Loquax celebrates 23 years – How did they do it?

Loquax is the oldest online competition portal in the UK, which first launched back in 1998. Run by Jason Dale and Kirsty Darbyshire, this affiliate site has recently celebrated its 23rd anniversary!

Loquax is free to use with players required to register to access all the listings. We recently caught up with co-founder Jason Dale to hear more about affiliate marketing back then and what he thinks of the affiliate industry. Read what he had to say below:

Affiverse: You’ve recently celebrated Loquax’s 23rd birthday! What made you start this affiliate site all those years ago and how have you kept it running successfully for so long?

Jason Dale: “Loquax started way back in 1998. There was no plan for the site other than a way to learn how to build a website. I was working as a Geochemist at Newcastle University having completed a PhD there but had become disillusioned with that career and wanted a way out. The internet was new and so I started playing on it, entering a few competitions and winning a couple. Originally, Loquax was going to be a shopping style site but quickly turned into a competition portal with the aim to help people find and enter prize draws online.

It seems a bit absurd that we’ve lasted 23 years. I think we’ve always been quite grounded in our approach to what we’re doing – in one sense it’d have been lovely to take on staff, have offices etc but then that wouldn’t suit us as people. In many respects we know our limitations in terms of what we can achieve but importantly what we want to achieve. I had a health scare at the back end of 2015 and that really changed my mindset on what really mattered. It’s all well and good earning a good living but it’s not much use if you’re not here to enjoy it.

Over the years the site has developed to include bingo, lottery, slots and more recently win a house competitions. Our view is that all these subjects have ‘winning’ as their core and there are overlaps. By adding (and removing) things it keeps the site interesting for our users and for us.”

AI: What was affiliate marketing like back then – before Google became such a powerful tool?

Jason Dale: “Affiliate marketing hardly existed when we started. Initially, the site made a profit because we won a few prizes and that was good enough. Then banner ads with ridiculous CPM amounts joined the fray and we thought we’d hit the big time. £30 or so for showing 1000 banners on your site was great! Our first real affiliate deal was with a company called Uproar who produced prize quizzes that you could insert as content. They paid us per click and lead which again was great.

You could literally put a page together and get some kind of ranking quite quickly. It really wasn’t until 2004 that bingo appeared on our radar and that came via a white-label. That site (Prize Bingo) earnt more for us in one month than anything else we were doing so that was good news. Stupidly we didn’t quite jump on the gambling affiliate bandwagon with both feet until a few years later.

In some respects that was because we weren’t paying close enough attention to time/effort/reward. Hindsight probably tells me that we should have focused more on brand development and building one site (instead of multiple throwaway ones). Plus, we should have been a lot more aware of what was and what wasn’t generating revenue.”

AI: Do you think that affiliate marketing is better now in 2021 than it was before?

Jason Dale: “I think it was a lot better before POC taxes, GDPR, compliance, dropped commissions, closing programs and a whole bunch of other stuff that seems to be designed to make an affiliate’s life as tough as possible.

It’s not all bad news though. As an affiliate, you have so many more resources to get started building a website. Other than the forum software and blog we had to code everything on Loquax ourselves and we knew nothing when we started. Thankfully, Kirsty could program stuff so that got us underway and without that we’d have had to outsource. There are also plenty of affiliate programs to choose from, resources for SEO, graphics, etc. and of course social media can help you get underway too.”

AI: What kind of challenges do affiliates face in 2021 that didn’t exist before?

Jason Dale: “All the above I mentioned above! I do feel that some programs are looking to push out SMEs which is frustrating. I never understand the need to cull affiliates who are generating leads/revenue no matter how small provided they’re being compliant.

Affiliates also have very little leeway when it comes to changes in terms. If an operator drops commission, you either have to accept it or leave the program and this is not conducive to good relations. Seasonality, changing offers, Google, pandemics, can all be factors in what a site like us will do.

Of course, compliance has played a massive role in this. I’m all for compliance and feel as affiliates we should be involved in the process, but there also has to be common sense applied too. Carry on as we are, and they’ll be key terms under key terms whenever you mention bingo. That said I’d love all operators and the UKGC to decide once and for all what compliance means and for everyone to have the same definition.

An affiliates life is always full of challenges and I think we have to accept that. For example, we never expected Sky to pull their program (for some affiliates anyway) but you learn from that experience. Now we expect every program may close, change platform, cull affiliates or decide that lifetime rev share means something less than lifetime.”

AI: What do you think the future of the affiliate marketing industry looks like?

Jason Dale: “I don’t know to be honest. I worry that it’s going to become an exclusive club for big affiliates promoting select brands and everyone else is on the periphery hoping to join the party. I like the fact we are a little bit different to the big bingo/slots portals and that’s what affiliate marketing should be about. If we all have to have the same site doing the same thing then that’s rubbish for the internet.

So, who knows what tomorrow will bring let alone the future. I hope we don’t go down affiliate licence roads and I hope we don’t push out SMEs and new affiliates from the equation. You interviewed Wayne Howe recently with his new site which I really like. Imagine if operators wouldn’t let him promote their brands? We need to make sure the affiliate industry doesn’t prevent new affiliates like Wayne getting a foothold into it, as it’ll certainly be poorer without them.

For me affiliate marketing is simple. You get a link, add it to your site in a constructive way, get clicks and if things are good you can make some money. Provided affiliates are compliant then there’s no problem for the operator.

I never assume Loquax will be here in 12 months’ time – which may explain why we’re still here 23 years on as we’ve never taken our position for granted. We need to get back to it being about good relationships between operator and affiliate not adding hurdles like quotas, commission drops and other restrictions.”

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