Software Marketing Resource Articles: 2004

You wrote the code, now how do you sell it?

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Do I Really Need an RSS Feed?

RSS has been around for more than 10 years but has only recently become popular. RSS provides headlines and summaries of information in a concise and standardized way.

Benefits for Publishers

1.) Avoid Spam Filters
Statisticians estimate that 70% of the email transferred each day is spam (unsolicited email). With that statistic, even opt-in users risk losing valuable messages in the cesspool of spam. RSS feeds effectively nullify spam as an issue. Requesting feeds allow users to maintain complete control over the content they view. Users can easily opt-in and out of feeds that provide content of interest or importance.

2.) Expanded Reach
RSS allows publishers to reach a number of new and different markets that typically are less crowded with competition. Many small businesses are often slow to adopt or learn new technologies, giving businesses that lead the way a competitive advantage.

3.) Content Syndication
Syndication of feeds increases exposure.

4.) Repeat Visitors
RSS is all about repeat visitors. Users who have previously visited a site often have a stronger connection to the site and are more likely to purchase or trust the information on the site.

5.) Free web traffic
As the internet has evolved, many webmasters have found that what was once free traffic must now be paid for in order to sustain decent visitor statistics. RSS is in a unique position to bring free traffic because they are content-driven, and if they include interesting or valuable information, will pique the curiosity of web-surfers and entice them to visit a particular site.

6.) Less Effort
Newsletters and E-zines undeniably bring visitors, but the effort involved in creating, distributing and maintaining a newsletter can be a burden. Maintaining the list, ensuring the list is clean, growing the subscriber base, updating and removing bad e-mail addresses, all take time. RSS feeds are not burdened with those issues. There are easy-to-use RSS feed creation tools that require little effort, allowing publishers to recycle content, often simply cutting and pasting into RSS feed creation software.

Consider supplementing existing communication venues with RSS. Place the contents of newsletters into feeds and measure the results. You might be surprised at the added traffic.

Our feed for these articles is here:

RSS has potential to help companies develop strong relationships with consumers and creating brand loyalty with customers. While the world will not end tomorrow, nor will business come to a screeching halt if you don't use an RSS feed, there are a number of reasons online businesses should consider using RSS feeds.
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Monday, November 1, 2004

Article Syndication - The Key to Content

New websites are being launched daily. In order to compete, webmasters need to find alternative ways of producing themed websites. Highly focused articles are often sought by wembasters. Why? Because content on the web is still king! In order to attract search engines and site visitors, webmasters rely heavily on providing new, innovative and fresh content. If the web site content is rich, visitors will come. If the website content is updated regularly, visitors will return. When evaluating a website's traffic it is easy to see that the low cost of syndicated content can increase a website's value. Sites that contain multiple pages related to a specific topic increase the likelihood of being 'found' when a variety of search phrases are used for that topic.

By creating a niche resource, webmasters are viewed as industry experts and their websites are more likely to receive incoming directory links. A number of publishers provide free content, the only stipulation being that the webmaster serving the content must include the author resource box. Webmasters utilizing free content can easily create portals teeming with themed content.

Unlocking the Key to RSS
Many webmasters are struggling to find fresh, innovative content while other savvy webmasters have realized the potential hidden within RSS and are adopting the technology at a maddening pace. By utilizing RSS, webmasters can tap numerous free content sources with very little effort. RSS truly is a webmaster's key to free content.

Webmasters interested in taking advantage of RSS have a number of resources available to them:

GoArticles is a free content article directory with more than 20,000 articles available for syndication. Recently GoArticles added a feature that will allow webmasters and site owners to add dynamically updated article headlines to their sites by simply adding a single line of java script into their webpage. More than 100 articles are added daily to GoArticles. The content is refreshed and indexed every 3 hours, so new articles are updated on the site 8 times a day. Webmasters looking for content can include theme-based RSS feeds into their site, using java script supplied by GoArticles. The java script accesses an RSS feed that contains the article headlines on the GoArticles site.

GoArticles has 64 article categories, making it easy for webmasters to find content that suits their interest. Webmasters can select either the most recent articles in a specific category or the most popular articles in a specific category. As new articles are added to the GoArticles directory, the content on the websites using the java script will dynamically update.
Additional details at:
Example of a site using GoArticle's feed -

Another article resource webmasters may find useful is Article Central's tracker script. Webmasters can easily insert java script into their website to list all of Article Central's new articles or site owners can customize the tracker code to list only those articles chosen from the article repository's article category list. Articles relate to web development, design and technology-related issues and are updated daily.
Additional details at:
Example of a site using Article Central's feed - -

Content syndication is a win-win for both the publisher and the webmaster. As a result of these new distribution opportunities provided by GoArticles and Article Central, publishers will receive increasingly more exposure for their articles and webmasters will have a new source for fresh content.

Webmasters interested in creating dynamic content from other free sources can use the free service provided by Feed2JS. All webmasters need to do in order to display the RSS feed on a website is enter the URL of the RSS source. Feed2JS creates java script that can be inserted into the HTML of the site owner's webpage. Webmasters are also given control over how their content is served, meaning they can customize the look and appearance of the headlines.
Additional details at:
Example of site using Feed2JS -

Search engines are increasingly looking for theme-based portals by having specific targeted content where Webmasters are likely to be defined as industry experts. RSS is a free and easy way to promote a site and its content without the need to advertise. RSS is defined specifically for syndication; in fact the acronym RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication. This means that webmasters serving RSS content do not need to negotiate complicated content sharing partnerships in order to use content contained within an RSS feed.
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Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Changes at SWREG How Will it Affect the Industry?

Cyrus Maaghul the former owner of Digibuy, one of the first registration services purchased by Digital River, raised some eyebrows by announcing that he is the new CEO of SWREG. I interviewed Cyrus to find out more.

Approximately five years ago, Cyrus Maaghul sold Digibuy to Digital River. After the sale, Cyrus returned to school attending George Washington University, where he obtained an advanced degree in International Securities Studies. The background in foreign policy and foreign affairs enabled Cyrus to work in the international arena, spending 4 months in Iraq working with the Coalition Provisional Authority as an advisor to those investigating the corruption in the Oil Ministry and Oil for Food Program.

The additional college course work in cyberterrorism, and the impact on national security policies eventually led Cyrus back to the software industry. Three month's ago, while working with a venture capital fund researching the shareware market, Cyrus crossed paths with an old industry friend and former rival, Steve Lee from SWREG. Unbeknown to most, prior to the Digital River purchase of Digibuy, SWREG leased the Digibuy technology for their use.

Having a history and knowing the industry, Cyrus could appreciate the hidden value in SWREG, and was confident he could take the company to the next level. Steve Lee while still an integral part of SWREG, welcomed the thought of free time that would allow him to pursue other interests.

In talking with Cyrus, he laid out ambitious plans, including setting up a US sales operation for SWREG. He expects the sales office to be operational in Denver, Colorado within three months.

Some of the more innovative ambitions he alluded to, got me thinking that perhaps my predictions back in January may have been right on target, it appears this will be a defining year for registration services after all. With Digital River's recent purchase of ShareIt/Element 5, and management changes underway at SWREG, it is apparent that significant changes are in the works.

Cyrus believes that developers are looking for a new type of relationship with their ecommerce providers. Companies that just provide payment processing will go away, and they won't be as valuable as they are today. It is my belief while this might be true for the western world, it is not the case for the east. The developers from less-developed regions cannot simply obtain a merchant account for credit card processing, but perhaps it is in these regions where the most opportunities exists. It was apparent in my recent trip to Russia, that developers from those regions would welcome assistance in bridging the east and the west, and none of the registration services have found an effective way to do this outside of providing multi-currency and traditional registration offerings.

While Cyrus is aware of SWREG's weaknesses in infrastructure and affiliate programs, he is working to partner with others that can provide value in those areas.

While developers are becoming leary of industry consolidations and the sales of registration services, there is likely to be additional consolidations, or at the very least strategic relationships formed in order for the smaller services to compete against the consortium of DR properties. It is Cyrus' belief that in order to trump the leader structural changes will need to occur.

Watch the SWREG website for changes in the coming months, the site will have a new look, better documentation, and SWREG will be releasing a series of press releases announcing many of their new initiatives.
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Grand Rapids Schmooze Overview

I got to the Governor's Suite at the Grand Rapids Airport Hilton at 3pm on Thursday with food and drinks. I ran into the ASP Treasurer, Fred Clabuesch, in the hall way on my way to pick up place settings for the early arrivals. At 4 pm I met Matt Dyer of the Game Designers Group. Jay Semerad, from the South Michigan chapter of the International Game Developers Association was next to arrive. Slowly as the day went on, the folks who drove in from Wisconsin and Indiana, arrived and we all went out to the Grand Rapids Brewing Company and met yet another unknown schmoozer. On our way back to the hotel suite, we met Gregg Seelhoff waiting for us. We had discussed when the Game Designers Group would arrive on Friday.

Friday was the big schmooze day and the remaining out of town schmoozers had arrived. Abe Merchant and Scott Anderson of Curiosoft had arrived and there was a big Pow wow of game developers at the table. Jay Semerad and Phil Poccia, IDGA representative, Abe Merchant and Scott Anderson, and Gregg Seelhoff talked to the young folks of the Game Designers Group, about the game industry. I had bought two big round sandwiches for lunch for everyone along with condiments. For dinner Friday, a group of 12 of us went to Japanese restaurant with the chef cooking the food in front of us. It was a first experience for many of us. Very cool experience.

Saturday was the traveling day to the local attractions. There are some interesting pictures included in the two following links.

It has been decided that at the next schmooze, those of us who have not had Blue Moon ice cream, MUST have some!! This is a flavor that's, apparently, only in Michigan. Should be another interesting experience.

The whole weekend was good. There will be a Grand Rapids Schmooze next year, so if you can make it to this beautiful part of the midwest, join in the schmooze!!

About the Author: Sheila Manning is ASP Events Coordinator and Volunteer Coordinator; she works with her husband, Mark on Grand River Software LLC; and homeschools her two daughters.

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

Relationship Networking

What is Relationship Networking?

Relationship networking is simply the art of meeting people and benefiting from those relationships. Often the benefit of these relationship is to obtain information and leads to further grow your business. Any successful relationship, whether a personal or a business relationship, is unique to every pair of individuals, and it evolves over time. Effective relationship networking is all about building those relationships and maintaining long lasting connections with other professionals.

The Internet is an excellent vehicle for networking. Relationships can develop in newsgroups, forums, and via email. Though nothing really beats good old-fashioned face-to-face networking to start the process of building a relationship and trust, which is why conferences like ISDEF and SIC are so important.

Not all contacts will be useful or worth pursuing. There will be leads that don't provide much information. Use your judgment on whether the information and relationship is worth spending more time on.

Relationship networking opens new doors, often it's "who you know, not necessarily what you know".

How to Build Network Relationships:
1. Provide genuine assistance to others.
2. Be open-minded.
3. Remember personal details.
4. Respect cultural differences.
5. Research people and companies. Know their goals and interests.
6. Reciprocate.
7. Introductions.

Where to Network:
So many people wear multiple hats; everyone and anyone could possibly be a networking opportunity. However, just like targeted search engine traffic, the more targeted the networking the higher the chance of success. 'Targeted' networking offers the most potential.

1. Trade associations or industry specific organization.
2. Trade shows.
3. Friends.
4. Schools.
5. Focused newsgroups and topic specific forums.
6. Customers.
7. Suppliers.
8. User groups.

Constantly refine and grow your network of relationships, as they are valuable and need cultivating. If you are perceived as someone who is only trying to get something your network will likely not increase. Networking is about building relationships and mutual interaction benefiting both parties. Share information and help others grow their businesses.

In many ways relationship networking and partnering overlap, and on some occasion's relationship networking will lead to synergistic partnering.

Partnering is an attractive flexible way for software companies to develop new markets and additional revenue. Working together, partners can combine strengths in critical areas. Often a larger well-known vendor provides small vendors with credibility, while the smaller vendor contributes specific industry knowledge unknown to the larger vendor. Synergistic relationships come in all shapes and sizes, but the best relationships and partnerships are the ones that benefit everyone. Partnering is a good way of tapping into related customer bases. Often the partners complement each other in such a way that they can provide a combined solution that neither partner could deliver alone.

In order for a relationship to work you must have a clear understanding of both your companies and product(s) strengths and weaknesses. By being aware of any deficiencies, you will find partners with strengths in the areas of your weaknesses.

1. Know what you have to offer.
2. Know what you are looking for.
3. Don't waste yours and your potential partner's time.

Different relationships/partnering that works for software developers:
1. Product bundling.
2. Newsletter exchanges.
3. Integrations.
4. Link exchanges.
5. Technology or knowledge exchange.
6. Revenue share.
7. Ad exchange.

Only when each partner is successful can the partnership itself claim success. Partnerships are genuinely a win-win. Developers, who master the art of strategic partnering and relationship networking, will obtain long-term profitability and success.

Final Tips
1.) Qualify sources.
2.) Adage - you are who you hang with.
3.) Not every relationship is a good one.
4.) Evaluate potential partners.
5.) Make it personal by taking the time to say thank you.
6.) Results are not always immediate.
7.) Carry business cards everywhere you go.

Being proactive and following up, you can have a network of contacts that you will be able to access quickly when you need them. Whether by more traditional means, such as in person or over the Internet, personal networks are essential for furthering your business. Relationship networking is give and take, be sure to help others in your quest for help.
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Saturday, August 28, 2004

Adware - Should I be Afraid?

Developers offering downloads are paying the price for the malformed truths that have been put forth regarding downloads. While not a political campaign the smears are ever present in the adware arena.

Years ago developers saw they could monetize freeware that was becoming expensive to host. Developers began working with Ad Networks such as the former Aureate and Conducent, who imbedded advertisements in the software. The software in many cases phoned home retrieving ads. In other cases adverts were imbedded directly into the download only being removed when the software was registered. Many well known software companies, including Netscape distributed ad supported versions, which allowed users to use the software for free. Developers were compensated either by install or the number of ads served. Advertisers welcomed new revenue streams to reach potential customers.

Adware or advertising-supported software is any software application in which advertisements are displayed while the program is running. These applications include additional code that displays the ads in pop-up windows or through a bar that appears on a computer screen. Adware helps recover program development costs, and helps to hold down the price of making the application for the user, often making it free of charge. As a result of the AdWare revenue programmers were motivated to write maintain, and upgrade valuable ad-enabled software. Adware was a great consumer trade off, so were did it all go wrong?

Unbeknownst to the developers a handful of ad serving companies were logging and profiling the surfing habits of those who had downloaded the ad-enabled software. After downloading free software, the new adware companies delivered pop-up and pop-under ads based on the consumers surfing interests. Adware has been criticized for including code that tracks a user's surfing habits, email address and personal information, which are passed to third parties, without the user's authorization or knowledge. This was the downfall of the ad serving technology and ad-enabled software.

In many cases consumers rightfully believe they have been and are being spied on, which prompted an outcry from privacy advocates. Adware is not a virus and may not be detected by anti-virus scanning programs. It does not spread the same way as most viruses spread. Many users do not know they are downloading a free program along with adware onto their computer. The lack of disclosure tarnished reputations of many well known, but misfortunate developers and software companies. The collapse of a number of venture backed ad-serving companies including Aureate and Conducent.

Fast forward to today. Few applications are now ad enabled. Those that are generally follow strict disclosure guidelines. Some developers opt to insert static (not changing) ads for other applications in their product line, into free versions, but these ads do not change and there is no record of what ads are clicked. Freeware can therefore be used free of charge and there is no evaluation time period as with shareware. Freeware is also often a basic or stripped down version of the shareware version. Developers make money off ads or those who want to upgrade from the free version. There are also developers who provide freeware out of principle, occasionally asking for a donation. The majority of freeware that employs the use of imbedded advertisements are provided in the true spirit of adware without the intent to track users, but just to be safe consumers should read the fine print.
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Friday, August 27, 2004

Google AdWords a How-To

Unlike many search engines Google, to its credit, clearly denotes search listings that are paid placement. In fact, Google AdWords appear in a separate section down the left side of the screen.

Google AdWords provide an inexpensive advertising venue for businesses to advertise products or services to a targeted audience. Advertisers have the ability to control their budget, target their advertising based on keywords. Advertisers are also free to determine the ad contents.

Google AdWords allow for nearly instant traffic, which can be turned on and off. Traffic results can be measured, providing information on what is successful, what isn't and what needs to be changed. AdWords can be found that work by running a test campaign.

Benefits to AdWords
Advertisers bid on keywords, the more an advertiser is willing to pay the higher the likelihood the ad will appear higher in position in the list of ads served. Google, invariably wanting to make the most from advertisers, determines placement based on a combination of click through rate, bid amount and budget. Of course, in order to maximize revenue and please searchers Google does have guidelines for ads served and all ads must receive a minimum percentage click through or they are removed.

AdWord Guidelines
Clearly and accurately describe the website, this is to the advertiser and searchers benefit. Ultimately, the more qualified the visitor who clicks the ad, the higher the likelihood the clicker will convert into a sale. By providing clear and accurate information, searchers who click the ad are qualified leads, which tend to convert more consistently than unqualified leads. The most effective advertising communicates a clear message to a targeted audience.

Avoid excessive capitalization, superlatives and lavish exclamation marks in the ad. By doing this you are not only serving the visitor you are filtering unwanted clicks from non-buyers. Due to space limitations your ad message will need to be concise. Select keywords that are relevant to your product, service or content. Call to action phrases are not allowed (i.e. you cannot use phrases like "click here" in your ad copy.) There are also no pop-ups.

Steps for AdWord Campaign

1.) Open an account

2.) Target language and country - This is very important because if your product or service can not be exported you do not want to pay to advertise in those countries for which your product or service can not be sold.

3.) Create Ad Group - design an ad, select keywords, determine maximum cost per click that you are willing to spend and define bid amounts.

The title tag is generally the most important part of the ad be sure to use a short phrase that gets the attention of your target audience. An underutilized feature at Google allows you to put a question mark in the title, the term searched on automatically replaces the question mark in the title of your ad.

Define max click - Google will suggest a cost per click, but the recommendation does not need to be adhered to. Arguments have been heard that #1 position does not always mean increased sales; sometimes a second position will filter useless clicks and provide targeted traffic with a higher conversion ration. The rule of thumb is positions 1-3 garner the most traffic and best results. Increasing either your maximum cost-per-click or the ads click through rate will generally improve the ad's position.

Use keyword variations to reach more prospects. A variety or spellings and derivatives of keywords will increase the chances of your ads being served. Be sure to use common misspellings and plurals in your keyword list.

Broad match - is targeting keywords in a loosely defined manner. Ads appear based on keywords that have been queried by search users. For instance, if the keywords you are planning on broad matching are "mountain bikes" and users search for the terms "bikes that can climb a mountain", your ad will appear; as opposed to exact match, which requires that the keywords selections must exactly match the query.

Phrase match - is indicated when quotations are used in the phrase. A keyword phrase set to phrase match will only appear when the exact phrase is searched on. For example "mountain bikes" will appear when searchers search for "brand name mountain bikes".

Exact match - is when the keyword or phrase is entered with brackets. The phrase will only serve ads when the entered search phrase is identical to the keyword phrase. "Mountain bikes" will only appear when searchers search for "mountain bikes"

Negative keyword - is helpful in filtering unrelated phrases. A dash is entered before the filtering phrase. "Mountain bike -races will not appear if mountain bike races are searched on.

Landing Page - is important because this not only helps with tracking, but also provides a focused and specific landing page for searchers. Information can be related to the actual search, while also increasing the conversion ratios for sales. A focused landing page with content related and using the same terminology as the actual search, will show the searcher that your solution is relevant to their needs.

3.) Define budget - in order to maximize exposure Google recommends a daily budget for each campaign.

Google's suggested budget is helpful in receiving consistent traffic throughout the advertising campaign. Keep in mind this is only Google's recommendation; ultimately it is up to you to determine a budget that is affordable and suitable.

Google supplies tracking tools that assist webmasters in determining their return on investment based on keyword searches and phrases. While the technology is not perfect and cannot track phone and purchase orders, it should give advertisers a sense of what phrases and keywords are converting well in their advertising campaign.

While Google AdWords should not be your only advertising campaign, but should be a significant part of your campaign. Google AdWords can certainly help send those important targeted searchers to your website. Get started with Google AdWords at

Monday, August 2, 2004

Optimizing Google AdSense

Google AdSense allows webmasters to dynamically serve content relevant advertisements on web pages. If the visitor clicks one of the AdSense ads served to the website, the website owner is credited for the referral. Google's AdSense program essentially allows approved websites to dynamically serve Google's pay-per-click AdWord results.

Website maintenance related to AdSense is very easy and requires very little effort. Webmasters need only to insert a Google generated java script into the web page or website template. Google's spider parses the AdServing website and serves ads that relate to the website's content. Google uses a combination of keyword matching and context analysis to determine what ads should be served. The java script calls the ad from Google and will ensure that ads are served each time a visitor goes to the web page.

Early on Google implemented a filtering system that allowed webmasters to prevent a specific domain's ads from being served on any websites in their account. Ad blocking meant that webmasters could prevent their competitor's ads from being dynamically served on their websites.

Google provides a wide variety of ad formats to match the most suitable option with a website. Webmasters can select from a handful of preformatted towers, inline rectangles, banners and buttons. The ad boxes can be modified by webmasters to resemble the website's color scheme. Examples of how different the various text boxes and color schemes appear on similarly themed sites can be viewed at: (scroll to the bottom) (scroll to the bottom)

or (download left side) (scroll to the bottom)

Ads can be geo-targeted based on the visitor's location. Advertisements containing content in English, French, German, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, Japanese, or Spanish are all available.

Google recently introduced channels, enhancing AdSense reporting. When a channel is selected Google modifies the java script to include additional tracking. The additional tracking information allows webmasters to track a variety of metrics across their sites. Channels can be used to measure performance on various domains, differences in revenue with various ad sizes, or placement. By assigning each group of pages to a specific channel and comparing results in custom channel reports webmasters can work at increasing their AdSense revenue.

Google determines the content of the ads that are shown, webmasters serious about earning revenue from Google AdSense can use the following guidelines to optimize their website and ensure that targeted and relevant ads are served. If Google's spider has not crawled the site and determined the nature of the content, public service ads may be served. Public service ads will not accrue any AdSense revenue if clicked. As a result Google allows webmasters to designate alternate ads. Alternate ads allow webmasters to utilize the ad space in the event that Google is unable to serve targeted ads to the web page. By specifying an alternate image, HTML page, or ad server the advertising space can always being used effectively.

1.) Web page content on pages that ads are served should be static not dynamic.

2.) Ensure that the robot.txt does not prevent the web page from being spidered. Robots.txt file's will need to be removed or the following text will need to bedded to allow Google's content bot to crawl the site: User-agent: Media partners - Google

3.) If the website contains frames, select the 'framed page' checkbox when generating the ad layout code for that website.

4.) The body of the page and title of the page should contain contextual words that indicate a common theme on the web page.

Revenue Earned
Although Google doesn't disclose the exact revenue share or percentage that webmasters will earn, webmasters will receive a portion of the amount paid for clicks on Google ads on websites.

AdSense Conclusion:
Overall, Google AdWords can provide great supplemental income to webmasters with content sites. Implementing and maintaining Google AdSense program on a content site requires very little effort and can often bring a steady stream of additional revenue for webmasters.
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Sunday, August 1, 2004

What Are RSS Feeds?

RSS also known as rich site summary or real simply syndication, arrived on the scene a number of years ago, but was only recently embraced by webmasters as a means to effectively syndicate content. RSS Feeds provide webmasters and content providers an avenue to provide concise summaries to prospective readers. Thousands of commercial web sites and blogs now publish content summaries in an RSS feed. Each item in the feed typically contains a headline; article summary and link back to the online article.

Benefit to the Webmaster
As the web has become more crowded webmasters have been striving to provide fresh and up to date content for their website visitors. Many webmasters have discovered they can easily utilize the information in RSS feeds to provide fresh web content.

RSS feeds are composed in XML, which is a very simple markup language. Similar to HTML, XML uses tags to identify fields. Webmasters can easily parse the RSS feed and dynamically create web pages that contain headlines and summaries. The feeds will continuously update, supplying a steady stream of automatically generated fresh content.

RSS allows webmasters to:
1.) Provide fresh and relevant content on their website, which encourages users to return.

2.) Constantly changing content means that search engine spiders will visit more frequently.

3.) Automate content delivery.

The benefits of RSS feeds are not limited to webmasters, surfers too benefit from the technology as well.

Benefit to Web Surfers
The beauty of RSS is that readers can quickly scan headlines (titles) and read articles of interest. Because the information is condensed and provided in a single location users can generally review more information in a shorter time frame. Additional information is only a click away. Best of all readers choose the feeds they wish to see, there is no spam with RSS. If you are not completely thrilled with the content appearing in a feed simply remove it from the newsreader. The technology is a pull technology rather than push technology, meaning the content is not forced on the consumers, who pull the content they want to see.

RSS allows for users to:
1.) Easily locate information.

2.) Read condensced information or 'soundbytes' with clearly marked and dated topic material.

3.) Classify and categorize information in an easy to navigate manner.

4.) Maximize their time without having to deal with spam.

RSS feeds can be viewed in a news aggregator or reader, which constantly updates and shows unread feeds. I found the functionality of the newsreaders to be similar to a simple email client. Consumers generally enter the URL of any RSS feeds that interest them. Topics with a common theme can be segregated into related groups.

I highly recommend FeedDemon by BradSoft as a newsreader. FeedDemon is extremely easy to use and allows for quick scanning and indexing of topics. FeedDemon allows users to quickly scan, sort and scroll through headline and article summaries, while viewing the actual content in a split screen web browser.

Finding Topic Specific Relevant Feeds
In order to find feeds that provide niche information users can search Feedster. Feedster is a rapidly growing news search engine that indexes information contained within RSS feeds. Searches for topic specific feeds can be conducted and feeds can be retrieved for syndication.

Benefit to Content Developer
While the benefits to users and webmasters are clear the distribution opportunities made available to content developers should not be overlooked. Information contained in the RSS feed can be easily syndicated, increasing content distribution and reach.

RSS allows for content developers to:
1.) Increase exposure in niche markets.

2.) Communicate with user bases and reach potential customers via an alternate communication method.

3.) Disseminate relevant information.

4.) Define themselves as an industry expert.

5.) Automate content delivery.

RSS has effectively standardized the format for content delivery and has effectively defined the accepted standard for content distribution and syndication. RSS will likely rival email as a means of content distribution in another few years. The shear simplicity makes the technology very appealing.

The distribution potential, while albeit difficult to measure, is still attractive to all parties making the likelihood that RSS popularity will only continue to grow.

Thursday, July 29, 2004

Website Globalization

The Internet has unlocked a wide array of markets and knocked down barriers that previously prevented merchants from marketing their products on a global scale. There are a number of ways to 'globalize' a website and broaden a businesses general appeal to an international audience.

1.) Payment Options - vary from country to country, therefore offering flexible payment options are important. While PayPal might be a good option for consumer-oriented products, this service is not widely used by businesses and is only available to customers in specific countries. In order to attract global customers, businesses must provide a variety of payment options that customers, in different countries, are familiar and comfortable with.

2.) Currency Distinction - provides added convenience to a potential customer, and shows an understanding and respect for global audiences. A currency converter is a good option, especially for large companies who may be dealing with many countries. When listing prices clearly indicate the country currency, such as between US dollars and Canadian dollars. This distinction will prevent misconceptions and prevent customer dissatisfaction.

3.) Contact Information - should be given for a country code, along with the area code, when listing phone numbers. It should not be assumed that customers know the numbers to dial foreign calls. Since the standards of address formats can differ from country to country, ensure that the mailing address listed on the website is properly formatted. In this time of rapidly expanding use of numbers, if your area code changes, don't forget to change the information on your website.

4.) Delivery Options - should make sense for all customers. Ensure that they have full knowledge of shipping information to avoid delay and error. If a shipping option is not available for a specific region be sure that is clearly stated on the website. Provide estimates as to when the product will arrive to various regions, so that customers have appropriate expectations about delivery time frames.

5.) Order Forms - when creating order forms use terminology that is universal; if possible, where relevant, refer to postal codes rather than zip codes. The terminology on the order form should support the fact that the company sells to an international audience.

6.) Payment Policy - clearly state payment policies on any order pages, if purchase orders or wire transfers are not accepted from specific countries be sure that the policy is clearly stated. Prepare an explanation as to why the policies are in place. Customers understand that foreign purchase orders are not legally binding and will not feel alienated if an explanation is offered and clearly stated.

7.) Spelling - can vary, so avoid using terminology on the website that would cause confusion or look like careless spelling mistakes. Be clear and concise as many customers may be viewing your website in their second language. A website that can be viewed in different languages is all the better for communicating with foreign customers.

Ultimately the goal is to make purchasing the product or service easy for a customer. A website that respects cultural differences, as well as the nuances of language and terminology, will go a long way in attracting an international audience.

Monday, July 26, 2004

Shareware Blunders - Interview with Adam Stiles

1.) What prompted you to create an ebook?

Two reasons... First, it had never been done before. I've purchased a number of ebooks in the past on various subjects, especially marketing-related books, and they have all been extremely helpful. The best ones are written by experts who share real-world experiences. I'd never seen anything like this for the "shareware" world, so I decided to give it a try.

Second, I'm going to have to miss the Shareware Industry Conference this year. Its one of my favorite events of the year, but we have a family conflict that can't be avoided. One of my favorite things about SIC is talking with other developers, schmoozing, learning about what works and what doesn't, and just hanging out. Learning from the "experts" has certainly helped me, and I wanted to allow others to learn from the experts too. The people I've met in the industry are some of the friendliest and most helpful - and I've met most of the ebook contributors at one time or another. The ebook by no means replaces the SIC, but it combines advice from what is probably the best collection of experts ever assembled.

2.) What specifically does the ebook cover?

I talked to about 40 developers and vendor/commentator/experts and asked them about the costliest mistakes they see other developers make, and about the costliest mistakes they've made in their business. The ebook is the compilation of all of the answers that people gave me. Lots of areas are covered - marketing, advertising, partnering, affiliate programs, web site usability and design, software usability and design, customer service, software protection - just about all aspects of the business.

3.) Who do you feel would benefit most from reading the ebook?

Anyone who sells software will benefit from reading the ebook, and especially those developers starting or running small companies.

4.) Can you give us a sample of what to expect?

Where to start? One of my favorite contributions is from Nick Bradbury, the author of HomeSite, TopStyle, and FeedDemon. You don't find many people in the industry who have written more than one "killer app", and it could be argued that Nick has written not just one, but three. Nick sold HomeSite to Allaire, and Allaire was later purchased by Macromedia. I met Nick at Internet World in Los Angeles in 1996, just after he sold the product to Allaire. Nick shares that his costliest mistake was the decision to sell HomeSite without really knowing what it was worth. The driving factor behind his decision to sell was desperation caused by the way he was running his company - you'll have to get the book to read more about what caused his desperation. Nick then describes changes he's implemented with his two newer applications to make sure he never gets in that desperate situation again.

5.) What did you learn in writing the ebook?

I learned a ton... And I have a HUGE todo list for various changes to make to both my software and my web site, and that doesn't even scratch the surface of my marketing todo list. I included a 4-page cheatsheet at the end of the ebook which are effectively the notes I took reviewing the book.

6.) I realize this is a conglomeration of advice from various | industry professionals can you give us some idea of who | participated in the ebook?

You can get a full list on the site, but its about 40 people... Including commentators like Chris "Lockergnome" Pirillo, Sr. Editor Wayne Cunningham, RegNow founder Jessica Dewell, Tucows founder Scott Swedorski, and super-developers like Dexterity founder Steve Pavlina, FTP Voyager creator Mark Peterson, GetRight developer Michael Burford, HomeSite/TopStyle/FeedDemon developer Nick Bradbury, and a whole bunch of other people too. Its really an incredible line-up.

7.) What piece of advice can you give to developers?

No matter how successful you've been in the business, there is always more to learn. You can learn the most from the experts - so go to the SIC conference and talk to everyone you can, join the Association of Shareware Professionals and fully engage with the various networking opportunities, and get the ebook :-) Beyond that... never, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, ever, EVER give up!

Adam has provided a $ 10.00 discount to SMR readers! In order to purchase the software at the discounted price use the following link -
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Thursday, July 8, 2004

The Value of Online Forums

There are literally thousands of online forums that cover a wide range of topics. Forums provide individuals, who share a common interest, with a meeting place for open discussion, and a great gathering spot for "water cooler" talk. When used properly forums can be an excellent business tool and resource. By providing well thought out, helpful responses posters can develop a reputation as an industry expert. Establishing a reputation within forums will eventually lead to solid business contacts and relationships.

Forums, online discussion groups, can be found on many websites. Companies, individuals or groups often have their own web-based forums, which are a good source of technical information or just general discussions. They can be closed for private use only or open to anyone to post messages, which are usually sorted within different categories, or topics. Posting to forums is obviously effective when an immediate answer is not required. Forum can be found by searching for topic or subject with the word 'forum' or 'forums'. Forums are a great way to participate in a community that is discussing a particular topic, or communicate with a group of people interested in the same topic.

Rules & Regulations
Before you post to a forum its important that you read the Charter or description of the forum and determine what is appropriate. It is probably not a bad idea to monitor a newsgroup for a few days prior to posting. Understanding what is accepted or not accepted in each newsgroup will go a long way in befriending the participants.

Forum Etiquette
Spam is generally frowned upon, if you require information on general forum etiquette I'd encourage you to read the article at: . Rules and etiquette can vary from one group to another, so don't assume what is acceptable in one, is acceptable in another.

Some forums require that you register and provide contact information in order to post a message or respond to messages. The registration is typically simple and requires that you submit general information. An email confirmation is required in order to confirm the information; once the confirmation is responded to posting privileges are granted. Some forums do not require registration and you can post anonymously.

What to Look for In a Forum
Because time is valuable it is best to frequent forums that have a lot of traffic, this will ensure that any posts receive maximum exposure for little effort. The most recent posts should be have current dates and it should be clear that there is regular activity on the board.

Moderated Forums
Some forums are moderated, which means posts are approved prior to being made public. This means that if you post to a moderated forum, there will likely be a delay between the submission and the posts appearance in the forum. Moderated forums tend to have a lower 'noise' ratio and have less off-topic posts. The downside to moderated forums is that like moderated newsgroups they are usually less popular because of the lag time between posts.

Signature Line
Most newsgroups allow for posters to include a signature on any posts. This is your opportunity to mention your products and services. Use this as an opportunity to tell other forum visitors what you want them to know. Be sure to provide an url to your website, as the link will not only refer potential clients but it will help search engine ranking.

Don't forget to check our own forum:
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Friday, July 2, 2004

Software Announce / Software Promotion

Creating amazing software is only half the battle. Telling the world about your software is the other half. With working capital, consider employing someone who specializes in software promotion. To work with an established reputable firm can esure success when marketing software. Two promotional companies that know the software industry, and can provide valuable marketing advice and insight are:
Shareware Promotions -
Dr File Finder .

Outside of hiring professionals to market software, there are still a number of options for marketing software, in most cases, the only investment will be time.

1. Post Press Releases to Online Resources
If press releases or product announcements are sent out, consider posting the announcements to websites, there are a number that allow for press release posting free of charge. The releases on these sites are occasionally picked up by publications looking for information or filler content. Another side benefit to these listings is increased link popularity, which helps with search engine ranking. A list of sites that allow for press release posting can be found under 'press release posting' A number are available at -

2. Post Announcement on Usenet
A number of Usenet groups allow for posting of announcements or press releases. Most of the announce groups in Usenet contain 'ann.' in the domain address. To locate topic specific announce groups consider searching A list of common software announce groups are listed below.

3. Post to Forums
Forums also contain sections in which you can post announcements. If the application is niche product, consider searching for topic specific forums in addition to the general software announce forums listed below. Be sure to post any announcements in the appropriately marked 'announce forum'

Topic specific software announce forums are also available, such as - - only messaging related announcements are welcome

4. Search Usenet
To determine if there are recent inquiries regarding related software or your products and to post appropriate responses search Google's Forum directory (by date):

5. Present to Local User Groups
User groups are filled with technically savvy individuals who have an interest in technology and software. Consider attending and presenting software at a local user group meeting or a SIG (special interest group). The targeted audience will often share information, about software that impresses them, with friends or other user groups. To find local user groups search the database located on the Association of Professional User Group (APCUG) website at or post an inquiry to the user group forum on

6. Partner with Other Developers
Consider a developer newsletter exchange. Complimentary products often do well when presented properly. Provide a discount or affiliate exchange to sweeten the offer of a mention.

The extra effort expended to make potential customers aware of products can go a long way to ensure the success of a well designed application.

Monday, June 28, 2004

Digital River Takes Over

No one is shocked any longer to hear that Digital River has added to their impressive collection of acquisitions. This time, only the size of the acquisition was surprising. On April 19, 2004 Digital River announced that they added ShareIt / Element5 to their collection of registration services for a paltry sum of 120 million dollars. Realizing that I had taken an interest and written about their past acquisitions Brant Pallazza, Vice President of Shareware at Digital River contacted me and welcomed the opportunity to answer any questions that I had. I seized the opportunity, believing that any insight into the acquisitions would help developers make an informed choice about their online ordering service.

***************************** interview *****************************

1.) There is a deep seeded fear amongst developers, though no one will come right out and say it, that DR will consume all of the registration services and then increase rates. At that point developers will be so vested in DR there won't be any other options. Is there any guarantee that this won't happen? Is there anything that you can say to reassure developers who have this fear?

This question has two parts: First, regarding rate increases...we have made many acquisitions in the past and have never raised our ecommerce rates. Instead, we have added features, functionality and stability. In some cases, we have even lowered rates. Our #1 goal is to help our clients grow their revenues through better marketing, sales and distribution opportunities - they win and we win. We can have a much larger impact on both our businesses through this strategy than through simply raising rates.

Second, there are ALWAYS options. We know that our clients have choices. The acquisition of e5 will not lessen that fact that there continue to exist a number of other extremely competitive services out there. We intend to continue to deliver solutions of strength and value that fit our clients requirements.

2.) Why does DR keep acquiring registration services, when they have not yet fully integrated or leveraged the services of the properties they currently own?

With every acquisition, our intention has been to integrate the back end services that make sense (accounting, customer service, hardware, etc.) while retaining the features, functionality and "personality" of the original platform. Believe me, it would have been much easier for Digital River to acquire a platform, integrate the technology into Digital River's core ecommerce platform, and migrate the clients to this new platform. But we know that this is not what the clients want. They want to retain their existing interface and process while benefiting from the elements that Digital River has to offer (i.e. the network).

3.) At some point DR has to realize they are re-purchasing many of their existing customers, I'm not sure how this translates into growth, can you elaborate on any of the thought process?

Following an acquisition, we often times find ourselves reacquainted with previous clients. But we understand that the client was simply looking for an ecommerce solution that best fits their needs.

Hopefully, despite the acquisition, the client is satisfied with their current solution and will continue the relationship despite the acquisition. In fact, they often realize the immediate benefits of being a part of a larger network.

4.) Are there any other directions that DR intends to grow? While the acquisition of ShareIt surprised me, I thought it likely that DR would purchase another download site. In fact with the shake-up at Tucows I thought that might have been on your radar. Can you tell me if the business focus is on registration services or if you intend to grow into other segments? I honestly think developers will be more understanding if they understand both short and long term goals and intentions.

The objective of the acquisition of registration services has been to grow the size of the Digital River's aggregate client product catalog. With a large catalog of titles at our disposal, we will continue our focus on the development of effective channels of distribution for our clients. The more titles we can bring to table, the stronger position we have in getting distribution for our clients in both traditional (online retailers and download sites) and non-traditional (content sites and portals) online channels, which in turn helps us further drive client growth on a global basis.

Creation of our trialware network is just the beginning of several exciting opportunities currently being developed at Digital River. It has been no secret that Digital River has always been very successful and very interested in merchandising, permission-based email marketing, and Web analytics. I see these as continued opportunities for all our clients that will be aggressively pursued in 2004.

5.) Digital River has always taken a hands off approach to their acquisitions letting clients adjust, with as few changes as possible. However, there have been recent key leadership changes at RegSoft and RegNow that no one is talking about. While these acquisitions happened quite some time ago, it appears that they are becoming much more integrated into the DR "machine", is that what will happen with all the properties over time?

It is interesting that you describe Digital River's approach to the acquisition of registration services as "hands-off". That is exactly how we wish the transition to be perceived. But the fact is, many back end processes undergo immediate integration. These changes provide greater security, enhanced redundancy or more depending upon the circumstances.

The fact is that we acquire only very well run organizations with superior solutions and excellent management teams. Obviously element 5 fits this mold. RegNow and RegSoft, two acquisitions referenced by you also fit this mold extremely well. It was several years after having been acquired and being managed by Digital River that the day to day business owner of RegSoft decided to move on. The original development team, however, continues to enhance the platform even today.

As for RegNow, the day to day business managers and support staff continue support the platform today. Although some key roles have been expanded to touch all Digital River's shareware properties. With every acquisition, our objective is to retain the personnel and the "personality" that makes it a great registration service. We then try to maximize the opportunities associated with being part of a larger network.

***************************** my impressions *****************************

I still believe that this will be a defining year for registration services. I was caught off guard by the acquisition, as I was under the impression DR would further integrate their existing properties into a common system, leveraging the benefit of having such a large network before further expansion. Being that Element5 is in Europe and targets European developers, it brings with it, a number of cultural nuances that the other acquisitions did not. This move is slightly out of step with DR's previous purchases and will likely be more difficult to integrate.

I commend Digital River's intention to provide their clients opportunities to further market their software via permission-based email, but I wonder if Digital River is missing the mark. Many savvy web surfers are opting out, of opting in, and simply selecting RSS feeds that contain content of interest.

As for the future, eSellerate has made it very clear that they will not sell to Digital River for any price. They are positioned well and will likely be "the" other industry player. For all the developer rumblings regarding the DR acquisitions, few grumble with their feet and most will likely stay with their existing processor unless they incur some sort of financial loss as a result of the new conglomerate. Of course I don't have a crystal ball, and Plimus, the new kid on the block might surprise us all.

The challenge stands --- eSellerate, SWREG and Plimus improve your services to a level that will compete with Digital River's network. Offer a personal and individual approach, do not treat us, the client's, as a number. Digital River, attempt to reach your potential, strive to combine technology and leverage the power of your network while not losing sight of the small business feel that developers desire.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePage, Inc.

Thursday, June 24, 2004

Affiliate Alternative; Google AdSense

The Rise and Fall of Affiliate Programs
Affiliate programs were once a great source of online revenue, a savvy webmaster with an eye for marketing could easily parley a site into a money making machine with a little luck and effort. However, the evolution and growth of the Internet has hampered the growth of fortune making affiliate programs. Constant search engine algorithm changes, along with the search engine's clear distaste for sites participating in affiliate programs; have made it a little more difficult to earn a healthy affiliate revenue. An influx in the use of software programs that terminate cookie tracking and privacy programs that prevent webmasters from tracking referrers, have also hindered the affiliate sales channel. While it is still possible to make money through affiliate marketing, other alternatives ought to be considered.

A Healthy Alternative or Supplement
Google's Adsense program allows approved websites to dynamically serve Google's pay-per-click Adword results. This has become a popular alternative and an effective revenue sharing program for webmasters. Google's spider parses the adserving website and serves ads that relate to the website's content. While the Google's Adsense program still has some issues, they are making efforts to improve it.

The website maintenance related to Adsense is very easy and requires very little effort. Webmasters need only to insert javascript into the webpage or website template. The javascript calls the ad from Google and will ensure that ads are served each time a visitor goes to the webpage. If the visitor clicks one of the Adsense ads served to the website, the website owner is credited for the referral.

The implementation, while simple, has its drawbacks. Google dictates the format of the ads. Webmasters can select from a handful of preformatted text boxes that lack creativity. A recent improvement allows webmasters to modify the ad boxes to resemble the website's color scheme. Still, a far cry from some of the creative ads webmasters are accustom to.

The example below reflects how the color scheme can be modified to match the look of the website, but the ads physically don't fit well into the overall website design.

sample modified to match sites color scheme: (scroll to the bottom)

Google determines the content of the ads that are shown/ Sometimes the ads are poorly targeted, and of no interest to the website visitors.

sample of poorly targeted ads:

Adwords can be a great addition to a website, and when well matched to the content the revenue stream from Google is consistent and effortless.

sample of effective Adsense program: (scroll to the bottom) (scroll to the bottom)

Not that the Google Adsense program is not without its problems, as the reporting provided by Google is lacking. Google has only recently implemented channels as a way to track multiple sites that serve ads. The general reporting simply shows the number of ads served, the percentage of clicks received, and the revenue earned each day. Google does not disclose the amount of the revenue they share, what percentage of the revenue they earn and what someone can expect to receive for each click. Webmasters with multiple sites will have difficulty determining which websites are producing the money in the Adsense program.

With affiliate programs many webmasters implement a new browser launch with each click off the site, Adsense removes the visitor from the website and there is not currently an option to launch the visitor into another browser.

Early on Google implemented a filtering system that allowed webmasters to prevent a specific domain's ads from being served on the website. Ad blocking meant that webmasters could prevent their competitors ads from being dynamically served on their website.

Overall, adwords are great supplements to websites where affiliate programs are either not performing or when affiliate programs don't exist that target the sites content.

Give it a Try
Implementing and maintaing Google Adsense program on a content site requires very little effort and can often bring a steady stream of additional revenue for webmasters. Consider supplementing content and see what happens.
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Friday, June 18, 2004

Affiliate Communication

Communication is Key!
When building an affiliate network communicating with affiliates is important for merchants to maintain a good relationship. An affiliate's web site targets visitors, who may not necessarily view a merchant's web site, and therefore expands a merchants market. An affiliate may not be able to actively keep up with the merchants product, it is important for a merchant to keep affiliate's informed about new product information, sales, new releases, links, graphics, promotions and special offers.

Keep in mind, not all affiliates are going to produce a high volume of traffic, and importantly, visitors who want to purchase a merchant's products or services. The occasional gem makes the time taken well worth your effort. Talk with successful affiliates, find out what they are doing to effectively promote your software, and use that information to assist those affiliates who are not as successful.

Assist affiliates in understanding your product; no one knows your products like you do. For affiliates to drive traffic that will convert to sales, they need to understand the benefits of the product they are marketing. Once an affiliate knows the product, they will be better able to act as an extended sales force. In order for the affiliate to make the effort, you simply must support them!

Make Communication Easy
Many 3rd party affiliate-tracking programs notify both the affiliate and merchant of a sale. This can often be automated and will create positive communication between merchants and affiliates. Making an affiliate's role easier will help them increase earnings and further promote a merchants site.

Provide affiliates with great looking graphics and sample text. Graphics that work best are those that highlight your web site, yet fit the look of an affiliate's web site.

Newsletters are another great way to get information to affiliates. Include tips and specific for affiliates, along with general marketing advice that helps with site promotion. If you are looking for software to manage newsletters, I highly recommend Group Mail -.

Affiliate Taboos
An affiliate generates a sale for a product and the merchant promptly decreases the commission. This sends a very negative message to the affiliate, in many cases they've taken a lot of time to place links, promote products and because they've driven effective traffic their commission is decreased. If its necessary to decrease a commission for whatever reason, be sure to include a personal note detailing the reason and letting the affiliate know that you still support their efforts.

A Cheat?
An affiliate sale occurs, you go to their website and don't find any links you decide they must be cheating you! This conclusion is simply a based on poor communication and reporting. Many, many affiliates have multiple sites, very few affiliate tracking programs allow affiliates to list multiple sites, and in many cases the number of sites listed do not accurately reflect the number of sites owned and managed by the affiliate. Additionally many affiliates manage opt-in newsletters that may result in sales, but links are not visible on a website. An example of a popular ezine often promoting affiliates is Lockergnome!

Links, Links, Links
Keep your links valid! If you update a section of the site or remove an offer provide a redirect or retain the link saying that such and such offer has expired and a new one has replaced it. It seems a waste to discard targeted traffic because a special has expired. Be sure to communicate with your affiliates, and if a link will only be good for a specified length of time tell them up front. When an offer expires notify affiliates a week prior to the expiration with a reminder. This will give them ample time to make any needed updates.

Added Incentives!
Affiliates love added bonuses for reaching goals or specified levels of sales. Many of the 3rd party affiliate vendors run contests and provide large incentives for their top performing ones. Reward and praise successful affiliates.

Affiliates tend to be experts in other areas, which relate to a merchants business; therefore, by communicating useful information, and helping affiliates increase their earnings, they will give added exposure and increase your sales. Communicating with affiliates will ultimately benefit visitors of both sites. A little effort in the beginning can mean big rewards in the long run.

Friday, June 11, 2004

Understanding Affiliate Programs

In order to determine what program will likely work best for your website you must start by understanding what works with affiliate programs and what doesn't. With a little information a webmaster can make an educated decision regarding the various affiliate alternatives available.

Recently webmasters have been asking me questions about the various affiliate programs available, so I decided to answer some of those questions. Please bear in mind that the following observations are my opinions and perceptions about some of the programs that I've worked with, they are not meant to be conclusive statements regarding the services of those providers mentioned.

For clarification purposes I'll define an affiliate to be any "referrer" or website that promotes a product in an effort to earn revenue. A merchant is defined as someone who owns a product and is sharing revenues with an affiliate based on the affiliate's performance. There are 3 types of affiliate programs available, though only one is common to software. I've defined all three but for simplification purposes I've focussed on the one that is most common to software, Pay per Sale.

Pay Per Click - this is when an affiliate is compensated for sending traffic to the merchant.

Pay Per Lead - this is when the merchant agrees to pay for a qualified (or sometimes unqualified lead)

Pay Per Sale - this is when the affiliate is compensated by the merchant if the referral generates a sale or purchase.

In order to develop a successful affiliate network,developers must realize that affiliates are partners, many times spending ad dollars on site, or product promotion. If the affiliate is not compensated fairly they will not remain in the merchants network. Commonly traffic to merchant sites is measured and affiliates can clearly see conversion rates. Meaning, they track the percentage of people they are referring, and how much of it results in earned revenue. If the affiliate finds a very low conversion, they will find a better way to monetize that traffic, quite possibly with a competing merchant product.

In order to be a succesful affiliate, the affiliate site needs to to either have tons of traffic or target a specific audience (frequently one untapped by the merchant). It has been my experience, the closer the affiliate site content resembles the merchant products, the higher the likelihood of a good conversion rate.

Once you are committed to the idea of affiliates the next step is to determine the kind of tracking system you are going to use. Again there are a number of different kinds, I'm going to focus on those commonly used with software applications and within that group I'll talk about those that I'm most familiar with. Please bear in mind there are others out there but these are the ones in the forefront.

3rd Party Software Affiliate Programs
Some of the players are RegNow, ShareIt, Esellerate, and Emetrix. The benefits in working with these type companies to manage your affiliate program is that they obviously understand the software industry (as it is what they do). The downside is they don't have large networks of affiliates that are looking for your products, so you will need to do the bulk of the recruiting and the reporting is generally not that good. All of the companies above handle affiliates differently.

Once upon a time RegNow had the best affiliate tracking system and network. RegNow manages affiliates through cookie tracking and they have a large searchable database of software programs. RegNow ranks their affiliates and merchants based upon performance. The downside to RegNow's systems is that they are one of the more expensive registration services and inorder to generate any affiliate revenue the more successful vendors use RegNow as their primary registration service. Affiliates are given a RegNow url which passes them to the merchant site lodging a cookie on the surfers computer. If the surfer downloads, and returns later to purchase the affiliate is credited for the referral. The downside to RegNow's system is that "cookie" killer programs. RegNow has attempted to overcome this by implementing a wrapper type system with the newly acquired system. The implemenation is more cumbersone and not all merchants provide a "wrapped" version for affiliates.

Cons to RegNow - their reporting is really substandard, you are unable to see the number of customers referred (from an affiliate perspective) so you can not determine if there is a good conversion. You must check order links to be certain that the merchant uses RegNow as an order service.

ShareIt's system is fairly new and but their database is huge. You can find just about any type software listed. ShareIt provides an url on ShareIts site that provides a brief description of the software along with a "try" and "buy" button. In some cases the merchant customizes the web page. The customer really doesn't have any options to find more information about the software unless the page is highly customized. I've found the conversion is significantly lower if the page is generic and not customized. We've had a lot more success if the landing page is actually on the merchants site, unfortunately this opens tracking issues.

Cons to ShareIt - their reporting is substandard, excel spreadsheets are sent to affiliates upon request. The spreadsheets just show sales or attempted sales made, there is no link tracking. Merchants all pay 15% commissions, as far as I know they do not have the option of accepting or rejecting any affiliates.
url example:
standard -
custom -

ESellerate's system is brand new (launched around October 1st). Its very similar to ShareIts with a specific landing page on Esellerate's system. While they don't have many software listings in their library, their system has much more flexibility than ShareIt's. Merchants can approve or reject affiliates and they have a good searchable database for affiliates to find programs. eSellerate has conquered the cookie issue by providing a "wrapper" based technology, the software....

Downside - database is still comparitvely small and often the landing pages contain minimal data.

Cons to Esellerate - the conversion on pages that don't pass through to the merchants site just does not convert as well.
url example:

Emetrix doesn't have an affiliate system but they bear mentioning because they have made an effort to integrate a number of the popular 3rd party affiliate systems into their network. They have told developers in their network that integration for other 3rd parties is available upon request should the developer sign up with them. Having recently signed up with ShareASale and using Emetrix for ordering I found the integration to be far easier than I expected. I simply checked a box in the Emetrix control panel and the integration worked fine.

Cons to Emetrix - they don't have an affiliate program ;-)
url example - depends on the 3rd party system used.

3rd Party Affiliate programs
Many merchants use established 3rd party affiliate programs to manage and recruit affiliates. The 3rd party affiliate programs have large affiliate bases and making it easier to recruit affiliates. Their focus is affiliates and they traditionally can track the number of visitors referred by affiliates and the number of sales, so conversion can easily be obtained. All allow you to optionally auto approve affiliates or manually aprove or reject affiliates. Affiliate commissions can typically be adjusted for top producing affiliates and overall their systems tend to be a little more flexible. Nearly all use cookies to track the referrals passing the customer to the merchants site for the purchase.

Commission Junction
Commission Junction's tracking is excellent but their network is so large its easy for a small merchant to be lost. Its also likely that smaller developers will not have the highest ranking as its based on volume. The initial sign up fee for CJ is also likely to be out of reach for the majority of small merchants (I believe $ 5,000). CJ Cons - intitial expense and sheer size of network (both pro and con)
CJ url example -

ClixGalore's network attracts a number of smaller companies, and while their system is adequate I found something that could affect merchants abilities to attract affiliates. When its time to pay an affiliate ClixGalore will only pay via PayPal, yet during the sign-up affiliates are not told this. PayPal is not supported in all countries and this could affect an affiliates ability to be paid. Its likely they are unable to support a network of ClixGalore - site is difficult to navigate and payment options minimize ability to attract international affiliates. ClixGalore url example
url example -
More info on ClixGalore

ShareASale has a growing network and while their site navigation isn't intuitive, it has improved slightly since I've joined their network. They also offer a number of incentives for affiliates to promote programs (they are currently running a contest).
url example -

Home Grown
A number of developers have decided to do what they do best, and create home grown affiliate programs, the obvious pros are that the system can be modified to meet a developers need, reporting can be changed based on requests and the merchants have complete control. The downside is the affiliate program would be independent of any network and the recruiting burden falls to the merchant. In addition sometimes affiliates are hesitant to trust a home grown system where the merchant is responsible for the accounting. I've had mixed luck with home grown affiliates some are great some are not.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Pay-As-You-Go or WebWare

I recently read an article that gave accolades to software developers who have moved to the pay-as-you-go model also known as webware. While webware might work in some very specific situations it has significant drawbacks, ones that consumers do not fail to see. When a customer either a consumer or business utilizes software on a rental or subscription basis they

So using your service is going to cut down on viruses and worms? How is that possible?

Doesn't being connected to the internet all the time *increase* the odds of getting a virus or a worm?

Are your users tired of Window' instability? Do they have to switch operating systems to use your software? You solution doesn't seem to alter anyone's need to have a stable Windows platform, unless you want them to also change operating systems? So your solution is that they have to invisibly upgrade and pay for those upgrades every month? You can continue to believe that shareware is forever. You are once again confusing a simple marketing method with a type of product. If you look at how shareware (a marketing method) worked 10 years ago and compare that to now, you will clearly see there is virtually no relationship between how that marketing method worked then compared to now. That's because the shareware marketing method has changed over time. All "shareware marketing" does is sell software. If you believe that no one will be selling software shortly, let me know.

Friday, May 28, 2004

Unfair Competition & Abuse of Power

Last summer, rumors were abound that an employee of Tucows was using Tucows statistical information in order to determine which products produced the highest return on investment, with the intent to clone them and create competitive products. While not illegal, it is definitely questionable from an ethical standpoint. No real proof existed, so what can be said. It was nothing more than a rumor.

An article cannot be written based on rumors. What facts do we know? According to the State of Michigan corporate records Alto Software, Inc. is owned by a Tucows employee. Alto Software's two products Alto Block All and Alto Memory Booster were posted on Tucows. Both products have high download counts and held top download positions from November 2003 to February 2004. In order for Alto Software to maintain top positions throughout the holiday season they would had to have spent thousands of dollars in advertising dollars.

Abuse of Power
Abuse of power sounds pretty absolute, unfortunately that line isn't as clear as one would think. It appears that the ad spots held by Alto Software were provided free of charge. Free advertising, while possibly an employment perk, and not of itself bad, resulted in the cost per click to increase significantly for other developers in those categories. In order for Alto Software to maintain their top position, the cost per click was raised from $ .04 per click to more than $ .40 per click from November to January. Alto Software increased the cost per click, in order to maintain the top position, but were never required to pay for the clicks. This forced other developers wishing to remain in a top listing to pay significantly more for each click. The handful of developers bidding on keywords and categories were forced to spend significantly more money each month, in order to maintain their position and compete against Alto Software's products.

A software promotion company ( that appears to be a subdivision of Alto Software, guaranteed listings on's website even went so far to say, that software promoted using their services was exempt from the Tucows removal process. Competing submission services were unable to provide these guarantees. The legitimacy of Alto's promotion service also requires close scrutiny.

Alto Software clearly had an unfair advantage over their competitors. It would appear that a Tucows employee personally profited from their position at Tucows. There is a fine line between breaking ethical rules and using your unique position to make a profit. It appears that line was clearly crossed.

Lessons Learned
Developers need to track their advertising dollars and measure their return on investments. They should be aware of any rapid increases in spending. Developers, need to know who their competitors are.

The developers affected by this are in a very narrow market but it really could have happened to anyone.

Apparently the upper-management of Tucows was unaware of what was occurring, while ignorance is not an excuse, it appears that Tucows has taken the first steps to resolve the problem. The employee is no longer employed by Tucows. As one of the developers I spoke to said "Tucows is bending over backwards to make things right." I personally hope that this is the case. I encourage Tucows to make an effort to reach out to all the developers that were effected, whether they are aware of the problem or not. The loss suffered by these developers is difficult to measure, not only did they pay excessive amounts for advertising, but they also lost a portion of sales to a competitor with an unfair advantage, during the holiday season.

Here is my challenge to Tucows, reachout to the smaller developers as well as those with deep pockets and make things right! The second part of the challenge is to put strict policies in place to prevent this from occurring the future.

The challenge to developers is to stay alert, and be aware that this can happen. There are a number of download sites owned by developers, the disclosure is usually obvious, developers need to pay attention. Spending advertising dollars on a competitor's site is probably not a good business decision. Clearly Tucows is held to a higher standard because of its stature in the industry. The fact that Tucows is a publicly traded company only emphasizes their accountability. It was not to Tucows benefit, for this to occur and it is likely that they will be taking radical steps to ensure that it does not happen again. If handled correctly, Tucows may become one of the safer places to advertise in the future.

About the Author:
Sharon Housley manages marketing for NotePage, Inc.
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Tuesday, May 25, 2004

What is Shareware?

Shareware is software that you can try before you buy. Shareware is a kind of marketing method for software. Software developers post trial versions of their software on websites. Consumers can then download the trial version to their computer and evaluate it. If the consumer likes the software they can purchase it. Shareware is also called try before you buy.

Today almost every big software company including Microsoft, Winzip, and AOL use trial versions or a form of shareware to market their software.

Who invented shareware?
Andrew Fluegelman, and Jim Button, (also known as Jim Knopf) accidentally invented the marketing method shareware. Surprisingly it was started at about the same time by Andrew Fluegelman in Tiburon California, and by Jim Button in Bellevue, Washington. Jim Button started making simple programs and it soon became a hobby for him.

At the time the IBM PC came out Jim was working at IBM. Jim Button shared his database program with fellow IBM workers. The program spread between workers and they began sharing the program with family and friends. However, it was getting hard for Jim Button to send messages to users to tell them about improvements to Easy File. He found a solution to this problem. Jim Button put a message in the program that told people to please send him $10.00 if they wanted him to contact them about any updates to Easy File. The message encouraged the users to continue spreading the program around.

Meanwhile in California, Andrew Fluegelman, was writing PC-TALK. He faced a similar problem and posted a very similar message to Jim Button's. Jim Button contacted Andrew Fluegelman and Andrew Fluegelman really liked Jim Button's program. Andrew asked Jim Button if he would rename Easy-File to PC-File so that the programs could be bundled. They also decided to ask users for a $25 dollar donation. The software remained fully functional for unlimited time, regardless of whether the user paid.

Unlike other programs, this program could be tried prior to purchasing whereas other programs had to be bought before you even knew what it was like. The unusual marketing method caused a lot of free publicity for PC-File and PC-Talk, which helped increase the popularity of the programs. Shareware was finally born!

How was this unusual marketing method named shareware?
Jim Button, Andrew Fluegelman, and Bob Wallace another popular developer, all had ideas on what to name this new marketing method. Jim Button wanted to use the phrase 'User Supported Software' to describe shareware. Andrew Fluegelman wanted to use the term Freeware, but legally people weren't allowed to call it that without his permission because he had trademarked the term. Also, freeware wasn't descriptive because technically the software wasn't free. Bob Wallace wanted to use the term Shareware. Another developer named Nelson Ford, held a contest in order to determine what the name would be. The winner was. Shareware!

Distribution was critical to a software developer's successs. Developers needed to spread their software to as many new places as possible. Richard Peterson started as a disk vendor in 1982. There were so many versions of software some people were charging to find a certain version Richard Peterson created a diskette with all the versions of software. He copied it and sold the disks for $6.00 each. He called his company PC-SIG. Unfortunately consumers thought that the disk vendors were selling registered versions not trial versions. Jim Button and other software developers were furious because they felt that PC-SIG misrepresented their software applications. Developers protested by refusing to give away their software to anyone who wanted to sell it.

Eventually shareware developers and disk vendors worked together and came to an agreement. The developers would get a percentage of all the disk vendor's sales. The shareware developers also realized that the disk vendors were selling their software to places that the developers had not been able to sell to before, and with more trial versions there was a better chance of people buying registered versions of the software.

How did BBS effect the shareware industry?
BBS' increased software distribution, greatly impacting the shareware industry. A BBS (Bulletin Board System) is an electronic bulletin board. A person would dial out via modem, on a phone line, to a BBS and could send and recieve information on the bulletin board. Normally a shareware developer would have to distribute his/her software by handing out, or mailing floppy disks. That changed when the BBS was invented. Shareware developers could now post their software on a BBS and people could come and download the software to try out. Today many people still use Bulletin Board Systems. AOL is a modern BBS.

Did the Evolution of operating systems affect the shareware industry?
As technology evolved and improved so did software. This resulted in Microsoft improving and upgrading their operating systems. This created a number of problems for the developers. When Microsoft released a new operating system, called Windows 3.0. Many programmers who had developed their programs for DOS had to rewrite their software so it would run on the new Windows operating system. New computers were sold with the new operating systems meaning that the developer had to upgrade their software to ensure future sales. Microsoft then released Windows 95. Once again the programmers had to rewrite their programs to perform on the new platform.

Disk Vendors come to an end.
During 1993 the sales of diskettes drastically fell. As there were too many companies and not enough money for all of them to have a successful business. Even PC-SIG went bankrupt. Due to the distribution changes, disk vendors were no longer a viable means to distribute shareware applications.

What is the Internet?
The Internet is a connection of computers all around the world. People on the Internet can view information from anywhere on their home computer. Internet surfers can go to a web page in Australia, China, or even Russia. The Internet increased communication and opened web surfers to lots of new information. On the Internet there are downloads, auctions, information, and items that you can buy through secure online ordering. The Internet took time to evolve into what it is right now, it began as a simple way to share information.

Why did the Department of Defense invent the Internet?
The Internet was started in 1969 by the US Department of Defense. The Department of Defense linked all the super computers in the USA together. At first they linked them like a bridge's supports, but they soon realized if one super computer was hurt in some way, they would have communication difficulties. They had to link the computers together so if one computer was destroyed they would still be able to communicate. They called this network of computers ARPANET. Throughout the years the Internet's name has changed several times to names like MILNET and NSFNET. Some of the current nicknames for the Internet are The Net and The Web.

Did the Internet have an effect on the shareware industry?
The Internet has had a huge impact on the shareware industry. In fact many industry professionals credit the Internet with having the biggest impact on the shareware industry's growth. The Internet has helped shareware developers by increasing their distribution and reach.

The Internet contains many shareware or software download sites. A shareware download site is a website that has many software programs available for download. Like the BBS', the Internet was a great way to advertise. As the Internet has grown, so has the distribution network for software developers.

What does S= =R mean?
Up until this point shareware versions were the same as the registered version, so regardless of whether the consumer paid for the software the software worked the same. S= =R was adopted by the Association of Shareware Professionals (ASP) in the early 1990's. In the acronym S= =R the S stands for Shareware Version, (trial version) and the R stands for Registered Version. The Association of Shareware Professionals wanted the shareware and registered version to remain the same. However, developers were finding that by placing limits in their shareware version their sales increased.

When the shareware version was the same as the registered version consumers did not have a lot of incentive to purchase the registered version of the software. After the ASP established the S= =R rule there was a huge decrease in sales for shareware developers. Many authors went out of business as a result of the policy. Many developers also left the ASP. The ASP realized their mistake and repealed the rule. Soon many developers began adding limitations to their software, which encouraged users to buy. The shareware industry was thriving again and the Internet began making sales rocket sky high!

Freeware vs. Shareware.
As you know shareware is a marketing method for software. Freeware is also a way of marketing software. However, freeware is free so the developer does not ever request any money. Shareware is free to distribute but cannot be used for an unlimited amount of time, unless the developer is paid. Freeware can be used an unlimited amount of time and can be freely distributed; payment is not required. Many developers use freeware to draw attention to their shareware applications.

What is a Virus?
A virus is a dangerous computer program, it is made to cause damage and unknowingly to spread to other computer systems. A typical virus is one that attaches to a computer program. The virus will cause damage if opened, and will duplicate itself whenever the program is opened or if it is emailed to someone. Some viruses can erase files, others cause programs to not function properly.

What a virus can do to your computer
A very dangerous virus is called a Trojan Virus it can cause security breeches that allow people to look at information on a user's computer without the user's knowledge. Another kind of virus is also capable of attaching itself to emails. These viruses are easily passed on. This kind of virus is known as a Macro virus. Some names for this kind of virus is Concept, Nuclear, Showoff, Adam Wazzu, and Laroux. To block these viruses and others (such as Lovebug, Blaster, Michelangelo and Circam) surfers need to have an updated anti virus system on their computer.

Did Viruses have an impact on the shareware industry?
When consumers realized there were programs written with the intent to spread and cause damage they became leary of downloading software because downloads can contain viruses. The consumers were afraid of being infected by a virus so, shareware downloads decreased resulting in a sales decline. As consumers have become more educated about viruses the impact of viruses on the shareware industry has lessened.

Web providers provide bandwidth for developer's websites. Web providing is easier for a developer because he/she doesn't have to buy a ton of bandwidth, the developer doesn't have to buy a computer to host their site, he/she doesn't have to install and configure a setup to make their bandwidth secure, and when web providers host, people monitor the web provided computer 24/7! As you can see paying a web providing company is way easier and cheaper. Hosting has helped the shareware industry a lot because it has made many a developer's site easier and in many cases faster.

What is software piracy?
There are several kinds of software piracy. One kind of software piracy is hacking into software and disabling the copy protection. Software pirates then distribute or sell the hacked software. The developer does not receive any money for the software the hacker distributed. This is an infringement on the developer's copyright.

Another technique used by hackers is to illegally obtain a registered copy of software. Pirates purchase the software once and use it on multiple computers. Purchasing software with a stolen credit card is another form of software piracy. Unfortunately there are many kinds of software piracy that has slowed the industry's growth.

The effect of software piracy on the shareware industry.
In some countries it is not illegal to copy someone else's work. Nor is it illegal to make several copies of the same software and then sell them or give it away. Also in some countries it is socially acceptable to pirate software. This has resulted in a struggle for developers. In the U.S it is illegal to copy someone else's work, make several copies of the same software or violate the software licensing agreement. If this is done by someone in another country the developer cannot prosecute them.

Registration methods.
Registration methods detail different ways consumers can purchase software. Early on when shareware was new, users of software followed the honor system. If a user liked the application they would send the author money in the mail.

Nowadays consumers are able to transfer money online using a credit card or other electronic payment system. Many software companies use a registration company to process online orders. The developer has to pay the registration company a percentage of the sale. The registration company provides the developer a secure online ordering connection and fraud screening.

Software is also purchased using purchase orders. Once the consumers decide they like a the software the consumer sends a PO (Purchase Order,) which is a legally binding contract stating that they will pay for the software. The developer will then send the consumer the software, along with a bill or invoice. The consumer will then pay the bill.

Another popular registration method has a buy now button inside the shareware version of the software. This is probably one of the easiest registration methods for the customer because they don't have to call or email the author. If the user evaluating the software wants to buy the registered version all they have to do is click the buy now button. The buy now button will then bring them to a secure online registration form that the consumer can fill out.

Registration Incentives.
A registration incentive is something that makes the person using the shareware version of the software want to buy. There are a number of incentives developers use to encourage users to buy. One popular registration incentive is to limit the time of the trial version. This is clever because then the user can't use the shareware version forever. It encourages them to buy the software so they can continue to use it when the trial period is over.

Often shareware versions will have "grayed out" features on the menu that the consumer can see, but not use. Typically there is a pop-up windows in the software encouraging users to register in order to take advantage of the additional features. This is a popular registration method because if the person wants to do more things with the program, then they are forced to buy the registered version of the software.

Another registration incentive is water marking. Often when you print something from the software it will have a caption that indicates it is an unregistered version. Only if you buy the registered version will the watermark not indicate it is an unregistered version.

Another innovative registration incentive shareware developers use allows customers to receive discounts on other software once they have purchased the registered version.

Developers also provide support incentives. The shareware version of software will have everything the registered version has, however, if a person buys the registered version of the software he/she will receive tech support, newsletters, and upgrades. Developers can also limit the number of times you can use the shareware version of the product. The trial version may expire after 10 uses meaning the user has to register if they wish to continue using the software.

Shareware now and how the term changed.
Though the meaning of the term shareware has not changed the perception of shareware has evolved since it began with Jim Button and Andrew Fluegelman. At first when you had a shareware program there was a note that asked for a donation. Now you are required to pay for the registered version of the shareware program. The shareware industry has also evolved and grown into a billion dollar industry.

Why is shareware better than any other marketing method?
Shareware is a good way to market your software. It allows consumers to evaluate an application prior to making a purchase decision. They can easily determine if it meets their business or personal needs, which usually results to a satisfied customer. In addition because shareware companies are often small they can provide personalized service that is not found in larger companies. Shareware also allows for instant gratification, there is no need to wait for a shipment. Consumers can download and use the software immediately.

Success Stories.
Success can be measured any number of ways. Many developers achieve financial success using the shareware marketing method. Others feel they are successful because they are able to spend time with their families and make their own schedules. Some of the obvious financial shareware success stories include Winzip, JASC, and Ulead.

Thanks to the following who assisted with the research:

I would like to thank the following people who let me interview them:

Sharon Housley active in the shareware industry. Visit online at

Dan Veaner owner of EmmaSoft for 14 years until it closed in 2003. Visit online at

Mike Callahan is known for shareware promotion and is also known as Dr. FileFinder. Visit him at

Dave Collins is owner of Shareware Promotions, he is responsible for promoting shareware applications. Visit online at

Suda Pethe is owner of Centered Systems. He is extremely successful. Visit online at

Tom Guthery, software developer. He is the owner of FLIX. Visit online at

Tom Simondi is an industry pioneer and maintains file extension libraries. Visit online at

Scott Swedorski was the founder of Tucows. Tucows was thought to be one of the first 50 commercial sites. Visit online at

Steve Lee, is the owner of SWREG, one of the first secure online registration services. Visit online at

Rosemary West, is active on the ESC board and is partially retired. Visit online at

Larry McJunkin is involved in WUGNET and involved with shareware promotion. Visit online at

Paul Mayer is an industry pioneer and developer of Zpay. Visit him at

About the Author
The author is student, Dan Housley, interning at NotePage, Inc.

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