Interview with Scott Jangro of Shareist

Jonathan Edward Goodman

by Jonathan Goodman on January 21, 2014

This is Jonathan Goodman. Welcome to another episode of The World of Internet Marketing. I am here today with Scott Jangro of Shareist. Scott is the president and co-founder of Shareist, a content marketing platform service that helps individuals and teams efficiently create content, publish and share. He’s also the president of MechMedia, a firm specializing in performance and search engine marketing since 2004. Prior to that, Scott served as a Director of Product Management at Be Free, Inc. and later Commission Junction, both divisions of ValueClick. Scott is best known as an active and vocal member of the affiliate marketing community through his blogging, writing and advocacy efforts. He served three years on the Performance Marketing Association board of directors and the founding advisory board. Scott has been honored with multiple industry awards including the Affiliate Summit Affiliate Marketing Legend Award and the Best Blogger Pinnacle Award, as well as awards from ShareASale and Linkshare.

Affiliate Summit West

Jonathan:  Welcome Scott.

Scott:  Thank you Jonathan. I’m glad to be here.

Jonathan: You just got back less than 48 hours ago from the Affiliate Summit West. How was it?

Scott:  It was great. It was a great show in Las Vegas. I guess it was the biggest one ever and it was a really good venue. They switched it up a little bit. They moved it from Caesars Palace to Paris Hotel, which made it smaller with more people. So it was great for networking and meeting people.

Jonathan:  I love the Paris Hotel. I’ve stayed at a lot of different hotels in Las Vegas – Bellagio and all the others – and I still find myself getting a great French breakfast over at the Paris. For people who have never heard of Affiliate Summit, what is it?

Scott:  It’s a conference all about affiliate marketing, performance marketing. All areas of that industry come together to network twice a year, affiliates from the West in January and affiliates from the East in August. This year, it was over 5,000 people. My favorite part is networking and seeing old friends. I’ve been in the industry since 1999, so I know a lot of people and it’s like a family reunion every time I go back. It’s a small world and people tend not to leave the industry, although they switch up what they’re doing. So Affiliate Summit is a lot of fun. This year, I presented a session and was on a panel as well. There’s a lot of networking at the sessions and hanging out with fellow affiliate marketers.

Jonathan:  What was the session that you presented?

Scott:  I was invited to be on a panel about working from home. It was a fun session.

Jonathan:  I definitely can understand that. Let me see if I can summarize affiliate marketing for those people who don’t know what it is. Last year, I went to Affiliate Summit East. It was my first time there. I had a great time and met really fantastic people. Affiliate marketing is when you have a relationship with the product owner or the manufacturer and you are talking about the product in a positive way. If somebody is reading that content, they can move through to that website to make that purchase. So you are essentially another arm of marketing. Is that right, Scott?

Scott:  Yes. That’s right. To put it another way, it’s a performance-based marketing relationship that a publisher has with a merchant. The publisher writes a product with you, talks about a product, talks about a service, refers a lead and any number of different types of leads can be involved. They only get paid for that referral if a conversion happens on the other end. That’s the key. That’s why it’s called performance marketing. You get paid on performance. So it’s a very cost-effective channel for merchants and retailers.

Let’s Talk About Shareist

Image representing Shareist as depicted in Cru... Image by None via CrunchBase

Jonathan:  I’m glad you called them publishers because now we’re going to switch gears and talk about Shareist, which is your company. When I originally met you at Affiliate Summit East, I got an understanding of what I thought Shareist was. I immediately thought that maybe it was a competitor of Hootsuite, but after taking a good look at it, it seems to me to be so much more. While doing my research, I found this quote from you: “Shareist is Evernote meets Hootsuite for publishers.” So let’s run through a couple of features. I’m particularly interested in understanding the creation of e-books and how collaboration works using the tool. But you also have the Shareist idea of bookmarking, which sounds revolutionary. Can you walk us through that?

Scott: Sure. Shareist is a content marketing platform. Lots of different companies call their products content marketing platforms, but they don’t necessarily do anything near the same things that Shareist does. Shareist is about basically three things: capturing ideas, sharing them and scheduling them in social media and turning them into bigger things like blog posts, newsletters and e-books. This can all be done from one place. That’s content marketing and lots of people do all those activities. But they’re using all sorts of tools all over the place to do that – emailing, bookmarking tools like clip to pocket or instant paper and capturing photos on Instagram They’re using all these different tools all over the place that you’re capturing stuff into and they tend to get lost. You have to remember to go find them in those places. We bring that into one platform with our own tools so you can capture things directly into Shareist. Or you can connect in those tools as well. If you love using pocket, for example, you can connect that pocket. So that’s the research side of things. Capturing that as you’re going through your day-to-day business. As part of that research process, we also have a sort of speed reader functionality, like Goggle Reader. So you can put in blog RSS feeds, keyword searches in Goggle, newly Google blogs, Reddit categories and different things. That will give you a list every day when you come in of things to read that are topical to whatever it is that you’re working on.

Jonathan: That’s the RSS feeds?

Scott: Yea. It takes RSS feeds and other sources of content for that. That’s the research part of it. That’s to keep you reading, keep you thinking and keep you fed with ideas. Then when you find something interesting that you want to share, you can do one of two things with that content. You pull it into your in-box and it’s in Shareist for good. Then you can just share it right off to social media in a curation kind of way. That’s something that is important to realize – you don’t always have to be creating your own content. Content curation is big thing. If you’re pushing content out every day to your channel, you don’t have to write that content. You could be sharing great stuff that other people are writing and adding some value to it, A, by just sharing it and, B, by maybe adding some perspective to it. What you’re doing is you’re providing a service just in your body that’s on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In and wherever it happens to be. Then you can schedule things to go out to Twitter, Linked In, Facebook, etc. So you can do all this kind of in a compact session maybe in the morning. I like to say you can just spend 30 minutes a day reading and sharing stuff and then be done with your social media and content marketing for the entire day just with a small session in the morning. Schedule it to go. As you’re doing all this stuff, you’re also in the background getting ideas for bigger stuff. And you can use maybe the posts that are getting the most engagement or something you find interesting and then later turn some of that stuff into bigger content like a blog post. Or pull several things together into maybe a recap email. And you can do that in Shareist as well. So you create a page in Shareist and that page can be free-form like a blog or it can be a compilation of a bunch of things that you’ve found. Then when you’re finished with that page, you can publish it directly to WordPress. Sharelist has its own website if you don’t have your own. And you can even publish that page out to email service providers like Constant Contact, MailChimp, or AWeber and use this content for several purposes all without leaving this one platform because things are connected in. So you can publish to WordPress or publish an email to MailChimp without even leaving Shareist.

Jonathan: So it really becomes its own central hub of information. Is that right?

Scott: It is. I use the word “home base” for your content. I think what a lot of people struggle with is that they’re always reading the finest content, but they save it in spread-out ways and also share it. They just dump it into Facebook and Twitter and it’s gone. So they’re not keeping some of that for themselves to do more with. They put all this time and investment into researching and sharing these things, but you can take that to the next level and use that for content. The final piece, which you mentioned, is that you can also export a page or a group of pages that you’ve created as a PDF or a .mobi file and create an e-book or a white paper out of it.

Jonathan: Let me understand because the legalese is always running in the back of my head and I’m thinking, well, if you’re taking other people’s content and just taking this paragraph and that paragraph from this side and that side and combining them into your own thing, where are the copyright issues in doing that? Or am I missing what’s going on here?

Scott: You’re not missing anything. It’s possible, but that’s not really what we’re talking about when we talk about curation. You’re really promoting someone’s content. Say I came across a blog post that was yours and I thought, “This is great. I’m going to share it with my audience,” well, I’m either tweeting it directly or sending it out to Facebook directly and just driving people to you. That’s curation. You could also put that content in a page on your own website, whether it’s a blog or whether it’s Scoop.it or something like that. You’ve maybe added some perspective to it, but it’s giving you credit for the idea and it’s featuring your page. So it’s not taking someone else’s content. It’s featuring it and talking about it.

Jonathan: And you’re wrapping that in your own comments.

Scott: Yea.

Jonathan: Okay. Let’s back up for a second. We were talking about scheduling and you said things like Facebook, Twitter and Linked In. Are there any plans to add Google+?

Scott: Google+ does not have an API that’s available for anybody to use yet. It’s been coming for a long time. It’s been available to a few. There is an application process, which doesn’t seem to move very fast. Hootsuite has had the key to that kingdom forever. I think they were in the initial one, two or three that got access to that. Buffer does as well, more recently. We’ve submitted an application and we’ll hopefully get access to that. We do really great with Buffer. So I can publish to Buffer and through Buffer get Google+ with Shareist.

Image representing Buffer as depicted in Crunc... Image by None via CrunchBase

Jonathan: Okay. So there’s integration between Shareist and Buffer?

Scott: Yes. You can publish to Buffer from Shareist just like you can publish to Twitter and Facebook.

Jonathan: Talk to me about the content calendar. I saw how you can sort of schedule things similar to Hootsuite where I can say a specific time and a specific day. Are there advantages with the calendar that you’ve built?

Scott: It’s bigger in purpose than Hootsuite, so, yea, you can schedule things just like Hootsuite to go out to Twitter, Facebook and Linked In at any given time. It’s recommended that you do it several times a day for these channels to keep things active and spread it out and keep it consistent. That’s the important thing so people can know what to expect from you. But with our calendar, it’s more of a content calendar so you can get things in the calendar all day every day, but also schedule some pages to be written by either yourself or team members. Get them on the calendar and get a work flow for writing. So that if you assign something to a team member, they’ll see that they’re owning it and it’s their job to provide it and create it on a due date on a calendar. So you can see the whole Content Calendar right there on the screen.

Jonathan: I was just about to ask you about the collaboration and team capability for content provider.

Scott: In Shareist, we break things down into what we call projects, kind of like a Basecamp project. A project might be a website, it might be a topic, it might be a client. It’s a way of segmenting your content marketing efforts and be doing more than one thing. For each project, you can invite collaborators in. So you can invite one or more people in to work on that project with you and give them different access levels all the way from Administrator to Editor to Contributor and there are different levels of what they can do in that project. So for these people that you invite in, you can assign a document to write, a page to write and get them into that writing work flow. Or you can have another person who is at the Editor level and they’re doing that stuff for you, getting writers in and helping the flow. So there’s a whole collaboration of people, which helps with the writing work flow and the collaboration and also communication, which is really critical to teams working on content products. People can communicate with each other through a messaging system with Shareist, as well.

Jonathan: How does that compare to a Basecamp?

Scott: It’s quite similar in many ways to Basecamp. Another way to describe Shareist is Basecamp for publishers. It’s got a lot of that messaging and page building like you can do in Basecamp. But once it’s in Basecamp, it’s kind of in there. But with Shareist, you’re developing content and then you can hit a button and it goes straight to WordPress or Tumblr or Typepad or Blogger and schedules things to go out to the social networks. So it’s got that extra stuff built on for the purpose of publishing.

Jonathan: Let’s talk about the integration with WordPress for a second. If I have multiple websites out there all running off of separate WordPress installations and I have a writer, maybe someone elevated to an Editor level, and I wanted them to write something and then somebody else approve it and publish it to the WordPress, is it just as simple as a click of a button? Or is there some other movement?

Scott: It’s literally as simple as that. You can connect any number of WordPress blogs to your Shareist account and further kind of assign projects so you don’t have to look at them all in every project if you don’t want to. But once you’ve connected them, they’re available to you to publish your content to. You can also grant access to your collaborators to publish on your behalf if that’s the level of access you want to give them. But once your blog is connected up, you don’t actually have to go into WordPress anymore. You create the page and from there are all our blogs listed and with just a button, you can pick who the authors are, categories, in WordPress and pull that in through their API. And so you can publish without ever leaving Shareist.

Jonathan: Wow.

Scott: Yea. And then it pushes it to WordPress and you can, of course, go there and edit it further and clean it up a little if something doesn’t look right. But it’s very clean. The content that we push out is just clean HTML. There’s no styling. It just inherits the styling from the theme on the blog.

Jonathan: That in itself is a major advantage. When you talked about projects, I wanted to talk about pricing. Then I wanted to ask you about the fact that you have websites that can be created right on Shareist and also the affiliate linking tool that you have. But just changing directions, the price ranges from $10/month for one project and no collaborators up to $200/month with unlimited projects and unlimited collaboration and many iterations in between. And you can switch plans at any time. When you say project, does that mean one WordPress installation? How do you figure out what a project is?

Scott: A project is how you decide to break out content within Shareist. So if I have three blogs, I might create three projects. Those are very different topics to help me keep things organized. But that is not tied into how many blogs you can connect. So they’re separate. I could connect 100 blogs and publish to any of them from any of the projects. They’re not tied together tightly. The project is just ways of breaking out the content.

Jonathan: So you could almost say Medical Industry, Service Industry, Financial Industry. And underneath those could be the WordPress installation going to different blogs.

Scott: Yea. You connect the blogs at the account level. That’s really how I think of it. It’s just all of your stuff. And then the projects are in there as well. For any of the projects, you can publish to any of the WordPress blogs you have connected. There are no restrictions on that. When you’re talking about pricing, it’s really just the number of projects, which is just how you segment content. It would get messy to try to put those industries you just mentioned all in one mix in a list with your medical and all your different topics mixed up. So you break them out. That’s how it’s structured.

Jonathan: What’s great is that is seems you have a 30-day free trial and that includes a 30-minute one-on-one walk through with a Shareist expert. Is that regardless of the level that you get?

Scott: Yes. That’s what we’re doing right now. That’s the offer. The expert is me. So you can get on the phone with me for 30 minutes or however long it takes. And we’ll go through it. This is just an offer. We’re trying to get people understanding the product and understanding their own content marketing needs and strategies. If we can do that and get people using the product, then we’ll have lots of good users.

Jonathan: That’s great. In wrapping up the Shareist conversation, I just wanted to go back for a second. If I didn’t have a website at all, I could actually build off of the Shareist website. Is that right?

Scott: That’s right. Every project in Shareist has its website attached to it. So any of the content you’re creating in that project can be made public and visible on the Shareist hosted website that’s attached to that project. You don’t have to do that. You can turn it off. Or you can flip a switch and turn it on. It would on default be on a Shareist subdomain or you can attach your own custom domain to it, kind of like the way Tumblr works. So each project has a website on it. You can use that as a primary website. Some people use it as a secondary place to put some content to push off to the Shareist site and then maybe some special things to blog to mix it up a little bit. And some people don’t us it at all.

Jonathan: Now affiliate linking tools. What is that?

Scott: This is my background, the background of my company. Shareist kind of grew out of the tools we’ve built for ourselves over the past almost 10 years. A couple of years ago, we decided to turn it into a product for other people to use. But this technology that Shareist has is based on is the technology that we use for our own publishing efforts as affiliate marketing; creating primarily niche retain community websites. So we’ve built a lot of tools that automate the things that go around affiliate marketing, like creating links, tracking page search and that sort of stuff. There are a few affiliate linking tools that are built into Shareist, but to put it simply, we allow the project owner to add affiliate links in an affiliate linking interface. So say an Amazon affiliate link is kind of a template link. There are called deep links. If you’re more familiar with affiliate marketing, that’s what the affiliate marketing term for it is. We’ll use that and then you don’t have to go and create links anymore for that merchant. You just link to them directly. And we’ll automatically turn that link into an affiliate link for you. So every time you place an Amazon product on your site, you don’t have to worry about going to Amazon to get the affiliate link for that product. Or any time you put a pair of Zappos shoes on your website, you don’t have to go to Commission Junction to get a link for that. We’ll automatically do that for you once you set up each merchant.

Jonathan: I’m very familiar with SkimLinks. Is are you using that tool? Or is it something similar to that?

Image representing Prosperent as depicted in C... Image by None via CrunchBase

Scott: It’s similar. It works in a very similar way. Technically it works in a similar way as SkimLinks. From a business standpoint, it’s not the same at all. In the case of SkimLinks, they have all the relationships with the merchants. They are taking the money from the merchants and paying the publishers. In our case, we’re not in the middle. It’s you having a direct relationship with a merchant and you’re putting your links in there. And they’re going in directly. So you’re getting paid. It’s your affiliate accounts. SkimLinks is super simple. You don’t have to really worry about anything, other than just getting into SkimLinks. With us, you still have to manage that relationship with the merchants directly and put them into Shareist. That said, we have integration with SkimLink and BigLink and Prosperent, three tools that do that same service. So if you want to use them and you’re using a Shareist site, we’ll help you get that code in there. If you have WordPress, it’s up to you to get those tools in there.

Jonathan: So super simple. That’s great for those people who are just dipping their big toe into affiliate marketing and don’t have a lot of time. They can either have a one-to-one relationship using Commission Junction or something like that or they can go and use SkimLinks. Regardless, it’s can be integrated into Shareist, which is fantastic.

Cycling’s Parallel with Shareist

Jonathan: Let’s switch gears now. You’re an avid cyclist, right?

Scott: I am, yes.

Jonathan: I have friend who is an avid cyclist and he does what I believe is called a Millennium. Is that the right term?

Scott: Actually they’re called century rides.

Jonathan: That’s 100 miles in a day? Or 100 miles without stopping?

Scott: Yes. It’s 100 miles. There is some stopping, but not necessarily. It’s not a requirement that you don’t stop. [laughter]

Jonathan: Yea. Well, if you have to stop, you have to stop. I’m going to appreciate your answers to the next five questions because they are far more philosophical than you can handle having little sleep. [laughter] What do you see as parallels between your work at Shareist and cycling?

Scott: Wow! I don’t know if I’m going to be able to answer that question because to me, cycling is almost an escape from all that stuff. You hear about the runner’s high. I’ve been a runner for a long time and only cycling for a couple of years, and I never really got that from running or anything else. But I will go on a 4-hour cycling ride and not even know that I’m on it. You might think that you can go up there and think about work or think about things. But to me, I’m just focused on nothing more than turning my legs. It might sound boring, but it’s meditative. I think people who meditate, which I don’t, would probably say that I was meditating out there on the road. It’s a commitment and it’s a challenge. I’m always competing against myself and sometimes my friends when I’m riding in groups. It honestly kept me sane. How it relates to my work at Shareist is that it has allowed me to keep working at a start up like this at this pace for a couple of years.

Jonathan: Well, there you go. I know as an entrepreneur, we don’t stop until we’re just dropping. So I understand clearing your mind. That’s kind of where I was going with this. Have you ever experienced getting off the bike and having a revelation about the direction of the company or anything like that?

Scott: Yea. It does clear your mind. Sometimes I’m distracted by work and I’m thinking about work when I’m on the bike. Those aren’t the best rides. But yea, when there’s nothing to do, that’s when your subconscious brain kicks in. You’re not even thinking about it, but problems get solved. Without even realizing it, you come back either re-energized or with your brain having done some work in the background. The same thing happens in the shower. When there’s nothing to do, your brain can focus on other things. And some good things can happen.

Four for Friday: Questions Everyone Is Asked

Jonathan: Let’s move on to Four for Friday, which are questions that everyone is asked. Here’s our first Four for Friday question: What is your idea of perfect Internet happiness?

Scott: Having friends around on social media. Because I’m working alone at home, I rely on having someone always to talk to, whether I’m needing a break or needing an inspiration or just a laugh. That’s really the best thing. Being connected. It’s especially important for someone who is working remotely.

Jonathan: That’s perfect. What is your greatest Internet regret? MySpace. [laughter] I’m tempted to say how much of an open book I am online. I’m a very quiet kind of person, and I kind of let that go when I’m online. I’m known for posting a lot of selfies of myself and I get a lot of grief for it. But it’s fun. And every time someone hates on me for it, I get three people sticking up for me. It’s just a fun thing. But I question my openness online.

Jonathan: Knowing you online, I could say by comparison there are plenty more people who have cut out their heart and put it on Facebook much more than you have. Keep those selfies coming because they are great. Especially when you’re on bike rides. Here is the third question: What do you consider your greatest achievement to date?

Scott: I would say that it’s the business that we’ve built here. Not Shareist yet. I hope that will be my greatest achievement, but all the work that led up to that. It’s not terribly visible as a great achievement, but it allowed us to bootstrap this and start up a new business, which has been an incredible experience. We spent several years building up an affiliate-based business and driving millions of dollars of revenue, enabling us to do this and embark on this.

Jonathan: Let me clarify because I’m a little confused. Are you saying that there is another business that then allowed you to build Shareist?

Scott: Yea. The company that owns Shareist is MechMedia, which is our company. I say “our” because I have a partner. We started that in 2005. That was the affiliate publishing business that I was talking about that built both the technology that became Shareist and the revenue that funded it.

Jonathan: I see. That clears things up. I wasn’t sure if you were talking about ShareASale. Obviously, all of us in the Internet world have kind of compounded our experiences to the point where we are now. But you made it clear. Thank you. Here is the final question: Do you have a favorite Internet book?

Scott: Yours.

Jonathan: That’s a trick question. [laughter] Do you have another favorite Internet book, whether it’s something that got you into the field initially or something like that?

Scott: You know, I’m kind of a geek and an engineer. Most of my reading is technical stuff. I tend to go more toward the books by Malcolm Gladwell and books like “Blink” that give me some inspiration and keep me going mentally rather than studying the Internet stuff. Living this start up thing, I read a lot of blogs and read a lot of that stuff. I don’t read a lot of books about the Internet. I’ll read the stuff that helps motivation and inspiration and technical stuff.

Jonathan: That’s great. Well, this has been a fantastic interview. I really appreciate this. We’ve been talking to Scott Jangro from Shareist. We’re going to head off now. I will see you at Affiliate Summit East when it comes back around to New York.

Scott: For sure. Great. Thanks, Jonathan.

Outro

Again, this is Jonathan Goodman. You can follow me @HalyardConsult on Twitter. New episodes of the World of Internet Marketing can be heard every Friday. You can access the archives of my previous shows on Spreaker.com – user name Jonathan Goodman. The podcast is also available with transcription at halyardconsulting.com and geekcast.fm one week after the episode airs. Thank you all for listening to another episode of The World of Internet Marketing. Don’t forget to pick up my book The World of Internet Marketing on Amazon, and if you like this podcast please share it with your network of friends and family. Have a great week.

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