Rankmark Now Accepting Ads

JB

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Rankmark has long been known as the company that does equipment testing and accepted no advertising dollars from manufacturers. Similar to THP, their belief was that it should not matter how the results turned out as long as the competition was fair. However by having ads it could be perceived as a different path to results.

We have seen websites all over the place give high quality marks to the same companies that have ads on their sites. While I am sure that most legitimately earn those high grades, there can be a perception that because of the ads these companies are "buying" certain things. The Hot List is the perfect example of this.

However a couple of club companies have reached out to me over the last two days to inform us that they received an email from Rankmark explaining that they do accept advertising now from manufacturers. The same manufacturers that will be "competing" in their testing. Drastic times call for drastic measures I guess, but I really think in my opinion, this will change the way the readers view the Rankmark results.

Since Charlie M sold the company in 2008, I do not know a lot of people that have tuned into their testing, and I have a different opinion on how testing for consumers should be done. But differing opinions is what makes the equipment world great. However, with that being said, my personal belief is that this is a bold move that will alienate more people than it will help.

I hope that the company survives these tough times as more testing for consumers (no matter how they are done) can only help. However, judging by the reaction I have received so far, most seem quite upset about it. I want to know your thoughts on the subject here.
 

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I can completely understand their desire to start advertising on the site, running a site like that has to be quite time consuming and costly. I think it was a pretty bad move though, their biggest platform was that they offer 100% UNBIASED opinions of the equipment tested and they pulled advertising for just that reason. Now that they're under new ownership, I guess that's changing. I like the site and the new owners, but I don't know if that was a good decision on their part.

I think they should advertise on their site, but steer away from club manufacturers.
 

JB

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They have always had advertising on the site, just not club companies. Now that has changed to add club manufacturers
 

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However a couple of club companies have reached out to me over the last two days to inform us that they received an email from Rankmark explaining that they do accept advertising now from manufacturers. The same manufacturers that will be "competing" in their testing. Drastic times call for drastic measures I guess, but I really think in my opinion, this will change the way the readers view the Rankmark results.
I just checked out their website and they still say..

We provide completely unbiased testing and reporting of golf equipment performance.

We do NOT accept any advertising from golf club manufacturers or their affiliates on our website.

you sure about this?
 

JB

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Im positive about it. Many manufacturers have received emails asking to place an ad. From the owner:

Long and the short of it is that it makes sense to change our approach to accepting advertising from club manufacturers. We incorrectly assumed visitors to the site would believe it important that we not accept advertising from manufacturers. The reality is that very few care.
 

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I am very mixed on this subject. I appreciate the idea of not accepting advertising dollars to make sure your readers and the consumers know your reviews and results are 100% unbiased. However, it is EXTREMELY expensive to run a site like that (this I know 1st hand) and running a website is not a M-F 9-5 kind of job, it's a 24/7 365/year type of job that requires all your time, energy, and resources. I completely understand why they want to start accepting advertising dollars but at the same time I can see where the companies are coming from as well as what the consumers might think if they start seeing ads on their site. This is a tough situation IMO.
 

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Agreed GG. I think it really has to do with how it is marketed. Since the new owners took over, they have said over and over that "we will not accept ads from club companies". Now they are changing their minds. That is fine and understandable, however you have to be prepared that when you do a test and ABC company wins, and ABC company has an ad there, things can get murky.
 

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Agreed GG. I think it really has to do with how it is marketed. Since the new owners took over, they have said over and over that "we will not accept ads from club companies". Now they are changing their minds. That is fine and understandable, however you have to be prepared that when you do a test and ABC company wins, and ABC company has an ad there, things can get murky.
I agree 100%. It will be interesting to see what happens the next time they post results.
 

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It is hard if you are doing it as a full time business to run a site without ad revenue. I think the best thing to do is try to minimize the exposure the companies get so it can't be perceived as biased(if possible). What I mean is if you see Brand X's logo most of the time and Brand X wins a test, many will wonder and the credibility of the testing comes in to question. But there will always be those who question the testing when manufactures are involved, it's the nature of the beast. It's really a no win situation for Rankmark, hopefully they have established their credibility in the industry enough not to have their integrity called in to question(cough, Hot List, cough). Times are tough all over and these companies are trying to survive and are desperately seeking ways to do that. It had to be a hard decission for them knowing what the possible consequences would be.
 

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Im positive about it. Many manufacturers have received emails asking to place an ad. From the owner:

Long and the short of it is that it makes sense to change our approach to accepting advertising from club manufacturers. We incorrectly assumed visitors to the site would believe it important that we not accept advertising from manufacturers. The reality is that very few care.
i understand that they want/need the money from what is a common sense source of revenue (i assume rankmark is a golf testing lab of some sort - tbh i had never heard of them - but i am thousands of miles from america!...)

I do have to actually agree with their statement for me personally. I dont care that companies advertise with them. In fact i am more suprised when places dont do this (like THP for example).

- there is one proviso here, and that is continued fair testing.

If the hot list appeared to be (in my opinion) even vaguely realistic and unbiased, the hoards of money certain companies (yes acushnet amongst others) would not be an issue. However, the sad truth is that you see those that pay the most, be recommended the most as a rule of thumb.

That is when i have a problem with it.
(and i know some people will say that this doesnt happen etc... but it is MY OPINION that it quite clearly does)
 

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Changes coming to Rankmark

Changes coming to Rankmark

THP got the email that was sent to the companies letting them know the changes at Rankmark. While I disagree with a lot of the thoughts on how Rankmark operates, we hope they truly have weathered the storm, although I am not so sure. We have heard it from about 5 different companies that have worked with them in the year that are just "unsure".

We have also been told by two different companies, without bringing anything to them, that they have decided to not work with Rankmark in the future due to finding out that their clubs that they donated for testing were found on ebay. I am not accusing Rankmark of anything here, just stating what his been said to us on two occasions by two different companies.

Here is the email that has been sent.

We all know that the golf industry has struggled recently. Golfers have been focused on keeping their jobs, instead of playing golf. Like many companies in the industry, Rankmark has had its fair share of challenges. Thankfully, we have weathered the storm! We are now back, with plans to be bigger and better than before!

To that end, we have made the following changes that we wanted you to be aware of:

1. Andrew Birnbaum, CEO, has decided to move on to another challenging opportunity. We thank him for all his hard work, and wish him the best of luck in all his future endeavors. I will be assuming the CEO role effective immediately.

2. I have asked Charlie Mandel to rejoin Rankmark to run the testing program. Please read Charlie's comments below (part of a larger post to appear on Rankmark's website shortly):

"Speaking of wanting to be a better golfer. I am back at work for Rankmark, the company I founded 10 years ago, and recently sold. By running its newest testing program I will be able to bring it back to its roots. I will begin by testing the newest hybrids (part woods, part irons) to determine which are best for various groups of golfers."

3. We have redesigned Golf Club Reviews, Golf Club Test, Comparisons | Rankmark <http://www.rankmark.com/> to make it easier to navigate. We have also refocused the site on our primary mission - golf club testing. We will continue to revise the site based on feedback / needs of the viewership.

4. Finally, we have reversed our previous decision regarding accepting advertising from golf club manufacturers. So, in addition to golf related products and services, we now accept advertising from golf club manufacturers. Please feel free to contact me directly at XXXX@XXXXXXX or (404) 555-5555 if you are interested in putting your clubs in front of golfers around the world that are in the market to buy clubs.

We hope the changes noted above meet with your approval. As Charlie states, we are taking Rankmark back to its roots. Not only will we help golfers play better golf, we will help manufacturers sell more clubs.

Thank you for your continued support of Rankmark. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any questions, comments or concerns.

Note on the hybrid test: If you would like to submit your hybrid for the upcoming test, please contact me immediately for details.
 

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Several things appear odd to me in all of this, which leads me to wonder about Rankmark's credibility. First off I checked myself and they still claim "No advertising on our website". The manufactures dropping their affiliations shows for what ever reason a level of mistrust, the current CEO on his way out at the same time the originator of the site is coming back in, and the company has always taken advertising , just not club companies. Can they not make enough to survive after all these years on the advertising they are getting?

It just seems like a lot of things happening all at once and few if any of these changes paint a good picture.
 

JB

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Several things appear odd to me in all of this, which leads me to wonder about Rankmark's credibility. First off I checked myself and they still claim "No advertising on our website". The manufactures dropping their affiliations shows for what ever reason a level of mistrust, the current CEO on his way out at the same time the originator of the site is coming back in, and the company has always taken advertising , just not club companies. Can they not make enough to survive after all these years on the advertising they are getting?

It just seems like a lot of things happening all at once and few if any of these changes paint a good picture.
I would agree with you on this one. Their last testing was a long time ago or atleast it seems that way. The thing that gets me is how many companies seem to have issue with it. Big, small, good, and bad.

I still go back to my original thought. They had a driver win both distance and accuracy and not be number one. Yet the one that beat it out was #3 on distance and not in the top 5 in accuracy. Something just does not compute to me there. I get that there are other categories but should they matter as much as these two?

They launched a forum and get VERY little traffic. I think a lot of companies saw that and thought "I wonder how many people are actually reading their tests".
 

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Yeah I noticed that about the Driver rankings. Looked to me like feel and Low Handicap carried a lot of weight. I also noticed it's been a long time like you said. No real resent ranking for driver. Is this not what made the site?
 

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This is America, and we are capitalists. Perhaps Rankmark is like any other company in this economic climate, they're simply realizing that more and more consumers are using the internet for research and shopping, so why not get advertising dollars out of it. Does it mean that they lose credibility when it comes to golf club reviews? Probably. But i would make a safe assumption when i say that most of the people who post on THP probably subscribe to golf related magazines, which are chock full of major OEM ad's. It's just the nature of the beast.

JB-I appreciate how much time you put into your baby and I love the site, but i can't help but wonder, without advertising dollars, how do you do it? I guess i'm just jealous!
 

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We have a few projects up our sleeves, but this site was created to a be a place for consumers to get HONEST feedback. Im not implying that sites that accept ads are therefore not honest. But when some sites are accepting over 60k a year from one company, it is hard for me to view them as objective.
 

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JB-i couldn't agree more with your assessment. I'm just a guy that sells digital advertising, and i work for a Gannett newspaper, so i guess i'm empathetic......i wouldn't go anywhere else for my golf gear reviews and i can tell you that your input has played major roles in my golf gear purchases. Like i said before, i guess i'm jealous. Let me know when you need a lefty to come on board!
 

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They launched a forum and get VERY little traffic. I think a lot of companies saw that and thought "I wonder how many people are actually reading their tests".
I just went there (to their forum). It had 0 members and 1 guest on.


EDIT: Just read Paul's post. If their forum takes off a little, hopefully some of their responders will have the same opinions as their reviews. Good to see he put himself out there for everyone to decide for themselves.
 
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I originally came here because I wanted a heads up idea what was on the market, a sound performance scope from individuals at my level of play and above and some idea of the good and bad everyone was seeing in the equipment out there. The unbiased testing had crossed my mind, but thats why I payed little attention to the company talking heads and formal write-ups from most sites. I watched for posts by individuals on the forums who actually hit those clubs.

I was really surprised when I found THP initially because it sounded like their reviews seemed closer to what the forum members were seeing. Then I started seeing item's being reviewed here that I couldn't find elsewhere on other sites. That was kind of the final deal that hooked me to the site, I like latest and greatest, lol.

Do I agree with everything I read here or swallow the opinions even if the multitude does, not really. I go into my testing of the item with a whole lot more faith that I'll like it, but not sold. Do I mistrust those other sites who take advertising money before testing that company's product? Just call me skeptical. Especially when I look at the reviews from some web sites who have nothing bad to say.

Do I mind a company making money? Heck no. But they may need to market their product testing a little differently. Totally unbiased may not be the proper marketing ploy for their site. Also, it seem's kind of odd that so many web sites are slooowing down, while this one is seeing unprecidented growth. I guess that's credibility.
 

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Ah, where to start...here goes...

As the username shows, my name is Paul McCormack, CEO, Rankmark. From time to time, I will respond to posts on other forums. Seems like now would be an appropriate time to contribute to this thread. Hopefully, my input here will add to the discussion and help clarify some issues.

First of all, JB, thanks for running the latest email from Rankmark. Always nice to have traffic sent our way.

As the email message notes, Andrew is moving on. I will be taking over his role as CEO. And yes, I asked Charlie to rejoin the organization to help with testing.

I want to say right up front that since we bought the company, we have made mistakes. In fact, I'll be the first one to say that we have made mistakes because I made some of them! The unusual thing about running a website is that your mistakes are there for all to see, and once made, they tend to be remembered :)

You learn from mistakes, right? I certainly have. I have no plans to repeat them!

Let me address a couple of comments. First golf club manufacturer's ads - up until we bought the company in late 2008, Rankmark had ALWAYS accepted manufacturer's ads. It is not a new idea. In fact, I think there is a website somewhere where you can see snapshots of old websites. I pretty sure that you will see golf club manufacturers ads if you query for old versions of Rankmark's site. So, again, not a new idea, just going back to the way it was for 10 years prior to the purchase.

So why did we decide NOT to accept manufacturer's ads? We made a decision to turn down manufacturers ads as we thought incorrectly (thanks JB for providing the direct quote) that the majority of golfers that visited the site cared. They vast majority don't. Again, I know that some do, but the vast majority don't. Consider the model that Edmunds.com uses. They post ratings and reviews AND accept advertising from manufacturers. We are not Edmunds, but it is one data point to consider.

Some of you have correctly noted that running a website is time consuming and not just a labor of love. Selling advertising is one way that we can offset costs, and dare I say it, make a profit. If the economy of the last year has taught business people anything, you don't turn down revenue!

But let me address the heart of the matter - independence. When you read Rankmark's results, you want to know that they are without bias. Does accepting advertising from manufacturers muddy the water a little? It can. In some people's minds that means that the results are biased and not to be trusted. For whatever it is worth, the results have never been "played with" or "fixed".

Charlie and I will be working on ways to further enhance Rankmark's testing process. If I told you to trust me that the results are unbiased, that goes only so far. I am not sure what we need to do to kill this issue once and for all, but if you have any thoughts please feel free to email me directly at paul@rankmark.com. Again, we do not "play" with the results. They reflect what regular golfers feel about the clubs. That simple.

Discussion board traffic - yes, we launched a discussion board which has slowly taken shape, but it is not where it needs to be. There are a number of great golf related discussion boards out there and may be Rankmark is too late to the game. Also, since we have not conducted regular testing (more on that in a minute), there has not been much to talk about re testing. Whether the discussion board takes off or not, I am not sure. I will continue to support it until the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits because I think it is a nice addition to the site. But it cannot, and should not become THE site. Our mission is to test clubs and post the results.

Traffic - I believe someone made the comment that because the discussion board did not have much activity, therefore, we don't have much traffic. Thanks to the wonders of the internet, you can pull our traffic numbers from a multitude of sources. Do we have millions of visitors a month? No, nowhere near that number. But, the visitors we do receive are dedicated golfers that are in the market for clubs. Many of them are looking for a specific piece of information, for example, "2009 drivers for high handicap" (I can see the search engine requests in google analytics). Do they want to post on the discussion board? Do they even know that we have a discussion board? Do they care? As the numbers show, we don't have a large number of registered visitors on the discussion board, but that does not mean we don't have golfers visit the site. Interestingly, Rankmark's influence goes far beyond the web traffic. We are mentioned in two ads that run on the golf channel, plus, there is not a golf club manufacturer out there that has not heard some passing reference to Rankmark. I think it is safe to say that we punch outside of our weight class...

Testing - Cash is king! For small businesses in the last year it certainly has been! We made a decision to institute a self-imposed hiatus for a number of reasons, but one of the main reasons was to conserve cash. When we bought Rankmark, we had no idea that the worse economy since the Great Depression was just around the corner. We sunk a great deal of time and money in to the acquisition then the bottom fell out the economy. So we made the difficult decision to go dark. Now that we are through the worst part of the downturn, we will begin testing again.

Verbiage on website re accepting ads - Our web "guy" was asked to remove that wording some time ago. I forgot, and so did he. I take responsibility. It is a little confusing. Ok, it is very confusing :)

There have been comments made about our testing methodology etc that I have answered in detail in another thread on this site, so I will not rehash the comments. Suffice to say, I stand by our testing.

Also, I am not going to comment on testing as conducted by any other company. It is not really my place to do so. Believe me, I have thoughts, but I am just one guy. Really, what does it matter what I think about XYZ testing? I will focus on what I control - Rankmark.

However, ultimately, it is you, the avid golfer that will vote with your eyeballs (and wallets). After all, golf related websites exist because you take the time to visit. You are investing your time (who has that much spare time nowadays) so we should be very careful not to waste it. Rankmark can, and will do better. When you visit the site, we want you to leave with better information about club(s) for your game. After all, that is why you visit the site in the first place! We have not always made the best decisions, but we have learned what we can do better. That said, Rankmark has been in business for 10 years. Charlie must have done something right! Now he is back on board to help...

Thanks for taking the time to visit Rankmark. We will continue to work hard to provide you with the best information we can to help improve your game.

Also, thanks for taking the time to read this post. I sincerely hope that you view my answers as open and candid.

Enjoy your time on the course, after all, it is just a game. A GREAT game, but a game all the same.

Best Regards,

Paul McCormack
 

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Paul-i appreciate you putting yourself out there. Whether or not i believe your reviews might be biased isn't the issue, you show a lot of class.
 

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Paul,

Thanks for the post, I too appreciate your willingness to get out there and tell us your side of whats up with Rankmark. As a business owner I too can understand the revenue stream, or should I say the need for one. While I find it hard for someone to be completely unbiased toward a company who helps create that revenue, I'll try to keep an open mind to your offerings, but still will most likely take those reviews with a grain of salt and lean more toward what I hear from the forum posters on your site.

Thanks for your honest candor and good luck with the future of Rankmark.

TheDue
 

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I thought about not responding to Paul's address to THP, but I feel since this is an opinion forum and people want to see all sides, i should address his response. First off Paul, thank you coming in and responding and letting people know Rankmark is still alive. But I have some questions that I think could be answered, and since we have the CEO on the here speaking, it is the perfect opportunity.

1. Rankmark as you said took a hiatus in testing. yet ads were still being paid for and offered. Did the companies that paid for these ads know that no testing would be going on while there ad was up and if so it certainly had to have an affect on traffic like you said since there was very little to talk about.

2. We have heard from close to half a dozen people now that Rankmark takes the tested clubs and sells them for profit on ebay. We have heard it from people that have both purchased clubs and the address matched and from companies that say the same thing. Is this just a rumor?

3. You said that "the vast majority of readers do not care", when it comes to ads that directly represent products you are testing. How did you go about getting that information? The information we got when we polled over 5100 people shortly after launching THP was significantly different and I am curious where your information came from?

I have said for a long time that the more information available to consumers the better off they are when purchasing equipment.
 

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I am new to this site and I have never been to the Rankmark website, but is this really the proper place to be talking about such serious issues as taking equipment that was used for testing and selling for profit, their internal business practices, etc? Seems a little childish to me. Actually the whole thread seems childish.
 

JB

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I am new to this site and I have never been to the Rankmark website, but is this really the proper place to be talking about such serious issues as taking equipment that was used for testing and selling for profit, their internal business practices, etc? Seems a little childish to me. Actually the whole thread seems childish.
I am sorry you feel that way. I would tune this thread out then. I think THP has always been about ripping through the marketing hype that is out there and finding out the truth about products. Whether it be patent infringement by a company or someone accepting ads. We have the opportunity to speak with the head of the firm directly and get both sides to a story rather than just publish information. I think that is definitely pertinent information.

Rankmark has been known for years to be an industry innovator and to be able to discuss information like this as adults only helps educate people more.
 

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