Pay liberation: Blexr’s Nick Walker on ending the secrecy around salaries
Nick Walker joined Blexr’s senior management team as COO in April 2022, having previously worked as head of delivery at iTech Media, News UK as well as the Financial Times. He believes that his experience in digital publishing helped him settle into the affiliate space.
“There’s definitely a lot of similarities especially when you think about [the] intent from a user,” said Walker. “I’m also trying to reduce the amount of friction for the user by being clear about the experience we’re offering them along with a fast site and easy usability.”
Yet, users of Blexr’s sites aren’t of course Walker’s only focus, with its partnerships with operators forming the other side of the coin. “We’re trying to form part of a chain rather than just holding the whole ecosystem of users and readers on a site,” Walker said. “Plus we need to be conscious of what the operators are doing and how [their] platforms function.”
When it comes to operator partnerships Blexr certainly has a lot to maintain, with the number currently sitting at over 500. “It’s kind of a double-edged sword, as that’s a lot of people to manage,” explains Walker. “Our commercial team are at events like ICE and iGB Affiliate London trying to build even stronger relationships.
“Over the course of this year, we’re looking to strengthen up some of those key partnerships and put to sleep some of the others.”
With such a vast amount of operator partnerships, Blexr’s portfolio extends well beyond its base in Europe. The company has over 110 employees working across its myriad brands running in multiple geos. Yet, one market that poses a big challenge to break into is the highly competitive US. However, the company is taking its time to research user needs there before taking the plunge.
“Our team are at events like ICE and iGBA London trying to build even stronger relationships”Nick Walker, Blexr
“Our philosophy is to build amazing products that are able to scale as required, which includes entering a new market,” explains the Blexr COO. “It means investing heavily in four or five products so that we can be prepared for anything in the future.”
So don’t expect the Malta-based affiliate to start pumping out a large number of products every year. “The products really have to fit the brand and that takes time,” explains Walker. “Rather than building 40 or 50 products to see what has promise and cutting them down, we’d rather take our time deciding on four or five.
“Then we want to make sure we do our homework and developing the products to ensure they are deep and meaningful experiences for our users and in turn help our partners.”
What this means for Blexr regarding the US is that the company is directing “a lot of investment to get those products to the stage where once licensing is in place the launch can be quite simple.”
As COO, Walker finds it surprising to see where some of the players are coming from to its brands. “We’re starting to see users come from places that are unexpected like Eastern Europe, a region we think is starting to grow, especially as it sits in the grey zone in terms of markets.
“We’re starting to see users come from places that are unexpected like Eastern Europe“nick walker, blexr
“We’ve also seen traffic in Asia in similar [types of] markets as well as in the Middle East”, Walker reveals.
The company then take this data and try to work out the rationale behind it. “Doing that research has been quite interesting as over the past year as we’ve seen that people are looking to be educated rather than just finding the best bonuses. This information all helps to shape new products.”
As well as leading the product and engineering teams at Blexr, as COO Walker also oversees everything people and talent-related at the affiliate business.
One of the most unique things about Blexr compared to its competitors is its transparent hiring policy, where pay bands across the whole company are made public from the outset. This has helped create an honest and open environment at Blexr according to Walker.
“We want people to be open with us and for us to be honest with them, even if we’re paying for the data on pay bands in some cases,” chuckles the Blexr COO. “Yet we think that this is such an important initiative because it actually helps to move the industry forward.”
Applicants can find a sliding scale for pay based on experience for their desired role, meaning that employees at the company know what their colleagues and seniors are earning.
“Pay is such a big topic and worry for people, not least an awkward topic for colleagues to have. You have to advertise what the job is valued at and then that starts to move things away from the whispered money talk.”
“With transparent pay bands our team challenge each other more easily, helping find that creativity a lot faster”Nick walker, blexr
What’s the internal aim of having such an open pay policy? According to Walker for Blexr it’s all about “changing the culture within the company” to make things more transparent and allow their people to be more expressive.
“They’re then able to challenge each other more easily, which means as a company you’re going to find that creativity a lot faster.”
For an affiliate company with over 500 operator partnerships, changes to its brands’ UX and UI can seem like a big task with plenty to please, but Walker believes that modifications need to be done in small doses.
“I’m a big believer in incremental gains,” he says. “I don’t think there’s always going to be this huge new thing that everyone wants to copy. What we need to focus on is constantly changing small things every week, reacting to user feedback and analysing the data we receive.”
Yet one of the biggest steps Blexr is taking is of having all of its products on a new tech stack, “which will allow us to get into things like hyper-personalisation when we identify the right space to do it in.”
“This is an old industry in the big scheme of things and it’s got low barriers for entry,” explains Walker.
“Yet I think the writing is on the wall, change is needed in the type of experiences we provide for users and personalisation needs to happen more with new tools becoming available.”
When will these products launch? The Blexr COO remains tight-lipped but did admit that there are good chances one of the new products in development will launch in the first half of 2023.