Skimlinks: Interview with Joe Stepniewski

Quality Nonsense

Richard Kershaw   |    February 24, 2009   |   View article


Yesterday TechCrunch broke the news that Skimlinks has secured first round investment.

Co-founder Joe Stepniewski told me about Skimlinks at PubCon Vegas. This, I thought, was a million dollar idea.

Skimlinks makes monetizing any site simple. It makes ‘normal’ links into affiliate links instantly, automatically and discreetly.

If you have a site with plenty of content but poor monetization (think forums, user-generated content sites), Skimlinks could answer a lot of your problems.

QN: Introduce Skimlinks in a few sentences.

JS: Skimlinks is a simplified affiliate marketing service for publishers. We are the ‘Adsense of affiliate marketing’, providing a solution that automates the creation of affiliate links in editorial content.

Editors continue creating content as they normally do, including links to retailer sites. When a visitor clicks on the retailer link, Skimlinks automatically converts this link into its affiliate link equivalent on-the-fly, without affecting the user experience.

We are integrated with over 7000 international merchants, and 16 affiliate networks, with more being added all the time.

QN: I know you already have some major publishers on board. Where can readers see it in use in the wild?

JS: Any of the Shiny Media sites (catwalkqueen.tv, shinyshiny.tv, techdigest.tv); Retrotogo.com, Greenmystyle.com, T3.com, g35driver.com and many more.

QN: Why would established affiliates use Skimlinks over direct relationships with networks?

JS: As every business person knows, time is money. Affiliates could spend their time signing up for networks and programs, working out the deeplinking syntax for each merchant, creating links, and updating them when merchants close or change their programs.

However, this is time they can spend on content creation, SEO, community management, site design and development, and other core parts of their business. By outsourcing their affiliate marketing management to Skimlinks, we do a better overall job than they could do, and give them more time to focus on what is fundamental to their business.

Plus, Skimlinks has unique support for non-deeplinking merchants, and keeps links in their natural state until the user clicks on them, leading to higher click-throughs.

QN: In the current climate, financial stability is a key question for affiliates. How do they know their earnings are safe with Skimlinks? Are affiliate commissions ringfenced from operating expenses etc?

JS: Yes, all incoming commissions are escrowed in a separate account, and never mixed with our operating expenses.

We have also just closed one of the only seed funding deals happening in the UK in this climate, and our backers are some of the top VCs and government funds in the country, so we have enough money to keep us protected throughout throughout this financial crisis.

QN: What is Skimlinks’ cut for providing the service?

JS: We retain 25% of whatever the affiliate networks pay us, and pay the rest to affiliates. We pay when the minimum threshold across our entire network of merchants is reached, which means affiliates could be paid sooner than if they had to wait to reach the threshold of each individual network.

Also, we can negotiate better deals with merchants and networks due to our scale. That means affiliates can sometimes the same commission through Skimlinks as if they went direct.

QN: Can you explain the setup process for Skimlinks?

JS: Setup takes minutes at most. It is a similar installation process to Google Analytics: once you are approved to Skimlinks, you can login to the service, where you can copy and past the Skimlinks code to your site’s footer. Your whole site is fully enabled straight away.

QN: Where will Skimlinks be in a year’s time?

JS: We are planning on launching a series of tools that help publishers monetise their site’s content in a simple, ethical way. We feel strongly about giving publishers the tools to help them to survive in these troubled times, and to reward them for the value they bring to both users and merchants.