When I started this website back in February I wanted to concentrate exclusively on my writing. I wanted my very own online outlet to showcase my pieces, past and present. As the months went on, I added a profile and numerous lists. As a result, I’m very happy with what I’ve accomplished in half a year.
Unfortunately, I’ve haven’t been very pleased with what’s happened in the past 3 weeks. Let me explain.
On July 2nd, I posted an entry called Coming Soon To The Writings Of Dennis Earl. In that piece, I laid out what I hoped to accomplish throughout the summer. I followed up with a similiar-themed effort on July 13 entitled New Stuff (Part One). It listed some of the changes I had already implemented. If you’ve been to my site and have read that piece, you might be wondering, “Where’s New Stuff (Part Two)?”. Good question. I was hoping to have it written and posted relatively quickly. Reality got in the way of that plan.
At the end of New Stuff (Part One), I teased the reader with a mysterious message:
“As soon as I sort out some things behind the scenes, I will make another announcement which I hope will find a receptive audience. It’s something I’ve resisted doing since the beginning of this website’s existence but as I get more comfortable with each passing day I feel that now is the time to make it happen.
What the hell am I talking about? Stay tuned.”
So, what was the big secret? What was I planning to announce on this site?
In a word: advertising.
So far, there are two ways to make money on MSN Spaces. You can have Sponsored Links posted and you can link your book list to Amazon.
You may have noticed a list called Recommended Books For Sale. (You’ll find it right under my Profile.) It replaced an earlier list called, simply, Recommended Books. Apart from new entries on the second list, the lists were pretty much identical.
There’s one big problem having a list with the title Recommended Books For Sale. Say you’re curious about one of the books I mention. Maybe you’d like to buy it directly from my website. You can’t. Why?
Because my book list can’t link to Amazon.
Here’s how this is all supposed to work. You sign up with Amazon’s Associates Program. Basically, you fill out an application and afterwards, you receive an automated email message from Amazon informing you that you’ll be officially welcomed to the program once they check out your site and make sure everything’s kosher, so to speak. In the meantime, you get your ID and you can learn about the Associates Program
through their special site. Then, if you’re approved, you get a second automated message which officially confirms your acceptance into the program.
Through the Help section on MSN Spaces (namely, the “Earn money with your book list” topic), there’s a link that takes you directly to Amazon’s Associates site. I clicked on that link and filled out the application. I thought nothing of it until I went into my Settings. Once you have a book list posted on your site, there’s a space for your Amazon Associates ID. You type it in, click “save” and then, when you go into edit mode on your book list, you can add Amazon links to your book titles one click at a time.
I couldn’t do that. Why? Because I signed up with Amazon.com, the American website. You see, I’m a Canadian. I should’ve signed up with Amazon.ca, the company’s Canadian affiliate. On the Settings page, there’s this question: “Don’t have an associate’s ID?” Right beside it are the words “Get one here.” You click on “Get one here.” and it takes you to the Canadian Amazon Associate’s home page. Oops.
Feeling rather stupid, I got in touch with the American Amazon and they told me to just sign up for the Canadian Associates program. They also said I can have has many Affiliate IDs as I want so I can still hang on to the American ID I had just been approved for. Unfortunately, MSN Spaces doesn’t have the same policy. You’re only allowed one ID here. If you’re American, you sign up with Amazon.com. If you’re Canadian, it’s Amazon.ca you need to sign up with.
After filling out my second Associate application, I got my Canadian ID. It quickly replaced the American one in my Settings. Once that was done, I set out to link my books to Amazon.ca so I could start making a few bucks. It wouldn’t work. I tried again. And again. And again. And yet again. Still wouldn’t work. I deleted my initial list, Recommended Books, and replaced it with Recommended Books For Sale. The same result. Nothing.
While all this nonsense was going on, I was emailing back and forth with The MSN Spaces Technical Support Team trying to solve the linking problem. On July 20th, they informed me that they “need[ed] to do further investigation” and that they couldn’t provide “a definite time frame as to when this will be resolved”. Furthermore, they added: “As soon as we have evaluated the situation, we will notify you as soon as possible.” It’s been 9 days since I received that message. I’m still waiting.
Meanwhile, I was dealing with another advertising problem. The other way you can make money on MSN Spaces is through Sponsored Links. Basically, visitors to the site will see a small box that features a couple of links to other websites. They’re supposed to be tailored to the content on your site. So, if I post something related to movies, there should be a couple of movie-related advertisers in that box. A visitor clicks it and I get paid a percentage. The more clicks by my readers, the more money I get. Fairly straightforward.
The company that provides the Sponsored Links is an American-based business called Kanoodle.com. They have this program called BrightAds which MSN Spaces website owners can sign up for and once their online applications are approved, they can have Sponsored Links posted on their sites and start making a little bit of money.
So, I think this is a sweet deal and decide to fill out an application. I get close to the end when I reach a question I don’t know how to answer. They want to know your Tax ID and Social Security Number. Again, I’m a Canadian citizen and we don’t have either of those things here. So, I’m stumped. I decide to email the company and ask for support on this. I throw in another question about possible set-up fees. Do I, or anyone else who signs up for this, have to pay anything before the Sponsored Links go up on my site?
No immediate reply. So, I fire off another email. No reply. (This is sounding like a Beatles song.) I write them again. Nothing. After the fourth email, I finally get a response (after about a week or so of dead silence). I am told to put “all ones” in the Tax ID/SSN space. With regards to possible set-up fees, I am informed that “[t]here is only a one time $1 minimal fee at set up, this has been implemented to help validate publishers serious about using our service.” Funny how MSN Spaces never mentioned anything about that.
This leads to a follow-up email. (I should’ve been a private investigator.) I ask how the money is collected and how many ones do I type in that Tax ID/SSN space. After a few days of nothing, I get not one, but two, emails on the same day, both addressing two different emails I sent them.
In the first message (which was a response to my third email to the company) they give me the same response about the Tax ID thing (“just enter all ones”) but the answer to my other question is completely different from before. Instead of repeating the “one time $1 minimal fee” bit, I get this instead: “There is no charge to run your Bright Ads campaign.” Huh?
The other message they sent me (which was a response to my fourth email) satisfactorily answered my question about the Tax ID space. (If you’re a Canadian MSN Spaces website owner and want to know the answer, email me at email@example.com
and I’ll save you the aggravation of dealing with Kanoodle by telling you.) With regards to my follow-up question about how they collect the buck (presumably American) to launch BrightAds on my site, I am told “[w]hen you sign up, you will be asked for your credit card info.”
Talk about confusion. First, I’m told it will cost a dollar to sign up with this company to run Sponsored Links on my site. After thinking about it, I didn’t think that was such a big deal. Then, I’m told I don’t need to pay anything at all. It’s free to sign up. O….k. The latest answer is that I’ll “be asked for” my “credit card info”. Really. I can’t figure this out.
So, I wrote them back. I told them I don’t have a credit card and I’m completely confused about their answers regarding my sign-up fee questions. I ask them flat-out: Do I have to pay this dollar sign-up fee or not? If I do, since I’m not a credit card user, is there another way to pay this fee? 5 days later, no response.
As you can tell, I’m quite fed up with all of this. My book list won’t link to Amazon, I have two Associate IDs that I can’t do anything with and Kanoodle is giving me contradictory answers to some of my concerns. Neither Spaces nor Kanoodle seem to be in any hurry to help me out here. After sending numerous emails to both companies, all I can do is wait. And I hate waiting. I also hate biting my tongue when things are pissing me off, hence this rant.
I wanted people to buy books directly from my list. I also wanted them to help out my Sponsored Link advertisers by clicking on their sites and checking them out. It appears this will not happen any time soon.
Anyway, that was the special announcement I alluded to on July 13. As soon as I get more information about these problems, I will share with you what’s going on. In the meantime, I continue to stew.
Hamilton, Ontario, Canada
Saturday, July 29, 2006
UPDATE: Please note my email address has been changed.