GPWA Times Magazine - Issue 12 - April 2010

Rob Cook | FictionNet Rob letsuspull him tobits in brutallyhonest detail Tell ushowyou cameupwithyour screen name. Isn’t “Fact” better than “Fiction”?! My first Web sites were literary-focused, including, a site for un- published authors. Everything I did was under thenameFiction-Net and for some reason, it’s stuck. The Fiction-Net Web site has been somewhat neglected over recent years and it’s actually due for a re- launch later this year so I guess the name will beabitmore relevant again. Youbeganmanaging theFiction-Netnet- workwayback in1999,when ithadnoth- ing todowithonlinegambling.What did theFiction-Netnetworkdothen?Whatdid you do then?When did the Robert Cook Company replace Fiction-net? Howmuch ofwhat youdo isonlinegamingvs“other stuff”?Andwhat isthe“otherstuff”? 1999 was when I first toyedwith affiliatemar- keting, selling books for Amazon via the literary Web sites. Over the next couple years I started to launch loads of differ- ent sites of very varying content. There were free stuff sites, directories, music sites and a banner exchange and they all made up the Fiction-Net Network. I got into the casino side of things in 2001 and it quickly became the bulk of my income and as a result, the rest of the stuff got far less attention and I guess that’s been the caseever since. Idostill operateanumber of non-gaming sites but I’ve always had a passion for gambling and it’s the part of thebusiness I enjoymost. What does Free Cash Casino offer that can’talreadybe foundonCasinoBeacon? When was each site launched, and what was the rationale for each one? Whereas is very much for the U.K. market, is more global. I picked up the domain in 2005but I never actually got startedon it for three years so it’s less than two years old. It’s not really amajor player – in fact it’s abit rubbish–but I intend todevelop it a lotmore this year.Watch this space. One of your sites, Casino Beacon, prides itself on its hard-hittingevaluations – ca- sinos are “reviewed, rated and generally pulled tobits in . . .brutallyhonest”detail. What kind of feedback do your reviews elicit from players, and also from the ca- sinos? How important have the reviews been in the success of your site? Yeah, I’m reallyproudof the reviews. I’vealways been a bit narked by the crappiness of someonlinecasinoWebsitesout thereand I honestly can’t think of many Web sites that providehonest reviews of online casi- nos– thereareplentyofone-sidedreviews and there’svery littlementionofwhere the casino could do better. I don’t get a huge amount of feedback from players but I don’t think that’s abad thing. I used toget plenty of negative feedback if I linked to a less-than-perfect casino and something wentwrong.Nowthatvisitorshaveanhon- est review to read, they knowwhat they’re getting. I do sometimes get feedback from the casinos themselves, and onmore than one occasion they’vemade big changes to improvesomethingmentioned ina review. That’sagreat result. You became an online gambling affiliate and joined theGPWA in2001.Thatmakes youatrueveteranof the industry.Besides theUIGEA,howhas the industry changed fromwhen you started towhere it is to- day? Many of the basics haven’t changed all that much. Technology has improved and there’s more competition now, but we’re still left withhowwe started– guys andgalsmakingWeb sites that try to con- vincevisitors thatwe’ve founda trustwor- thyplace for them to risk theirmoney. Everything is that much bigger. The games arebetter and the casinos– for the most part – aremore trustworthy both in terms of the affiliate getting paid and the player getting a fair deal. The social scene has exploded. In the olddayswe had ICE once a year inLondon andnowwe’ve got a bazillionhuge parties all over theworld four times amonth. What things have changed for the bet- ter (since 2001)? And what things have changed for theworse (since2001)? Secu- rity for players is definitely better now. A number of casinos popped up and disap- peared owing players and affiliates mon- ey. That can still happen now but there’s far more protection. Of course, the same applies to all industries and not just on- linegambling. Our communities are much bigger now and that has to be a good thing. GPWA, CAP and all the others mean that we all talk to each other and share information far more. We’ve also got the great work done by APCW and AGD. I feel safer knowing they’re watching the scene – compared to2001, a casino can’t so easily get awaywith anything too shadywithout it getting out into the open and that’s got tobeagreat thing. We have better casinos, better affiliate managers, more reliable payments and happierplayers thanwehadback in2001. Things are by nomeans perfect but we’ve allmoved forward. For theworse, one of the biggest changes is in the search engine marketing. SEO was a real passion ofmine and it was fas- cinating to learn how to optimize for so many different engines: Hotbot, AV, Ya- hoo!, Excite, UKMax andSOmany others that I can’t recall right now. I didn’t even really botherwithGoogle verymuchback then. These days, if you’re screwed by Google thenyou’re fightingwithonehand tied behind your back. It was probably more funwhen thereweremoreplayers in themarket, so I reallyhopeBing is amas- sive success forMicrosoft. I’d also love to see Yahoo! play a big part again or a new search engine capture some decent mar- ket share. Whatdoyouknownow thatyouwishyou hadknownwhenyoustarted? I’dhavegot into the PPC side of things at an earlier date. I kind of missed the boat with PPC and Imissed out on a lot ofmoneywhilst other people struck it rich. I never really 48 GPWA Affiliate Interview Series