The big news in the points & miles world today is that Bankrate has acquired Million Mile Secrets. I’m glad MMS made a public announcement; that’s more than we got from The Points Guy. As Skift wrote in 2014:
In 2012, Mr. Kelly sold The Points Guy to Bankrate, a publicly traded company that publishes and promotes financial content. While he retains editorial control, Bankrate provides organizational support and some affiliate links. But outside of two email addresses in the site’s terms and conditions, there’s no mention of the relationship with Bankrate.
I don’t think the Points Guy ownership issue was widely known until a commenter on my post on corporate ownership of blogs from a month before the Skift article helpfully pointed it out.
BankRate also owns CardSynergy, which used to be the independent credit card sub-affiliate network NCS Reporting, and they also acquired FlexOffers (CardOffers), which was also a previously independent sub-affiliate network and formerly one of the biggest competitors with NCS Reporting for credit card affiliate marketing, and through these networks, they control most of the credit card affiliate links that most bloggers use. They pretty much have a monopoly on credit card affiliate marketing, especially for bloggers.
Sounds like a nice little niche BankRate has carved out for itself, yes?
There was some Twitter debate (prompted by that rabble-rouser George) over the extent to which MMS’s announcement constituted spin. Look: Bankrate is a publicly traded profit-maximizing corporate entity and is not in business to help its friends and family, unless of course those friends and family happen to be shareholders. Of course this acquisition will be portrayed in the best possible light and of course this portrayal is spin.
But that doesn’t mean Daraius is a shady businessman, it just means he’s doing the logical thing. M&A transactions are always spun as a great thing and Bankrate’s latest acquisition is no different. That’s how the game is played. As for the question of how much of a say the new corporate overlords will have in how MMS is run: it’s possible that a publicly-traded company acquired a property it will direct resources to without requiring any profitability goals or top-line targets or editorial control at any point in the future… but that’s not the way I’d bet.
I don’t have much interest in the debate over whether bloggers who sell credit cards are good people; I think that–as is the case with the rest of humanity–some of them are and some of them aren’t. If you’re not actively plagiarizing my content I’m not going to have a strong opinion on your moral worth as a blogger. My concern is with the systems’ incentives. Think of it this way:
- If doctors received incentives to promote certain drugs over others, would such a system produce suboptimal results for patients?
- If investment advisers received incentives to promote certain mutual funds over others, would such a system produce suboptimal results for investors?
- If bloggers received incentives to promote certain credit cards over others, would such a system produce suboptimal results for readers?
Of course, getting the wrong credit card isn’t as bad as getting the wrong drug, but it’s the same principle in both situations. Incentives matter.