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Affiliate Interview: Gal Yosseph, Success in Eastern Europe

This is the latest installment in our series of video interviews with the leaders of the casino affiliate marketing business.

Today’s interview is with the President of Interplay Media, Gal Yosseph, who has been in the business for 12 years. When you watch the video, you’ll learn how Gal built his successful network of casino affiliate sites.

He talks about being based in Bucharest and why it’s a great place to live and run his business. In addition, he discusses why Eastern Europe is a great market for affiliates. You’ll also find out what Gal’s learned over the past 12 years and why choosing the wrong website platform is one of his biggest mistakes!

Watch the Video

About Gal

Gal Yosseph is President of Interplay Media. He’s been in the business for 12 years and has built his Interplay Network into one of the leading networks of casino affiliate websites.

Raw Transcript

Warren: Hello, everyone. You’re watching another video interview where we profile some of the most influential people in the gaming industry.

Today we’re going to talk with Gal Yosseph, President of Interplay Media, about his lengthy career in the online gambling industry. We’re going to uncover how Gal has survived as a successful affiliate in the online gambling industry for nearly 12 years throughout all of its ups and downs.

Gal, thanks for your time today. If you could please just take a minute or two and give us a quick overview of your background, that would be great.

Gal: Well, I’ve been in the business 12 years. I started as a musician, and I switched to the Internet in ’97. I started with adult business and a range of sites, and then I switched to Babylon, as Director of Online Marketing for three years. After Babylon, I started to build my network, Interplay Network, which is a range of sites and it’s very popular these days. The companies develop all the time new techniques, and we are still alive for 12 years now.

Warren: Great. So you’re one of the longest-running affiliates in the online gambling industry. What’s kept you involved in the industry for so long?

Gal: It’s a number of things. First of all, it’s the excitement. It’s to deal with something which is always moving and changing, and the traveling, the trips, all the time meeting new people, very brilliant people. Also, I think it’s the freedom. Only an affiliate can feel this freedom, that you don’t have a boss, you can do what you want. This is something very special, and I think many people wanted this, also me. I always wanted something like this in order to be free and to manage my time, to be with my family and my kids.

Warren: You’re based in Romania, in Bucharest, actually. Why did you choose Bucharest as the location for the headquarters of your company?

Gal: It’s a family story. My father is from Romania. Seven years ago, I took me and my brother to see Romania, and it was love, I really love Romania. And not only because of the girls, all of the beautiful girls, but it’s very nice. Life is very good, good energies. It’s a very relaxing place. I started to invest in Romania, and also to develop my business, my Internet business, because I found very good people, very intelligent. They speak English very well, unlike other countries in Europe. People don’t speak enough English in Italy and Spain and many other countries. In Romania, the people there speak very well, and I felt very comfortable to establish my business there. Just generally I love the place. It’s a beautiful place. Wonderful.

Warren: What were some of the key aspects you looked for in terms of location to base you business? What were some of the more important things that mattered to you when you made the decision?

Gal: Weather is very important to me. I don’t like to suffer. In Italy, it’s too hot for me. The sun is too much. It’s impossible. I love Europe, but other than the clothes and traveling and good times, it’s important for me to have good people around, and in Romania I found wonderful people.

Warren: Great. Can you tell us a little more about your company? Obviously, you started the business in about 2001. Is there anything else that you can share with us about your business that maybe other affiliates would be interested in?

Gal: I have 10 websites, and 3 of them are major portals which is Best Online Casinos. It’s the flagship of Interplay. It’s the first site that we built. After a couple of years, we built and Gambling2U. Besides these, we have other sites that function like doorway pages and capture players from different sections – bingo, hockey, stuff like that. But we mainly focus on casinos. Online casinos.

Warren: And what markets are you going after currently?

Gal: There are some interesting markets. The Polish market is very interesting, and the Romanian is turning out to be very interesting these days, especially to learn the poker. The Romanians are more poker-oriented players, and I think the Russian market also is an interesting market.

Warren: So mainly Eastern European markets are where your focus is?

Gal: Yes, generally.

Warren: And do you see decent player values in those markets today?

Gal: The player value is still low. Not so attractive, but the potential is huge, because these countries have millions of players, of potential players. The people in these countries they like to play, be it poker, bingo. It’s the traditional games people like to play.

Warren: So today it’s a large volume of players, maybe lower player values, but in the future, you’re seeing that large volume growing into larger player values, which could be a really tremendous opportunity.

Gal: Yeah. I believe it will transition online. At the moment, it’s more offline.

Warren: Your website on Interplay Media says that you focus on white hat SEO, media buying, generating online buzz, and online casino promotions. These are a lot of different areas of focus. What area do you specialize in, and why?

Gal: Well, we started in SEO. After a couple of years, we had top position for poker and casino and other sites. After that, we moved a little bit to promotion and download sites, forums, stuff like that, because it was too crowded, too busy with SEO, too many people. In the beginning, it was more easy to be there, in the top.

Nowadays, we are more focused on social networking and mobile, because the world is undergoing two major revolutions now with the tablets and the social networking. So, I believe this is the place to be and to try to find new techniques, and social media, social networks like Facebook and other sites, and promotion mobile phones, smart phones. So we are now focused on containing these challenges.

Warren: And through mobile and social networks, are you able to generate depositors today? Are you finding that to be difficult, or are you making it work through your own techniques?

Gal: It’s not so easy, but again, the potential is huge. And because nowadays people are on Facebook, I like to target the people where they are.

Warren: Yeah, they’re on Facebook and on their iPads, right?

Gal: Yeah, Facebook, iPads and iPhones. I just think it’s changing; it’s not the same.

Warren: Yeah. I don’t think many affiliates are paying enough attention, especially to the mobile front, but I tend to agree, there’s a lot of potential there.

So we talked about your verticals, you primarily promote casino, a little bit of poker in markets like Romania, and also your main websites. How do your sites differ from the rest of the industry? There are thousands of affiliate portals out there. How are your sites somewhat different than the others? What do you do differently?

Gal: Wow. A challenging question. I think it’s a mix of things that we’re doing, so I don’t know exactly what is different, but I’m doing a number of things. It’s like a formula. I do one, I do two, three. I check all the time. I am online 12 years in the affiliate business, so I have enough time to check and to see which things are effective and which are not. I think this is important, the time, the time frame that I’m in business. It gives me some added value.

Warren: So you’ve been in the industry a long time, and you’re constantly optimizing and making changes based on the results?

Gal: Yeah, correct. We try all the time to see new things. Each business must move all the time.

Warren: So you started in the music industry many, many years ago, in the mid-’90s, maybe even early ’90s, and now you’re in online gambling today. It sounds like music was more of a passion for you. Tell us a little bit more about why you made that switch, and was there a revenue opportunity originally in music for you, or was it just a hobby, and this is your revenue opportunity today.

Gal: To be honest, the music and the Web for me, it’s like the same thing. I mean, continuing from the music to the Web it’s a natural continuing for me. I think if you check my brain when I write, and when I play it’s almost the same, because I have to create, I have to interact, coordinate. Everything that makes a good musician, you need when you work online. So, for me, it’s something the same. I feel like I’m still playing, you know? But a different instrument now, it’s the Web. It’s a brilliant instrument.

Warren: Interesting. Were you making money as a musician?

Gal: Yes, I was a professional musician.

Warren: Oh, okay. And what . . .

Gal: Jingles and musicals. I was the musical director of many projects.

Warren: Oh, great.

Gal: Played bass guitar. But, you know, not everything is business. I also like to progress, to do some movement. I don’t like to do the same things all the time. I all the time like to challenge myself to do other things. I have an interesting life, you know?

Warren: Sure, sure. So you’re seeing enough challenges in the online gambling industry to keep interested in it, I’m assuming?

Gal: Yeah. It’s a beautiful business. It’s wonderful. Thanks to the CAP forum, this was one of the first sites when I got into this online gaming business. It really guided me and showed me how to do. Because at the beginning I didn’t know anything, and I’m always there in the forum, I’m checking what’s going on. It’s very important to me.

Warren: So on that point, how do you stay connected today? How do you stay educated and informed and know what the new trends are? How are you doing that today?

Gal: I’m following them always on the CAP forum, GPWA. I’m doing my best to be involved. I’m going to exhibitions, to conferences. This is important to me. I speak with people. I speak with affiliates all the time. Being involved.

Warren: So, in business, what was your biggest mistake you’ve felt that you made, maybe in the last 12 years in the industry? What was that one mistake that’s just been the largest?

Gal: I can sum it up in one word: It’s Joomla! When you try to fix something which is not broken, this is the problem.

Warren: Yes, we talked about this in person.

Gal: I saw Joomla and I said, “Wow, my God, this is a very nice platform, very powerful.” I say, “Okay, if I move to Joomla! everything will be much better.” But no. This is what I thought … I’m sure most of the affiliates nowadays are working on WordPress. I think WordPress is much better in the sense of search engine positioning. I think you see much better results.

Warren: So have you made the switch already for your strategy? Are some of your sites now on WordPress?

Gal: I’m working on it.

Warren: It’s a constant work in progress, I think, for everybody.

Gal: Not easy with me if you make a mistake. Then you have to do all the transition.

Warren: So for any of the affiliates watching this that happen to be on Joomla, what would be your advice to them?

Gal: They released a new version, which looks much more promising. I don’t want to say something so bad about them, but anyway … when I started and I chose Joomla, it was a mistake. Maybe today it’s much better because they’re improving all the time. I don’t know. I think WordPress these days is offering more. When I checked, because I built some sites on WordPress and some on Joomla recently, and I can tell you that WordPress was much better in the search engine. I showed much better positioning in Google, so I believe it’s a better choice.

Warren: Who are some of your favorite operators to work with, and why?

Gal: I don’t want to get into details, but I can tell you that with Playtech and Microgaming, I see the best results from them. Especially before the legislation in the U.S., I saw regular results with Playtech and also Microgaming. But I work with others. My policy is to work with many, many programs, not only two or three anymore. This is the way I like to do things, to work with everybody. I think it’s fun.

Warren: Why do you like to work with everybody rather than maybe like five or six of the people that perform the best? What’s the reason for that?

Gal: It’s not that I won’t. I work with many operators, but I keep focused on a number of major ones when I see good results. When I see good results, I need more volume.

Warren: So you like to be able to test to see what everybody can do, and as you said, sometimes you’re surprised yourself that a smaller operator can really outperform a larger one, and that’s when you get the best exposure. Is that correct?

Gal: Not everybody, but I work with like 25, 30 programs.

Warren: Okay, understood. About the events, I know you attend many conferences, and I know those conferences are not only the ones inside the gaming industry, but outside. Can you tell us which events you attend, and what are some of your favorite ones?

Gal: The one in Dublin I liked. It was very nice. Especially I like when they send me to nice places. There was a nice exhibition in Miami. I cannot forget this one in Miami.

Warren: No one forgets Miami.

Gal: It was, I think, 2007, or something. Yeah, brilliant fun. And Barcelona was nice, London.

Warren: What about non-gaming conferences? Do you go still to SES, or SMX, or Ad:tech? Do you go to any of these conferences?

Gal: To Ad:tech I go sometimes, in London. To SES, I’m not going any more. But I want more to attend the conferences covering social stuff, social networking, mobiles, smart phones. These conferences I want to attend more, and I hope to attend.

Warren: And your purpose for attending these events is, again, just learning and networking with people that are specializing in these industries?

Gal: Yeah. I can learn a lot when I speak with somebody, and also for gambling, gambling was very good. I learned a lot, very good panel about the industry in general and for affiliates. For me, it’s important to know what’s going on. It worked.

Warren: So what don’t you like about the industry? What drives you crazy? What’s really a challenge for you, and some things that you wish would be different?

Gal: When you look at the affiliate programs today, it’s the same problem I think with Joomla. They try to be more complex. Sometimes when you want something simple, you want a link, it’s not so easy. It’s a project to find it. So many options, and Flash and this, and the simple thing that should be the front for an affiliate is not all the time so easy to find. I’ve found with Playtech that the system they had in the beginning to be very, very effective, and I don’t know why everybody changed and did something else. And now, I don’t like it so much. Now, it’s more difficult to navigate, every program looks different. In the beginning, all the programs looked the same, you know?

Warren: Yes.

Gal: So you could navigate very easy. Now, every program is something else. If you want 25 programs, it’s not so easy to navigate.

Warren: Do you use any kind of stats tool, like StatsRemote or anything to keep your reporting in check, or do you check all your reports manually?

Gal: No. This is something I want to … I’m looking for a good solution for this, to see all of this stuff together, because this is something that wastes a lot of time.

Warren: As far as IncomeAccess, MyAffiliates, NetRefer, do you have a preference out of any of these affiliate program solutions? Let’s say 10 operators are watching this video today, what would be your recommendation out of the different softwares out there that would make your life easier.

Gal: Playtech. In my point of view, it’s very simple, and . . .

Warren: Still today, right?

Gal: Before, it was better.

Warren: Before it was better, but still today, although it’s gone down in quality, it’s still the simplest one in your mind?

Gal: Yeah.

Warren: Okay. For a new affiliate who is just entering the online gambling industry today, what would be some of your words of advice, since you’re one of the senior guys in the space?

Gal: First of all, to stick to CAP for the forum all the time to see what’s going on. It’s very important. I think the normal thing, to be creative, to be able to think out of the box. This business is not so easy. Sometimes our business is down. You have to be very . . . not to give up, to be innovative, inventive all the time, and to understand that the industry is changing. Nowadays, it’s much better to focus on social networks and to target people where they are. This is my advice, and this is the thing that I am doing in my business. I think this is the way, to follow the Web and see where it’s going, and try to find your niche on the Web. I just want to say good luck to everyone, and to see you in the conferences.

Warren: Yes. Gal likes to have fun in the conferences, too, so it’s good for everyone to meet him there.

Gal: What is the next one?

Warren: Barcelona.

Gal: Ah, Barcelona. In September, huh?

Warren: Yeah.

Gal: Ah, brilliant. Okay. I’ll see you there, huh?

Warren: I’m sure everyone will see you there, and come buy you a beer for the information.

Gal: Okay.

Warren: Thanks, Gal. We appreciate your time and all the insight you offered in the interview. Have a great day.

Gal: Thank you, Warren.

This is another in our series of interviews with the leaders of the casino affiliate industry. Stay tuned to CAP for future interviews.