Georg Heinrich, Publisher at Casino Plus Bonus, gives an exclusive interview to SiGMA News as part of our latest series on affiliates
How did you first get into the affiliate space, and were you always focused on the iGaming sector?
Firstly, I believe the term “affiliate” does not describe our activity and the editorial products we deliver correctly. The market has matured and we are today in the publishing business and producing independent information for our readers. No offence to anyone, but we do not see ourselves either as a share – nor stakeholder of our advertising clients.
We are a niche publisher and make the maximum effort to deliver the best campaigns to our advertising partners to grow their business and provide to our readers the best available information on the products they are looking for.
Personally, I come from print publishing and advertising and started to get into iGaming via friends that offered me a job, many, many years ago.
How is your affiliate business structured, and what aspect of business development are you currently focused on?
We are a small operation, basically a network of freelancers. However, the team – being based in different continents, – has been working together remotely for many years. Hence there is some significant know-how, trust, experience and well-designed processes in the structure.
Apart from that, also having been myself somewhat part of the demise of traditional publishing due to the Internet, we try to keep fixed costs as low as possible.
In terms of business development we are venturing both into gaming niches but also other sectors, such as finance and health.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
We are concentrating on casino games in German speaking markets. Switzerland has been closed recently due to regulation but Austria and Germany are still open. However, as far as Germany is concerned, we are currently waiting for the new legislation for online gambling which should come into place by the middle of 2021. As opposed to first discussions last year that even took a state monopoly into consideration, the situation now looks much brighter since the market will be most likely liberalised. What do not yet know all the details, but the Danish and Italian solutions might supply guidelines for the new “ Glücksspielstaatsvertrag”
For years we have been looking into new markets and many of my “affiliate” friends always ask why we are not embarking on some geographic adventures. I have been hearing about the LATAM market as the next big opportunity now for many years, but it does not seem to have materialised. Personally, I also have been looking a bit into Asia – but it is such a different ball-game in terms of product offer, gaming habits and of course language that I am still very sceptical.
What makes your traffic proposition / traffic sites unique? What can you offer that others don’t? Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
It is actually no secret and I have been repeating this like a mantra for many years, fortunately with limited success. If you offer a quality product that people actually want to read you will also have readers. Of course the technology and structure of your website has to be state of the art. But if you focus on those two pillars you will be doing fine.
Is the grass greener on the other side – Have you considered giving white label casino or sports betting a go?
We looked at those opportunities using an old concept, the “industry value chain”. Of course this is not a static one, but at the moment I believe we are on a pretty green meadow. However, one also has to take his personal skills and the ones of the organisation into account. Analysing that, I believe we are a publisher and not an operator.
Are you concerned by the impact on the affiliate sector from shifting regulatory environments? (In particular UKGC, Sweden’s Spelinspektionen, and Germany’s 2020 State Treaty on Gaming Regulation)
Yes, highly. Even if markets are regulated in an intelligent way, it means that revenues for everyone – except the local government – will diminish. This is due to different taxation, licence fees, limiting player’s spending, limiting game’s features and general compliance issues and cost.
Further the total portfolio of advertising possibilities will increase for operators (TV, Newspapers, Google ads, Social Media, etc.), which will drive prices for “affiliate” services and traffic down.
What is the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your traffic? Are you focusing on SEO? PPC? Any other traffic source?
Exclusively “SEO” – which as a term I do not find adequate for our activity, as you can imagine. We do optimise our website technologically for big brother, but we write for readers and not for algorithms.
Are you contemplating bringing in investors to scale or grow your business? Or, with such a big M&A market, have you ever contemplated selling the business?
Is there still anyone out there that has not been sold or bought, yet? We are basically financing our slow and steady growth via our own cash flow. However, the M&A market as far as I see it has quite dried out. The companies that are quoted on the stock exchange and have been big buyers the last years are trading at lower multiples then a few years ago. That means that the multiples they are willing to spend for acquisitions have also gone down.
It further seems as they having issues consolidating the huge number of properties they have acquired and are probably still chewing on some bad acquisition of the past. You also need to consider that regulation is also putting enormous pressure on potential buyers: they are losing markets for which they have paid a lot of money or have issues to evaluate properties that are still in unregulated markets.
And now we have the Corona Crisis, so nobody knows what this means in terms of M&A, markets and evaluations.
What can operators do to increase support from affiliates?
Make a good product and pay CPA or CPL. I hate revenue share.
Which qualities and skills are essential in an affiliate team/business?
Depends what an affiliate business is. We consider ourselves a media company, so you need all the skills for publishing information and selling advertising or even subscriptions.
But there is of course also marketing agencies that do customer acquisitions via multiple channels, but I do not know much about that.
How does technology play a part in your day-to-day?
I would call myself an almost-cyborg. Without PC, tablet or mobile phone I would probably stare at the wall or would not be able to call anyone because I cannot remember any phone number. The only difference to a real cyborg is that the electronic devices are still outside of my body.
How is the Asian market shaping-up for affiliates?
If I only knew!!!
What do you know now that you wish you knew when starting out?
That this strange business of ours is going to last so many years.
What’s been your biggest nightmare to date?
A totally regulated, limited and controlled internet as we can already see in Russia and China.
What are the challenges in managing relationships with multiple operators?
Too many affiliate managers on skype. There are programs that have ten brands and one affiliate manager for each brand. Give me a break!
What are the benefits of attending large iGaming events, and what can they do better?
With age, a lot of the benefits like parties, gadgets and free drinks become less interesting. And being in the industry for many years, there is a certain amount of key people that one knows already. It becomes harder to meet new and trustworthy advertising clients. And there are less special deals available, a reason in the past to attend conferences. However, that is an operator issue and not something the iGaming event can change.
Have you ever been to SiGMA? Would you consider attending SiGMA Manila or SiGMA Malta at some point?
I am not really much into flying and frankly I only attend London every 3-4 years. However, the Asian event could be worth a shot if we are ever going to be allowed to travel again.
Tell us a bit about yourself – after all business is done between people, not just companies!
None. Having kids the best place to relax is in the office
Favourite book ever read? Favourite book you look forward to read some day?
I stopped reading stories, because real life and movies are just so much entertaining. The most eye-opening book of the last 5 years I have read, was definitely Yuval Harari’s Homo Deus. What I have had lying on the desk next to my bed for some time now is The Free Market and its Enemies by Ludwig von Mises.
Where would you relocate with family if you had to pick one city?
Where I am now is the best place on earth!
Journalist: a person without any ideas but with an ability to express them.
Favourite sport and childhood idol?
Basketball, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar – he is the real GOAT!
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