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nSphere Review


 

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nSphere Review
A Local Search Company That Doesn’t Pay Its Partners

By Larry Cook, June 17th, 2012
This article, in its entirely, is an opinion piece by Larry Cook.

In April of 2011 I was contacted by a salesperson with nSphere.net (formerly called DirectoryM) located in Boston, MA, and asked if I would like to partner with nSphere. Essentially, the partnership consisted of me providing my website content so that it could be repurposed into searchable local pages. nSphere would secure advertisers, including Google AdSense, and split the revenue 50/50 with me.  Sounded great in theory.

I signed up. It took many months to get everything rolling, and there were a variety of technical glitches, and account manager switch arounds, but overall, I was okay with nSphere and even sent Navah a copy of my book after my first check arrived.

But there were problems.  Perhaps the biggest problem for me was that they were late paying, and in fact, changed the terms of their payment schedule from 45 days to 60 days right after I signed up, and then that never happened either: usually nSphere would pay me 75 to 90 days after the close of a month.  It took some time to gain traction, and my largest check was almost $400.  But hey, nearly $400 a month in residual income isn’t bad!

Then Google changed their panda search algorithm on October 13th and on October 14th, traffic plummeted, for local nSphere search and my website.  Up until this point, I was on good terms with nSphere.  I even talked with their social media strategists and gave my feedback and other people at nSphere solicited me to talk with future potential partners, and I obliged. 

Payments were now taking 3 months, and I tried switching over to their 25/75 split where I could use my Google AdSense code on the local search and keep all of that money, and get 25% of the revenue from local advertising.  Google pays in 25 days, and I was hoping I would get faster payment turnaround by using this method.  It bombed: nSphere uses some sort of funky way of coding AdSense and I couldn’t even find my AdSense code on my local search pages—it didn’t work at all.

Unfortunately, getting paid by nSphere soon stopped altogether, and by February of 2012 I was seriously calling them wanting to know where my money was that was due. I was told various stories, and then told a check would be cut in 10 days.  The date came and went.  For my next inquiry, I was told by my new account rep that the owner of the company decided not to pay the publishers, but rather invest our publisher money into new technologies.  He did what?! 

I was floored.  I talked with other nSphere publishers I knew, and the long term ones said they hadn’t been paid either, and the several who I had talked with who were new sign ups (6 to 9 months in the making) had never received a dime from nSphere.  Again, I was floored.


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I wrote a letter (see below) to the CEO and CC’d it to everyone at nSphere I had an email for.  I got no response. What I found to be the most interesting of all is that they are and have been hiring new staff (nSphere Careers) and yet don’t have the money to pay their publishers.  From what I can tell, nSphere appears to be more of a ponzi scheme in that they use publisher’s content to make money, and then when we drop off for nonpayment, get more publishers to sign up so they can keep getting more money to do what they want to do, which doesn’t include paying publishers.  I’ve requested payment several times now, but to no avail. 

On May23rd 2012 I told their CFO that I would write and post an nSphere review of their scam but that didn’t get me paid either.  I just got an email from nSphere “Customer Relations” that said:

“Hello Larry,

I hope you are doing well. We are dedicated to sustain the health of the business. We fully recognize the amount of money that is owed to you. Our COO, Jean-Eric Penicaud would like to connect with you to solve the payment issues and discuss the partnership. Would you be available Wednesday at 12pm EST ? Cordially, The nSphere Partner Relations Team.”

I wrote back and said that I would talk if it meant nSphere telling me when I would get paid.  I never heard back.

So, whatever: some companies are ethical, and some are not.  If you are reading this and someone from nSphere contacted you and you are thinking of joining, I say run the other way and don’t waste your time with them.  All the publishers I’ve talked with over the last four months have not been paid, and so it is unlikely you can expect to get paid by nSphere.

In April of 2012 I ended my relationship with nSphere and removed my cName information so that my local content can no longer be accessed and also so that nSphere could no longer illegally earn money from my content.

I hope this nSphere review has been helpful to you.  Here is what I wrote back in March of 2012 to the CEO of nSphere:

March 10th, 2012

Mr. Panos Bethanis,

I am writing to you today because you are the CEO of nSphere, and I'm cc'ing everyone I've talked with at nSpehre because I just got off the phone with Laurie and I was told some very disturbing information about how you are running the company, and how it is affecting me, one of your partners.  As the leader of nSphere, it is only appropriate I address you directly about your latest business practices that affect me, and apparently, all of your partner publishers.

When I talked with my rep on February 22nd on the phone, she informed me that your accounting department said I would be paid within the next ten days for the month of November 2011.  A couple days ago I sent a follow up email to Laurie, asking about payment, and she wanted to talk on the phone.  Today we talked.

What she told me is that you/your management invested in new technology, and that because of the high costs involved, not only would it take a couple more months before payments began to get issued, but that those payments wouldn't even pay the total amounts due for previous months.  As of right now, nSphere is past due for two months worth of payments (Nov & Dec), and quickly approaching past due for three months worth of payments.

Mr. Bethanis, I signed a very lengthy agreement to do business with your company, and the absolute most important part of that agreement is a timely payment to myself (and other publishers) in the amount and timeframe agreed upon.  As it was, the signed agreement stipulated payment within 45 days and as soon as I joined I was told 60 days.  And then it went from getting paid within 60 days to a check being issued in 60 to 80 days.

Back to the current issue at hand: It is 100% inappropriate to receive advertising revenue from my content (and the content of other publishers) and to take the money that is due me (and other partners) and invest it in technology upgrades, or any other nSphere business use. You made a unilateral decision without consulting with me, or (presumably) your other publisher partners about whether or not this action is okay with me/us.  It does not matter if you owe me $100 or $10,000 a month — taking the money you owe partner publishers and using it in other parts of your business is unethical and demonstrates a lack of integrity on your part, and your entire team that agreed with that decision.  

If your business requires(d) an infusion of cash, then the appropriate thing to do is to:
1)  Decrease operating expenses, or
2)  Increase revenue through current channels, or
3)  Get additional funding from investors, or
4)  Borrow money from a bank.

However, using revenue you have acquired through my content and the content of other partner publishers which would then be due to us (a percentage as defined by the agreement) to invest in other parts of your business — whether or not there will be an (assumed) improvement to partner's revenue – is 100% wrong, and in violation of the terms of our signed agreement (being paid within 45 days).  IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT THE INTENDED PURPOSE IS: you owe myself and others money, and we should have been paid, according to the terms of the signed agreement.  Other people have been paid! I have not.  And apparently, neither have other partners (according to Laurie).

What makes the situation worse, is now I cannot trust what you say, or what any representatives of your company says.  Promises of payment have been broken.  In two months, you could stall again.  And again.

Therefore, if I am to continue this relationship with nSphere, I need to have a check mailed to me by the middle of next week for the amounts due for November and December 2011, with an ongoing keeping with the terms of our payment agreement.

Or, if that is not possible, then I want all of my content immediately removed from all of your servers, and I still expect to get paid the total amount due for the time I was with nSphere.

I look forward to a response from you Mr. Bethanis as to how you would like to proceed.

Thank you,
Larry

Other unhappy nSphere publishers:
BET Information Systems nSphere scam
nSphere.net is a Scam