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DealsPlus launches Money Makers Program

MM_introI should have gotten more suspicious when last month a member with email account hosted at dealspl.us domain registered at Buxr and started submitting deals and participating in Buxr’s daily life as a normal member would. This was most likely a DealsPlus employee checking out the website but at that time I didn’t care. I even allowed them to win a prize when one of the deals they submitted suddenly got popular with Buxr community! :-)

That competitor’s spying as it turns out wasn’t a coincidence. My friend emailed me last week with this link. The third popular deal site (by Alexa) has just launched Money Makers which is a cash incentive program for deal submitters, something Buxr has offered to its members for 2 years now. Unlike Buxr however, the team at DealsPlus decided not to re-invent the bicycle and went with the well established approach that blog networks like Gawker and Weblogs use to pay their writers.
Continue reading ‘DealsPlus launches Money Makers Program’

Popular deal sites – January 2009

This is January 2009 revision of the Popular Deal Sites list. You can find the last month revision of the list here.

The change in rating shows the difference compared to December results and includes all deal sites from my database that meet Alexa Rank < 100,000 requirement. The list has 42 sites, one more than the last month (a2zdeals.com is in)

The average deal site pulled out a 4% growth this month with deals.com (9.83%) and dealspl.us (9.24%) showing the best results. There was not much going on in the negative territory with only 5 deal sites showing negative growth all in single digits. Please enjoy the complete list below!

#Web SiteAlexa RankPage RankOnline Since
1slickdeals.net (info) 740 (8.3%)5 (-1)10-Nov-1999
2fatwallet.com (info) 1400 (1.48%)6 (1)29-Nov-1999
3dealnews.com (info) 3717 (6.33%)5 20-Jan-1999
4techbargains.com (info) 4071 (5.06%)5 03-May-1999
5deals2buy.com (info) 5165 (-1.57%)5 15-Nov-2002
6bensbargains.net 5249 (4.37%)5 21-Mar-2000
7dealspl.us (info) 5852 (9.24%)5 15-May-2006
8dealsea.com 6910 (0.12%)5 27-Jun-2001
9dealcatcher.com 7241 (6.17%)5 28-Jul-1999
10dealtaker.com (info) 7771 (3.67%)6 08-Feb-2004
11dealigg.com (info) 7873 (6.42%)4 04-Sep-2006
12gottadeal.com 8093 (3.9%)5 27-Jan-2003
13anandtech.com 8529 (6.35%)6 24-Aug-1997
14cheapstingybargains.com 10168 (3.97%)4 20-Jan-2005
15dealsofamerica.com 13174 (5.44%)5 06-Sep-2003
16spoofee.com 15933 (1.37%)5 31-Dec-2000
17resellerratings.com (info) 16113 (6.12%)6 18-Jun-1998
18xpbargains.com 16453 (5.14%)4 29-Nov-2001
19edealinfo.com 17243 (2.78%)5 12-Dec-2000
20 (1)bargainist.com (info) 23240 (7.22%)3 21-Nov-2006
21 (1)dealofday.com 23591 (2.87%)5 30-Aug-1999
22bradsdeals.com 24404 (7%)5 29-Jun-2005
23couponalbum.com 25655 (8.43%)4 18-Jan-2006
24savings.com 30193 (2.85%)4 20-Apr-1995
25keepcash.com 31008 (4.07%)4 21-Oct-2002
26judysbook.com 38372 (-0.61%)5 11-Aug-2003
27dealslist.com 49224 (4.07%)4 18-Jul-2000
28 (4)deals.com (info) 53685 (9.82%)4 28-Feb-1995
29 (1)dailyedeals.com 54994 (4.28%)4 18-Feb-2000
30 (1)ableshoppers.com 55197 (3.17%)4 08-Oct-2000
31 (3)buxr.com 56230 (-1.5%)4 04-Dec-2007
32 (1)passwird.com 57702 (1.17%)4 28-Aug-2001
33bargaineering.com 58821 (2.38%)2 01-Dec-2004
34 (1)daddyodeals.com 62040 (7.56%)3 28-Mar-2006
35 (1)gotapex.com 63316 (0.77%)5 29-Apr-1999
36shopping-bargains.com 70999 (0.61%)5 20-Feb-1999
37hotdealsclub.com 75586 (1.51%)4 27-Dec-2000
38dealhack.com 78628 (4.09%)4 06-Feb-2005
39 (2)hot-deals.org 81385 (7.04%)3 10-May-2000
40 (1)bargainshare.com 84234 (-0.05%)3 29-Nov-2002
41 (1)bigbigforums.com 85419 (-0.88%)3 07-Aug-2001
42 (1)a2zdeals.com 95824 (5.42%)4 05-Aug-1999

Dealspl.us — social bargain hunting that works

This post continues my weekly series of website reviews. Next candidate probably gets disproportional amount of attention from my blog. In fact the very first post on ProBargainHunter was about this website.

Dealspl.us launched in July of 2006 and quickly became a popular destination for bargain hunters after showing up on the Digg front page. To further stimulate participation the owners ran a series of contests where you could win an iPod or a USB Flash Drive for submitting deals. In fact your humble servant got one of these drives as well after playing with deals submission for a while.

The website launched with the premise that the content is community driven — anyone can submit shopping deals to be featured on the website. As I mentioned before, communities like these need a critical user mass to survive, and Dealspl.us is one of the few who are close to the point to become self supported (a couple of other sites worth mentioning are Dealigg and Modoshi).

Dealsplus Thumbnail

The website has a very clean layout. The front page displays most popular deals in a grid fashion. You can navigate through the categories using the menu to the right. This is all Dealspl.us had when they just launched. The team gradually added features turning the website into a true social network. If you take a closer look at Dealspl.us now you will notice that being a registered user now means you can do a number of other things in addition to submitting or voting for deals.

You can participate in discussion groups, you can invite friends / relatives and identify them as such in your profile, you can browse the B&M store Sunday ads in the circular section. When Black Friday shopping season was in full swing Dealspl.us offered one of the most comprehensive Black Friday ads references, which brought even more attention to the site (see that second spike on the chart below).

Dealsplus Alexa

The team has re-launched daily contests — a sure sign they are serious about gaining the momentum. The site has been holding position #16 in my popular bargain sites list pretty steadily however if you recount the traffic generated by these websites in proportion to the actual user shopping activity, they might as well be in the top 10. This is due to the fact that other sites in the list have some sort of side business which brings them most of the visitors, a good example is ResellerRatings who I reviewed last week.

Dealspl.us success is partially due to the fact that it is backed by the experience of Ben Chui, the owner of BensBargains, who co-founded Dealspl.us with one of his friends. Here is how he describes in his November interview what kick-started the idea:

I was approached by my former graduate student instructor about starting a new Web 2.0 AJAX site. He was entirely new to affiliate marketing and such, so I offered to help him break into the market. He’s a brilliant guy and he was able to get dealspl.us together in about two months! BensBargians.net is more of an editorial type site, which definitely has its place in the scheme of things; but with the hotness of Web 2.0 and user driven content, we felt like we had a winning idea with dealspl.us. So far, our projections have been spot on!

What can I say… well done, Ben. Give it some time and the child will overgrow its parent. ;-)

Why Modoshi will beat DealsPlus

Over the past 2 years I have seen many social bargain hunting sites launch. Most of them had very distinct features and quality design. Yet their flawed marketing strategy made their life very short. If I were to list a few you would most likely have to admit that you never heard the names.

The new kids on the block have been more fortunate in the sense that they started when Digg was already popular and many Internet users have adopted the idea so well that they were not shy digging things anymore. However if you look closely at these websites you will notice that they all suffer from the same problem: they have not built an active community — a community of users who would find and digg up the deals — the kind of community that only FatWallet and SlickDeals currently have.

This is not surprising at all. Bargain hunting is a very narrow niche. It took Digg over a year to become as popular as it is. It will take even longer for these sites if they follow the Digg model.

Social bargain hunting is plagued

We all know that Digg is not community driven in the sense that less than 1% of users control most of the front page news. This is partially due to the algorithms Digg has put in place to favor the top submitters but mostly due to the fact that only a small percentage of users is capable of devoting themselves to the long hours of sifting through the news looking for that Digg-worthy scandal story.

It is obvious that all of the bargain hunting sites currently don’t have even a fraction of the half a million Digg users. I will bet my car that the owners of these sites keep them on life support by searching and submitting deals daily and maybe even by manipulating the ratings to bring the most promising offers to the top for better visibility (for that same reason these websites usually don’t show who voted for the deals. Some don’t even show who submits the deals, at least not on the front page).

The conclusion — social element is there mostly to satisfy your feeling of freedom, to feed your desire to be in control, to create an illusion that you can make a difference. At this time the social part doesn’t do a good job of building a supply of fresh quality submissions for these websites.

How can this be fixed? What can be changed to make the system work? What will compensate for the lack of active users?

It sounds like Modoshi has the solution.

Who are the folks that submit news to Digg? They are mostly teens — school children and college students. They have a very strong feeling of community, they have the time and curiosity to try new things, they are willing to do it for free or for a very small pay. Modoshi is a community where users who submit or pick the best deals are financially compensated. Right now each user only has one shot a day at winning the two daily prizes — $5 for submitting a new deal and $5 for digging an existing one — however as the site growth the prizes will grow as well, according to Modoshi co-founder Vaishali Anga. $10 a day doesn’t sound a lot at all however keep in mind that Netscape was able to sway the top Digg users with a mere $1000 a month — and working for Netscape sounds like a full time job to me.

Modoshi Contest

This is not all however. With each new deal the submitter has to verify 3 existing deals for accuracy. This just sounds like a terrific idea! Once the bugs are worked out the only thing that Vaishali will have to worry about is that his servers are capable to support the crowds of teens who will flock to play the game and earn that penny towards next Wii. By the way, about Wii, the top Modoshi user in January will get one for free — it is another contest the team is running and the prize selection only proves my guess at what the target age is. Seriously though enforcing verification should hugely improve the overall deals quality and as the result will make the site more attractive to those who come to use those deals.

Different game requires different rules

According to Vaishali when Modoshi launched in November it “started on the premise that it was high time contributors to the Internet community in general (who) got a share of the revenue”. The team quickly abandoned the concept though. “Pricier items such as TV etc got unfair advantage. Deal (submission) was based primarily on commissions, not quality”. The contests in contrast provide “a uniform model irrespective of what deal is posted, be it a $10 toy or $1000 hdtv”. Makes a lot of sense to me!

Now what about that rank that social sites display next to each entry? It usually more or less reflects the number of votes the entry accumulated. It makes perfect sense in the Digg case — how else can you judge the value of a news story? It sounds like for shopping deals you could use more data to calculate that number. The item price (compared to the average price for similar items), the item popularity (number of clicks or sales it produces), the submitter credibility — all of these can be factored in to compute the deal rank. Isn’t it brilliant? I wonder why no one else has done it before?

Conclusion

I have been playing with Modoshi over the past month or so and the more I play the stronger the feeling is that they have implemented the best marketing strategy to make a social bargain hunting site a success. I am not saying they are already the best — the site navigation and functionality could be improved quite a bit — but they currently have the best bets at coming out the leader. Sorry DealsPlus, you are not my favorite any more. ;-)

Social Bargain Hunting Roundup

This year has been revolutionary for the Internet. It’s growing popularity has given birth to a new trend - “social”. What started as IRC and bulletin boards has now been adopted by all online services. User contributed content is the king this year and according to this Times magazine article its impact will only grow in the years to come.

In addition online shopping has experienced very nice growth this year. Online spending during this holiday season are 25% up according to comScore. The growth has created an opportunity for new players to join the game thus growing the already long list of participants. Many of them are adopting social features.

Let’s go over some newcomers featuring social attributes and check what they are really worth. I used several factors for selection, among them are usability, functionality, innovation and design. Popularity often influences usability with social websites therefore let’s look at it first.

Comparing Traffic

Alexa Charts

The only thing that is clear from this Alexa chart that Dealspl.us is leading the pack while Modoshi is far behind. The rest three websites are somewhere in between.

In an attempt to measure how many deals these websites have I did a search for “iPod” on each of them and counted number of entries posted within the last 30 days. Besides I attempted to measure how fresh the data is by looking up the latest deal. Here is what I found as of 12/25/07 4:30 am (no, Santa has not stopped by yet :-)):

Dealspl.us Dealigg Deals.com Dealplumber Modoshi
Search for “iPod” 137 105 10 12 100
Latest posted deal 10 hours 4 minutes 2 days 3 days 8 hours

Be aware that some of the deals may be submitted by the people running the websites and hence these counts cannot be used to judge how popular the websites are. Nevertheless the numbers give an idea what to expect.

Dealspl.us

Dealspl.usThe side-project of its parent website bensbargains Dealspl.us may soon overgrow its dad. Dealspl.us had a privilege to come to the market among the first (if you don’t count the early experiments like dealcritic) and managed to do a lot of things right. Ben’s 6 years of pro-bargain hunting have helped to avoid mishaps. The content, while user submitted, is constantly moderated and refined. I am sure Ben feeds a few of his own deals every day to keep the things running smoothly.

The simple and nice looking design along with pre-filled quality deals content is what made the website a success initially. The team kept adding functionality and now I cannot really find anything that I wanted from a bargain hunting site that Dealspl.us didn’t have. Maybe just some minor things like email newsletter, hot deals widget, and a submitter web browser plugin? (Ben, it is a hint ;-) )

Dealigg

DealiggFrom the first glance Dealigg looks like a “not very polished” Dealspl.us copycat. Nevertheless it doesn’t prevent it from bringing in nice user traffic. Overall it is very much one step behind compared to the original. The coupons section, the friends feature, and the talk groups are just a few things that Dealigg lacks compared to Dealpl.us. Read my earlier Dealigg review to get a better picture.

Deals.com

Deals.comThe creators of Deals.com have put aside sufficient funding for the domain name and web site branding yet they failed to assess the level of saturation in the bargain hunting market. A great domain name and a cute logo could bring crowds of visitors a year back but not today.

As the result the website is somewhat stagnant (see the table above). I wrote about Deals.com earlier and why it may fail. Another example of a nicely designed quickly forgotten website is Trezr — read my review here.

Dealplumber

DealplumberDealplumber started around the same time as Dealspl.us and originally boasted a higher Alexa rank due to slightly earlier launch and the “share deals & earn” program which allowed affiliate ids in the submitted links. The website however wasn’t as well designed as Dealspl.us and most importantly it failed to deliver quality deals which in turn didn’t work well as far as retaining a user base goes.

Very recently they have somewhat improved the website design and navigation however it is still not as convenient as I would like it to be. Just a few things:

  • The menu at the bottom is hard to see (and there are some important things there)
  • There is no way to access all related store deals from a single deal page
  • I cannot mark a deal as a spam or expired

The web site functionality overall is a subset of that of Dealspl.us

Modoshi

ModoshiLaunched just last month Modoshi is trying to succeed where Dealplumber failed — revenue sharing — hence the web site name which in Japanese means “giving-back”. “Typically, Modoshi will receive 7 to 8 percent from an affiliate for each sale, and on average, 40 to 50 percent of that commission will go to the user who posted the deal”, according to the website’s co-founder Vaishali Anga.

I remember the main problem with Dealplumber was spam. Users would submit low-quality deals and benefit from the clicks the website attracted after the launch. In an attempt to improve the deals quality Modoshi is running daily contests. There are two ways how you can win a prize (currently $5): post a best selling deal or pick the best selling deal. While you can post or pick as many deals as you like only one deal and pick can be submitted every day to the contest. This is a very smart move which will certainly pay off.

Modoshi Contest

While Modoshi may be a fun game to play for school kids it still lacks some must-have features. For example I couldn’t find any way to browse deals by a merchant. They also don’t seem to have a separate section for coupons/promo codes. The thing I liked is that I could rank deals up and down without being logged in (the vote is associated with my IP address). This should give a boost to the user activity that Modoshi needs so much.

Conclusion

I have ranked each website on a 1 to 5 scale where 1 is the worst and 5 is the best. Here is the run down:

Dealspl.us Dealigg Deals.com Dealplumber Modoshi
Usablility 5 4 1 1 4
Functionality 5 4 3 3 4
Innovation 4 2 3 3 5
Design 4 2 5 3 3

No question Dealspl.us is the current leader in social bargain hunting. Judging by the features and the innovating marketing campaign Modoshi seems to be the next runner up. Dealigg is playing catch ups while Dealplumber is recovering from the early mistakes. Deals.com has good potential (especially given its catchy domain name) but the team needs to introduce some more innovation into what they are doing.

2006 marks the first year when social bargain hunting really caught up. While reviewed here websites have satisfied the essential demand there are still opportunities to build on what’s accomplished. In addition I think the market penetration at this point is not yet high and new players (or old players with new ambitions) will have a good shot at grabbing a piece of the pie — a good example is the recent social revolution at JudysBook.

Inspired by The Social Shopping Faceoff
from ReadWriteWeb



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