Fehzan Ali is one of the new breed of young entrepreneurs who are making a killing in the industry. He’s the owner of AdscendMedia, one of the top content unlocking companies in the world. He’s part of an industry that is starting to grow very fast, but is extremely misunderstood by much of the industry. I actual first met him when I criticized the entire content unlocking industry on another publication, and he quickly came to the defense of him and his competitors. He’s an interesting guy, vocal about what he believes in, which mainly is that his company is the dominant and best player in that side of the industry. Whether that’s true, time will tell but until then we have a lot to learn from this young upstart.
How long have you been in the industry?
I have been in affiliate marketing since I was 15, so late 2004! During that time, most of my focus has been on incentivized affiliate marketing. I started off with free gifts site where users were able to earn a free iPod (or similar gift) for referring 5 friends to try a product from an advertiser. It was great and we worked with major advertisers such as Netflix and Blockbuster. Adscend Media was conceptualized in August 2008 and launched in early 2009. The rest is history!
What can you tell us first about your business, what you do?
Adscend Media is a CPA affiliate network that specializes in incentivized marketing, however we also cater to a wide range of paid traffic, social, and display publishers to offer a complete monetization solution for our publishers. Within the incentivized realm, our primary focus is our cutting edge content locking tool that allows publishers to generate additional revenue from their premium content. We offer content locking tools that can be deployed and integrated within a matter of minutes or custom solutions for a tighter integration with the publishers website or project. We also work with a limited number of quality virtual currency partners.
What is content locking best used for?
A few ideas:
– conversion sites, such as doc to PDF conversion site
– indie bands/artists – musicians looking to lock their content
– instructional videos (e.g. guitar lessons)
– mobile application downloads and/or in-app monetization
– royalty free sound packs
– access to premium membership content
– software downloads
– software features, unlocking features for completion of a brief survey
Any movies, music, graphics, ebooks, etc. are fair game as long as the publishers own the rights to the copyrighted file or is the creator. We have many publishers who create their own content. I believe the true potential of content locking has still yet to be unlocked (ironic eh? Ha). There are many innovative uses for content locking that I have yet to be seen done.
How do you prevent offers from being placed in your system by third parties unauthorized?
We have a dedicated campaign manager who works to hand pick offers that can be displayed on our network. We have a fairly stringent guideline that we follow to minimize instances of offers that do not provide value to the end user.
Why do you think your company is better than your competitors? What do you offer that they can’t?
We offer a versatile proprietary platform that allows us to adapt to the need of each and every publisher. We place a strong emphasis on building relationships with all of our publishers AND advertisers, regardless of size. Given our extensive experience in incentivized marketing, we also understand the full flow of the business from the advertiser to the publisher. This insight is a competitive advantage that allows us to ensure inventory with unique advertiser offer that provide higher EPCs for our users and more value for the end user. We work to make sure the advertiser is happy, the publishers are happy, and the end users are happy. In a nut shell, higher EPCs, better offers, and happier end users as a result. Additionally, we also place a large focus on ethical marketing and compliance which allows us to gain additional advertisers.
If I was going to ask your affiliates what the best thing you offer them, what would they say?
High quality offers, higher EPCs, high quality support, and adaptability! This is what I’ve heard them tell me at least.
What do you feel is the biggest challenge in the entire incentivization industry?
Quality, quality, quality! I’ve noticed there is often a disconnect between advertisers and incent publishers. The publishers do not always understand what would constitute a profitable lead for the advertisers. To reduce this disconnect, we work to educate our publishers and advertisers about the full flow of traffic. When everyone is on the same page, many of the challenges with incentivized marketing disappear and we’re able to find a point where everyone is gaining value through incentivization.
In general, where do you think the affiliate marketing industry could use improvement?
I think we are heading in the right direction right now, especially with the inception of the Executive Council of Performance Marketing. The ECPM includes over 100 C-level executives from within the performance marketing industry that have a strong interest in moving the industry further towards legitimacy. I think a major improvement is needed in advertiser offers that are available within the industry. There needs to be a bigger movement towards advertisers that provide strong value to the end user.
Do you feel that brands could benefit from content unlocking? If you could pitch let’s say American Airlines, what would you do?
Absolutely! I think for brands especially, there is a strong synergy to introduce content locking into their business models. Big brands are already established with a customer base so the introduction of a tightly integrated content locking solution can generate additional revenue much easier. Hmm… American Airlines is not the most ideal company I would pitch to, however I’ll give it a shot. I would recommend that American Airlines look into offering an alternative payment solution on their in-flight Wi-Fi services. For example, in addition to offering GoGo Inflight, they could offer 10-15 minutes of Wi-Fi access for passengers who complete a quick survey. This is just off the top of my head however and may be flawed if it interferes with revenues from GoGo, however there are many implementation options to reduce chances of cannibalizing revenues and actually increasing them overall, even if only incrementally.
If you could make the perfect offer for content unlocking, what would it be?
There are so many different offers that could work well with content locking. We currently work with a wide range of advertisers who drive sign ups to their newsletters, services, or even customer leads for auto insurance. With our continued and increased focus on ensuring our advertisers are happy, we have been able to deliver quality leads. The perfect offer is one that can be adapted to the content locking model and we have helped many advertisers create profitable models for everyone involved.
Do you think there is a legitimate way to use content unlocking in social media?
No doubt in my mind! For example, if there is a publisher with a large game guides website and also has a fan page or group, he/she can release premium game guides to his/her fan base via a wall post that guides them to the website and proceeds to offer the end user access to the content. Or in the case of a musician, they can release new music and share with their fan base.
You are currently in college while running an enormously successful company, how does that work out?
I just finished my last class about 3 weeks ago actually. I’m glad to be out so I can place an even bigger focus on my career. Going to college and running a business at the same time was a great experience, it allowed me to learn about running a very effective business. I applied what I learned in class actively to my business. I didn’t sleep too much… but hey I don’t plan on sleeping too much now either. My family and friends are always wondering where I am in my head… well let’s just say I place most of my focus on my career. I was able to balance university and a business because I am very passionate about my career and what I do. I love it, it energizes me to work.
What is your dream car?
Ha! Great question considering I just purchased it this week. The Maserati Gran Turismo S is one of the most beautiful cars on the road in my opinion, I told myself in 2008 that I would work my ass off to buy it in late 2011 so here I am with the car! Well, now that I have it… my new dream car is the Audi R8, which I plan to add to my garage sometime in the next few years.
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