the publishers themselves are building, as I was mentioning earlier, how they think about creating a better experience for the consumer. So I think we’ll continue to see innovation there and that will drive more distribution coming online. So I think at the end of the day, if we think about affiliate as more of a platform by which partnerships can be built on, it’s going to open up a lot more opportunities for the industry over the next few years for sure.
Marshall Nyman [00:26:26]:
And I think just it’s not like a new tactic. It might be like for digital, maybe it’s like a 20 or so year old tactic, but affiliate marketing has been around forever. It’s not like a new channel. So I think another thing that you touch on is the industry is maturing. And so as we see it mature, we become better at a lot of these things that maybe we weren’t able to handle when it was the Wild West, when everybody got started back in the day. So it’s really great to kind of see how things have evolved and where things are going. And really I think the space is in a great place and it seems like it’s only going to continue to grow.
Adam Weiss [00:27:00]:
No, totally agree, man. Totally agree with you. I think we’re in a good place. I think there’s a ton of opportunity and I think as sort of the infrastructure, like you said, of the industry, sort of evolves. So will the ability to kind of be more strategic about the partnerships we make and be more creative around some of those partnerships as well.
Marshall Nyman [00:27:24]:
Awesome. Well, I think that’s a good note to call it big. Thank you to Adam from Weiss Digital Consulting for joining the podcast this week. Some really great insights. What’s the best way for listeners to connect with you?
Adam Weiss [00:27:37]:
Good question. I mean, go to my website. I’m on LinkedIn. My email is just Adam@weissdigitalconsulting.com. I know it’s a mouthful. I’ll work on that at some point. But, yeah, those are probably the easiest ways to get in touch with me, or I’m also on the Martech Slack channel, so find me a lot of awesome.
Marshall Nyman [00:27:56]:
Appreciate it. Well, again, thank you to Adam. I am Marshall Nyman, host of the Performance Marketing Spotlight. Signing off. Thank you for joining us. And give a like or follow if you’ve enjoyed this content. Have a great one. Thank you.