Tuesday, 2 July 2013

Dealing With The Devil

There were a few comments on the sponsors / affiliate links debate that was stirred up here last week.

I guess the crux of the matter for me is that by maintaining some distance from any sponsors, my ability to write impartially isn't compromised. I think once you lose that, and write artificial sentences just to get the names of your sponsors in, then your right to be seen as an impartial writer is gone.

Admittedly, betting bloggers are hardly elite journalists on the New York Times, but their rules are clear for a reason and the principle is the same:
Staff members and those on assignment for us may not accept employment or compensation of any sort from individuals or organizations who figure in coverage they are likely to provide, prepare or supervise. 
If I enter into an agreement with any advertiser to allow them links on my blog, then clearly any comments I make about them in the future are influenced by this relationship. 

If I have a deal with Stan James for example, and I write “Others on my regular hit list were Stan James...” it would be hard to justify that I didn’t say that just because I have a business relationship with them. I may well have found them to be the best bookmaker, but I’ve lost the freedom to say that and to be seen as impartial. I have sold out in other words. Incidentally, impartiality is defined as making decisions based on objective criteria rather than bias or prejudice.

However, if I enter into an agreement with a third-party, and receive payment funded by a number of sponsors, all unknown to me, the situation is quite different.

If I write that “Pinnacle is the best” it is because I think they are the best, and while people might question my opinion, there is no reason for them to question my integrity. Pinnacle may or may not be one of Betting Expert’s sponsors. I don’t know, and I wouldn’t want to know. Betting Expert do not say to me "Cassini - Ladbrokes are looking for an article on the best way to win at casino games. Please mention at some point that Ladbrokes are on your regular hit list". I choose the topic, and other than a rough target word count, I am left alone to create my own content.

I can see that the end result is the same, and some people can't see beyond that – i.e. I make a few pennies from writing betting articles, money which ultimately comes from the pockets of bookmakers, but for me the nature of that relationship is all important, and if it is anonymous, and I am able to write freely, then I am OK with it. I am just not comfortable taking money directly from a sponsor. Others are fine with this, and it's their blog so they can do what they like, but in my opinion the result is a degraded and tawdry blog with content that you can no longer take at face value. Compromised.

In summary, writing effectively for a third (and unknown) party maintains the integrity of the writer, the other (having a direct relationship with sponsors) doesn’t.

There’s a reason why Rupert Murdoch’s newspapers and TV stations all spout the same crap. Murdoch’s the paying piper and the staff dance along to his, rather unpleasant, tune.

Somewhat lost in this debate is that none of my articles are ever on the subject of bookmakers anyway, nor have they ever recommended one bookmaker over another. It’s not what I do. I might mention that the top price is available at Bet365 for example, but betting with bookmakers is a very short-term thing if you know what you are doing. How professionals are able to defy the odds and keep accounts open with the likes of the afore-mentioned Stan James is a topic worthy of a post in itself.

I remain a big fan of Betfair (although less than I was a few years ago for obvious reasons) but since I can’t get on with bookmakers (in more ways than one), my bets outside Betfair are usually with BETDAQ, and only a very small number go elsewhere, and indirectly at that, but if you ever see me write something like:

accompanied with affiliate links (now removed) will know that I have sold out, but I will have stopped blogging by this time anyway.

Here are some comments from others on this topic:

Little Al: “chuckle, chuckle”. Always pleased to entertain Al.

Punters Friend wrote:
Now now boys, play nicely.
This is an interesting topic and one that I feel should be openly debated a bit more.
What has not been pointed out is that bookmaker affiliation is generally generated on "losing" accounts where they pay a revenue share, so the more a punter loses the more the affiliate wins!
Now on sites that promote themselves as bookie bashing sites this really does question the ethos of the site, how can you be helping punters to win but then taking money from them when they lose?
You only have to look around Twitter to see that there are a number of Twitter accounts with huge followings that claim to be "tipsters" that are heavily affiliated to certain bookmakers, this has raised the question of "do bookmakers get into bed with certain tipsters and encourage them to tip losers on their behalf generating a win win situation"
This one could rumble on.........
I'm really not aware of how the affiliate relationship works insofar as whether the referrer receives more for losing accounts or a flat fee per new account. I'm also not one for following Twitter tipsters, at least not with my money! It's interesting to read tips, especially if there is a sensible accompanying explanation, but there usually isn't.

Soccer Dude joined in with:
On this occasion I think you're going to have to accept both barrels square between the eyes.
Mark has caught you out and the response from you is both weak and untenable (and I'm guessing it took you a while to even figure-out what the response should be).
However, happily this is all highly inconsequential - and I can easily see what you've done here because I do it myself all the time. And because you post so often on a decent cross-section of subjects, you are probably more prone to it than most.
It's all to do with throwaway lines. So often, I will blurt-out something, often just to fill a paragraph or two, but that can become problematic as it then has to be defended. On more than one occasion I've found myself defending something that I don't really feel that strong about simply because I've been backed into a corner.
Never mind. In most cases (as in this one) it's all beyond trivial anyway.
Do keep up the gentle prodding and poking though, as it's good fun and entertaining. Causing the odd ripple in the betting blogging community is never a bad thing in my opinion.
Oh, and when you have a moment, if you would be good enough to pop over to my site and click on a couple of my links, that would be much appreciated.
Hmmm. Not sure anyone can say they 'caught me out' when I have been writing under the Cassini name at Betting Expert, when I have mentioned them in this blog and Tweeted, and been Tweeted  about, for well over a year now. That seems to me to be about as open and upfront as one could be.

Webbo had these words to add to the debate:
This is an interesting discussion as experimenting with these ads is something I've tried in recent times and I haven't received any money from these yet either so it's rather ironic that Cassini is possibly the only one to profit from these, albeit indirectly.
I do think there is something that rubs people up the wrong way about the lack of transparency in these affiliate type advertisements and whilst I do think it might be a good idea to make this apparent somewhere, I don't think it's an obligation and nor should it be.

One of the main reasons that we are attracted to betting is the lure of the possibility of making money and if we can find other sideline ways of doing this then why not, even if this it helped or funded by other players. This is also effectively the basis for the betting exchange concept itself!
We all have something to sell either directly or indirectly through out 9-5 jobs. Most people are oblivious to how company's such as Facebook use them and their personal data to make money and there are a whole host of more cunning and unethical ways that multinational companies make money from us.

One could argue that Cassini's articles about draws are an attempt to 'draw' attention to his XX subscription selections or that by showing how easy it is trading Basketball or NFL is an attempt to increase liquidity on the exchanges so he can make more profit.
I have no doubt that this is not the case but I'm sure you get my point. For me this one has gone right against the form book/historical records and is a win for Iverson! 1.01 busted?
Cassini isn't the only blogger to have written articles for Betting Expert. In fact, several of their contributors are fairly well known in the world of betting and sports analysis.

Trading on basketball or the NFL is certainly not easy, but it is easier than the more popular sports. I very much doubt that the 200 to 300 readers, many UK based with no interest in either sport, make any difference at all to the liquidity on the exchanges, but it would be nice if it did!

Finally, at least for now, Al had this observation:
I noticed the adverts have disappeared from Iverson's blog... looks like Cass 2, Iverson 0.
An interesting development indeed. 


Mark Iverson said...

The affiliate links have not been removed, they are still there and I don't have any intention of doing so (there was never one for Pinnacle).

I'm not sure where you were looking.

Danny Murphy said...

Personally I see using your blog to constantly promote XX Draws via the biased FTL table as a lot worse.

Your attitude to bookies is equally baffling, how can you claim to know they limit everyone's accounts when the only bookie you joined was Ladbrokes in 1976? If you bothered to do any research you would learn there are ways to stay under the radar.

Has it ever occurred to you many of these chains also have shops?

Hermes said...

Looks like Al should've gone to specsavers. Yet another case of Cassini not checking his facts and just copying whatever info suits his agenda.

Think we'll have to disallow that goal and award a penalty :)

Cassini 1, Iverson 2

Danny Murphy said...

By the way the above comment about XX Draws was tongue in cheek.

You can tell it's the silly season with all these 'purity' arguments. The fact of the matter is like it or not we are all tainted as we profit from other's mistakes.

AL said...

Mark, it is possible that i did not see any affiliate links due to Ad Block Plus.

Apologies, off to specsavers now.