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By Simon321
June 1, 2001

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I have been a publisher/member of the Flycast/Engage network since 1997.

In the beginning, they were known as the low-rent network. They sold low-end bulk ads that paid relatively little.

BUT they paid the publisher a higher proportion of revenue (60%) than most of the other networks (50% payouts) and they were scrupulously honest.

During the Internet boom, their rates went up some, not as high as some of the other networks I'm in, but they were always a dependable source of revenue.

About six months ago they started down hill: Checks would never show up, they'd be late, etc. And they started trying to force publishers to run very obnoxious pop-up and other types of ads, the ones that don't close, etc. I always kept these ads excluded from my sites.

Then they contrived a way around this by creating a new category for pop-up ads and had all publishers default to enabling these. I went in and turned this off as soon as I realized it... and after taking a great deal of grief from my usership.

Meanwhile the number of late and lost checks increased, and to add insult to injury, they started cutting the payout to publishers. In some cases to an absurd 40%. Can you imagine if 60% of the price of a magazine ad or a TV ad was taken up by the selling and printing/broadcasting of the ad itself?

This weekend, someone there found some new double-secret way of sending pop-up ads to my sites. Within hours I had dozens of complaints. The only way to stop them was to pull the tags completely. When I just spoke with someone at Engage, her position was that she was totally unaware people found these ads obnoxious. It's like I was talking to someone from Mars.

Meanwhile, they're selling an average of about 10% of inventory.

If any of you are in business, imagine dealing with a company whose financial performance has sunk to a point where there is less and less reason to maintain the relationship, and at the same time your association with this company is annoying your customers. That's the position of publishers in the Engage network. Engage is becoming worse than irrelevant.

This morning I was checking the stats to make sure the checks I received yesterday (three weeks late, for the same technical reason last month's were late) were correct and I found that 90% of the impressions I sent Engage yesterday were used for a CPA (cost-per-action) campaign for CMGI's uBid. CPA campaigns are an anathema to any publisher with any sense. The pay-out rules are set in a way that makes any likely renumeration will be miniscule, at best.

I called up my contact at Engage and told him I didn't want that in my rotation. He said, "Well you can check the box in the Site Profile to reject all CPA campaigns." Of course, it was checked. Another technical glitch. <cough, cough>

It's pretty clear to those in this business that Engage and 24/7 are both dying.

It's too bad Engage is doing it with such a complete lack of class.