Why go Casper sue a mattress blogger? A closer look at reveals a secret, multimillion-dollar fight to get you into bed.

You are watching: The war to sell you a mattress is an internet nightmare


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“Pretty quickly, it appeared I had actually struck a chord through a the majority of people,” Derek Hales recalled.
One work in the spring of 2016 I mentioned to a friend that I essential a new mattress. Mine was a sunken hand-me-down that had become about as comfortable as concrete.


“I know a male who can provide you a free mattress,” my friend said.

This sounded too great to be believed, however my girlfriend protested it to be true: “This man Kenny, he evaluate mattresses online, and companies just send them to him. He can’t eliminate them rapid enough.” Not lengthy after come the email introduction: “David, meet Kenny.”

Journalists aren’t an alleged to accept freebies. But the one thing I was specific of was that i would never write one article about online mattress reviewing, a subject so self-evidently boring that I became a little sad simply imagining it. So when Kenny replied that he intended to have a mattress to offload soon, I only asked that what type of wine he liked.


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Kenny Kline turned out to live just blocks from me in Brooklyn, and I walked over a couple of days later with a nice party of red under one arm. Kenny buzzed me in and I stepped inside the entryway, wherein I discovered a queen-size mattress already waiting for me, prepared to grab and also go if ns pleased. However I want to give Kenny his wine.

I referred to as up to Kenny, and he emerged from his apartment to greet me ~ above the stairs. He was tall and good-looking, with a type of brogrammer affability. Later I’d find out he had studied physics and finance in ~ Washington college in St. Louis, whereby he rowed crew and was a Beta Theta Phi brother. I’d also look up few of his mattress reviewing videos.


I asked Kenny about his unusual hobby, figuring the reviewing mattresses was something he did because that beer money. But he surprised me by saying the this to be what he and his company partner, a man named Joe Auer, did for a living; their two websites, Mattress Clarity and Slumber Sage, to be exclusively devoted to reviewing mattresses.

Kenny told me the in the last few years, plenty of mattress reviewing websites had sprung up. Then that made a strangely implausible claim: simply a couple of days before, the mattress e-commerce firm Casper had sued 3 bloggers–competitors that Kenny’s–whose reviews Casper didn’t like. Kenny and his business partner, fortunately, had actually been spared.

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Kenny Kline as viewed in the 2015 Leesa very first Impression Unboxing and very first Impressions video.

I called an Uber and also hauled my totally free mattress as much as my third-floor walkup apartment. The mattress had actually a poofy marshmallowy height that i didn’t fairly love, however you obtain what you salary for. I gained used to it together the month went by.


I can have forgotten around Casper’s rumored lawsuits altogether, if the mattress brand hadn’t kept adhering to me everywhere I went. That summer and through the fall, Casper ads sprouted every over brand-new York: beautiful ads, frequently lining subway cars, special cartoon creatures cut up with each other on mattresses. In Casper’s cartoons, also the huge bad wolf slept peacefully beside three small pigs.

In October I wrote Kenny to ask what became of those lawsuits. “One the the bloggers simply publicized it,” Kenny composed back, offering a link to a website, Sleepopolis.com.

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“Casper Sues Sleepopolis v Federal Lawsuit,” read the title on the web page I opened. The short article was composed by a guy named Derek Hales, the site’s proprietor. Derek’s picture showed a pale, slim twentysomething with freckles and also short red hair. I clicked approximately on his site. Derek Hales evidently take it mattress reviewing seriously, rating the firmness of mattresses on a scale from one come 10, cutting them open to measure up the precise thickness of the foam.


I returned to the page outlining the lawsuit.

“From the very first day Sleepopolis launched I knew I want to construct something different,” composed Derek. “Reviews rooted in honesty, transparency, integrity, and clarity, there is no the marketing speak or fluff. Guided through these ethics I feel prefer Sleepopolis readers have the right to know the Casper Sleep has filed a commonwealth lawsuit in brand-new York, suing both Sleepopolis and me, personally.”

So it to be true. I scratched my head. Casper to be on its method to coming to be a 750-million-dollar company. It to be the sexy of the bed-in-a-box disruptors, with investments from celebrities choose Ashton Kutcher and Nas. And also it was picking on part skinny blogger from Arizona?


I called my editor and also confessed that in a minute of weakness i had embraced a complimentary mattress indigenous an virtual mattress reviewer called Kenny, and also that I wanted to write about this bizarre industry and its even more bizarre David-and-Goliath legit battle.

I couldn’t understand it then, however the outcome of that fight would affect the purchase decisions of numerous thousands, if not millions, of people seeking a great night’s sleep. That would likewise reveal just just how thoroughly the internet and the businesses that grew there had actually blurred the lines in between product reviews and advertisements. Every I’d want was a mattress, yet what I gained was a look at a little-known and hugely lucrative annex of e-commerce, one where the relationships can regularly get a small too comfy—until they’re not.

I wanted to learn how Derek Hales had obtained into mattress reviewing, therefore I dubbed him increase in Arizona. He had actually the nerdy soot of a Jesse Eisenberg character. Derek told me he’d always been entrepreneurial; he’d helped pay his college tuition by creating a World of Warcraft blog. After graduating from Kansas State in 2010 through a organization degree, he spent the next few years working for a firm outside Phoenix, doing find engine optimization, or SEO, the art of gaining web pages come rank higher in Google searches.


In 2012, Derek messaged Samantha Niezwaag, a mathematics teacher, ~ above ChristianMingle.com. “The emails soon turned into novels,” Samantha would later recall. Both had grown up in the Midwest and the South; both were obsessed with Lord that the Rings. A flirty conversation turned to the concern of even if it is they can squeeze 78 dates into 25 weeks, i beg your pardon Derek remarked would typical 3.12 dates per week.

“When he provided me 2 decimal places,” said Samantha, “he had actually me hooked.” On your engagement website, Samantha dubbed Derek “Godly, passionate, loyal, supportive, ambitious, intelligent, and also funny”; they acquired married in might of 2014.

The young husband and also wife necessary a brand-new mattress, yet were shocked by the prices at the regional mattress store: the median queen-size was about $1,500, yet as lot as $5,000 because that a sophisticated Tempur-Pedic. One of Derek’s coworkers told him about a two-year-old Phoenix-based agency called Tuft & Needle, which marketed its queen-size mattress directly to consumers online for just $600. Though buying together a large item virtual felt a little unusual, there to be a 100-day psychological period, therefore what to be the risk?


When the arrived, Derek and Samantha discovered the Tuft & Needle as well firm for your tastes, for this reason they organized a donation pickup and received their refund. Then they tried your luck with one more online mattress firm called Casper, which had just launched. As soon as their Casper mattress arrived, Derek and also Samantha discovered they liked it sufficient to store it.

A couple of weeks later, in September that 2014, Derek spotted one opportunity. The registered the domain Sleepopolis-Mattress-Reviews.com and threw together a fast website compare his experiences v Tuft & Needle and Casper (he eventually migrated his content to Sleepopolis.com, which he had likewise registered). A week later, Derek and Samantha post a positive video review of their Casper on YouTube.

“Pretty quickly, it seemed I had actually struck a chord v a many people,” Derek recalled. The Casper video clip eventually racked increase 25,000 views.


From the beginning, Derek monetized his site and also YouTube channel making use of what are called “referral links,” or “affiliate links.” these special links were embedded with a tracking code. If a customer clicked from Derek’s site through come a mattress company’s website (like Casper.com) and made a purchase within 30 work or so, climate that firm would pay Derek a reward.

For every mattress he reviewed, Derek would either negotiate a board of directors structure directly with the mattress company, or accept an existing market via one intermediary site choose ShareASale.com (which has actually aggregated these so-called affiliate marketing opportunities since 2000). Climate Derek would placed the affiliate web links at the bottom that his reviews. Periodically these web links took the kind of a digital coupon users might click, i beg your pardon would use a discount in ~ checkout.

Derek expose the nature of this affiliate relationships in a corner of his website, though not the exact terms. In those very first months, he told me, Derek generally received a $50 digital Amazon gift card for every mattress offered (or 5% top top a approximately $1,000 mattress, a commission rate that had end up being standard in affiliate marketing).


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Derek Hales as seen in his original casper evaluation video.

Affiliate marketing is about as old together e-commerce, but the industry acquired a kick-start after Amazon.com introduced an affiliate routine in 1996. The market has since ballooned, with roughly $4.5 billion an altering hands in 2016 just in the U.S. Affiliate marketing is also becoming critical source the revenue for legacy publishers choose The new York Times: critical year the file paid $30 million because that two review sites, The Wirecutter and The Sweethome, which have developed a bustling business approximately affiliate links. However a much larger share of the affiliate marketing economy is made up of human being like Derek Hales, stray blogger-entrepreneurs who hunt for emerging categories of assets that consumers space seeking accuse on, climate jockey for top position in connected Google searches (like “best mattresses” or “mattress reviews”).

Derek was smart and talented, however he was also lucky. With a series of coincidences–getting married in might 2014; living in Phoenix, where Tuft & Needle was based; disliking the mattress and trying a Casper instead; having some SEO savvy–he had stumbled into early-mover advantage in a group primed to explode.

“There was a waterfall of service providers launching,” that recalled. Nipping in ~ the heels the Casper and also Tuft & Needle came other direct-to-consumer mattress companies favor Leesa, Yogabed, Purple, and GhostBed; in time, end 100 brands in all. Most were brand-new companies, while others to be e-commerce divisions from tradition brands scrambling to make up lost soil amidst a tectonic change in exactly how consumers were beginning to purchase mattresses. In the $14 billion U.S. Mattress market, online mattresses only consisted of $300 million in sales 2 years ago; this year, sales might reach $1.2 billion. Every one of these arising brands want Derek to testimonial their assets like he had the Casper–and all were ready to salary Derek a bounty. Choose Kenny Kline in Brooklyn, Derek was quickly handing out complimentary mattresses he’d reviewed to his Phoenix friends and also neighbors, and eventually had mattresses piling up in a spare room.


In February 2015, Derek stop his day job to focus on Sleepopolis.

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It to be a smart gamble. In the months and years that followed, Derek would develop his site right into the most-trafficked web destination for world seeking details on mattresses, beating out a raft that competitors. In total, his YouTube reviews have actually garnered 2.5 million views, when the site itself would thrive to entice over fifty percent a million visits every month. If you taken place to search for mattress reviews virtual in the last three years, odds room you came down on Sleepopolis. Derek developed his site into the number-one Google struggle for many popular queries pertained to mattresses.

Our phone call taught me a good deal about this strange backwater that the web economy. But a secret remained. Transparent those first, heady months, Derek kept a great relationship through Casper. How, then, by late 2016, had it unable to do so sour?


I inquiry Derek, however he couldn’t call me. With Casper’s lawsuit against him pending, Derek’s lawyer forbade the from even mentioning the firm by name. I would need to dive into a growing stack that mattress lawsuits to discover out.

As Casper flourished through 2014 and early 2015, i learned, it enjoyed a mutually valuable relationship v Sleepopolis and similar sites. For plenty of bloggers, in fact, Casper was among the an initial mattress companies to offer affiliate commissions, leading its rivals to answers in turn. The reviews sites were vital parts that what marketers speak to the “purchase funnel,” converting a vague attention in mattresses right into awareness the a details brand, and often the decision to buy it. Countless consumers were Googling terms choose “best mattress,” landing on sites like Sleepopolis, and also learning about e-tailers favor Casper because that the first time.

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Casper CEO Phillip Krim Indeed, one would certainly never have actually predicted looming lawsuits native a familiar 2015 email exchange, in i beg your pardon Casper CEO Philip Krim attempted come court one affiliate marketer named Jack Mitcham, who ran a Sleepopolis-like site referred to as Mattress Nerd.

In January 2015, Krim created Mitcham the while he supported objective reviews, “it pains us to watch you (or anyone) introduce a contender over us.”

Krim walk on: “As girlfriend know, we are lot bigger than our newly developed competitors. I am confident we can offer girlfriend a much bigger commercial relationship due to the fact that of that. Exactly how would girlfriend ideally want to framework the affiliate relationship? and also also, what have the right to we perform to help to prosper your business?”

When Mitcham responded to say that he and his wife found the Casper mattress uncomfortable, Krim persisted:

“Is there any method I can get you to spend much more time on the Casper?…We would even be happy to fly you out to NYC come tell you more about the product or have actually you invest a long weekend ~ above one. I’d likewise love to find ways come work much more closely. We would certainly love to end up being your best referral check.”

Krim then upped his offer, promise to rise Mitcham’s payouts native $50 come $60 per sale, and also offering his reader a $40 coupon. “I think the will relocate sales a little an ext in your direction,” responded Mitcham on march 25, 2015. In the months the followed, Mattress Nerd would end up being one of Casper’s top reviews site partners. (The emails surfaced due to one more mattress lawsuit, GhostBed v. Krim; if comparable correspondence exists through Derek Hales, it has actually not end up being public.)

Just a few months later, in June 2015, something large happened that would ripple through the totality mattress ecosystem: Casper got $55 million in collection B investment at an comprise half-billion-dollar valuation, making the the front-runner in the digital mattress wars.

The firm started security relentlessly top top advertising, and soon just about everyone had heard of Casper, providing the startup a measure of to escape velocity native its competitors. Casper’s sales topped $200 million critical year, despite it declines to say whether it is profitable. Happiness has estimated Casper’s annual marketing budget to it is in $80 million.

As Casper grew, an ext mattress evaluate sites started mushrooming up in its shadow, earning rapid commissions while creating tiny value because that Casper. Casper made decision to enable the contracts it organized with affiliates come expire, “to reassess the situation,” Casper CEO Krim called me.

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In July 2015–a month after ~ the $55 million investment–Krim restored his email chain through Mattress Nerd’s Mitcham, informing him the while Casper had actually “decided come sunset” that is affiliate relationships, it however would be interested in experimenting “economic relationships beyond the affiliate program structure.”

“Nothing would certainly make united state happier 보다 to salary you a ton the money,” Krim elaborated in his next email, “but we should do the in a context of being accretive to Casper. At this time you proactively endorse a competing product on our review page. What have the right to we carry out not to have you endorse another product as exceptional to ours? i am details we have the right to be a much better partner to you than Leesa.”

It shows up that Krim’s dialogue v Mattress Nerd walk not finish in a comfortable place. Likewise for negotiations Krim may have actually been having with Sleepopolis or Sleep Sherpa. That summer, Casper declined to renew affiliate relationships through all mattress bloggers. (It ultimately reinstated some.)

An antagonism collection in between Casper and also at least some of this reviewers, a couple of of whom conspicuously began to downgrade your assessment that the company’s mattress, and to more vocally favor rivals that walk still salary commissions, prefer Leesa.

By April 2016, Derek had actually updated his evaluate of the Casper too, composing that, after ~ 18 month of reviewing competing mattresses, he no longer recommended the mattress. He even added a tiny yellow box near the height of the page, which read: “Thinking around buying a Casper? execute your homework! examine out these 4 mattress companies that Sleepopolis loves.”

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Sleepopolis’s Casper review, as it showed up in June 2017, courtesy that archive.org View complete size here.

That small yellow crate was a huge thorn in Casper’s side. If girlfriend Googled the search term “casper mattress review,” which about ten thousand people did per month, the very first webpage Google offered up was Derek’s review, through its toxicity box. Derek ranked first for the query, too.

On April 29, 2016, Casper filed lawsuits versus the owners of Mattress Nerd, Sleep Sherpa, and Sleepopolis (that is, Derek), alleging false advertising and deceptive practices.

Mattress Nerd and also Sleep Sherpa quickly settled their cases, and suddenly their negative Casper evaluate disappeared from your sites, in what numerous onlookers speculated to be a problem of the settlements. But through the finish of 2016, once I started very closely studying the lawsuits, Derek’s Casper review remained, defiantly, up on Sleepopolis. He was soldiering ~ above in his legal battle with the mattress giant. World who knew him called Derek a fighter; among his nicknames to be “Halestorm.”

Casper had another means of referring to him. Derek was “part that a surreptitious economic situation of affiliate cheat operators who have come to be the online versions that the very same commission-hungry mattress salesmen that digital mattress shoppers have actually sought come avoid,” Casper’s lawsuit alleged. The agency complained the Derek was not forthright enough around his affiliate relationships, noting his disclosures were buried in a remote edge of his site. This did violate freshly issued FTC guidelines, and Derek to update his website to comply.

Casper wanted Derek’s behavior to it is in stopped, and also it wanted monetary damages. “Casper approximates that Sleepopolis’s conduct has actually caused it countless dollars of shed sales come date,” wrote Casper’s lawyers.

In a movement to i have dissolved the case filed in July 2016, Derek blasted what he dubbed Casper’s attempt at censorship. The declaration on his site were essentially his ethical opinions: He claimed he had come to be less enthusiastic about the Casper–which he still called a an excellent mattress–only due to the fact that equal or far better mattresses had gotten in the market, periodically at reduced prices. (A Casper queen-size runs $950 today, a Leesa queen $940; Derek’s site also offered coupons the lowered the Leesa’s price.)

In October 2016, after ~ weighing both sides’ arguments, the judge agreed that while many of Derek’s statements were opinions, immune to a lawsuit, Derek had also made part statements of fact on his site: statements prefer “No evaluation or content is paid because that by any kind of manufacturer or sleep company,” and also “No member of Sleepopolis is work by any mattress or sleep company.” If Casper can prove those statements false, it could have a insurance claim for damages.

The judge hosted that the situation could proceed.

The situation would now relocate to the “discovery” phase, in which every side was entitled to acquire documents and deposition testimony native the other.

Derek now faced the possibility of litigating for months, if no years, against a that company behemoth in new York–a industry where his lawyers’ fees were most likely to height $750 one hour.

At that rate, how long could Derek bought to go on fighting?

The question of just just how much money Derek made turn off Sleepopolis interested everyone i spoke to. That had also been the subject of a gossipy, if rigorously argued, post on a site positioning itself as a gadfly that the mattress industry, HonestMattressReviews.com. (A court later determined that, despite the site’s name, the owner of ethical Mattress Reviews had actually concealed ties come the mattress firm GhostBed.)

According to the website analysis tool SimilarWeb, Derek referred 1.6 million visits to exterior sites in between February 2016 and also July 2017. Much of this traffic went to Amazon.com (when Derek lacked a straight affiliate relationship, he to be able to gain at the very least some money together an affiliate of Amazon). A significant portion saw the mattress service providers Purple, impend & Leaf, and also Nest Bedding.

A impend & leaf executive called me they had actually paid Derek $100,000 in 2016; nest Bedding’s CEO Joe Alexander said he had paid Derek a lot of of that. “My life readjusted because the Derek,” Alexander told me. “He made me a millionaire.”

But by much the many traffic throughout that period–some 400,000 visits–was referred out to the website the Derek’s favourite mattress company, Leesa.

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Nest Bedding CEO Joe Alexander Derek’s Leesa favoritism to be no secret: he explicitly called it “Sleepopolis’s favourite mattress,” and a sidebar touting Leesa affiliate-link coupons graced virtually every page of the site. Mattress reviewers say your art entails recommending various mattresses come different types of sleepers, but in the 14 categories on his website for i beg your pardon the Leesa was eligible, Derek declared it very first in 7 of them, 2nd or third in all but two the the rest. The Leesa was Sleepopolis’s best mattress because that side sleepers, ideal mattress for kids, finest mattress for back pain, and best mattress because that sex.

It was feasible that Derek genuinely loved the Leesa above all various other mattresses; he’d reviewed the favorably even before Casper reduced off his payments. Yet many civilization I spoke to said that various other things were possible, too. If most mattress suppliers paid roughly $50 per commission, other companies paid two or 3 times that, even as much as $250. In one email I saw, one unscrupulous mattress reviewer said companies regularly approached him providing to “buy” peak placement on his site; so lengthy as the reviewer preferred the mattress, he’d happy negotiate a price. “Honestly, the FTC has to step in at some allude and make review sites divulge what they are paid because that each bed or brand,” colony Bedding’s Joe Alexander, called me. “This market is a freight train the end of control.”

Was Leesa playing this highest-bidder video game with Sleepopolis? at first, i heard many rumors to the effect. I dubbed Leesa’s CEO David Wolfe in February, in an initiative to discover out. The middle-aged Wolfe, though currently a resides in Virginia Beach, preserved a charming brothers accent, and was a previous marketer himself. The mattress industry has long to be attractive to marketers, i learned, even before the internet gained involved. As a mattress sector analyst newly told Freakonomics Radio: “You have to be a strong marketer to it is in in the mattress industry, due to the fact that they’re really selling identical, rectangular slabs.”

Wolfe denied offering greater affiliate rates than competitors, saying he had constantly paid $50 every mattress, apart from one month as soon as he had paid 60. He later repeated this assertion and also had his lawyer contact me to check it, and also said that felt that was necessary for mattress companies and also affiliates to run on a level playing field.

I inquiry Wolfe if he had actually ever offered Derek Hales a guarantee income. Ours friendly conversation took a swift turn. “The price is no,” he said, adding, “You have to leave this come the attorneys.” Later, that added, “I don’t want to speak something that could influence a pending lawsuit where Leesa is not a party.”

SimilarWeb said that Derek advert 400,000 visits to Leesa.com in between February 2016 and July 2017. If girlfriend assumed that about one in 12 referred visits eventually led come a purchase—a conservative calculation according to human being in the mattress sector I interviewed—that would suggest Sleepopolis assisted sell 33,000 mattresses. Even a $50 commission every mattress intended $1.6 million paid by Leesa to Derek end those 18 months. As soon as I approached Leesa’s David Wolfe with these numbers, he called them inflated (SimilarWeb provides only estimates), however conceded the Derek was essentially Leesa’s top salesman, accounting for 18% of the brand’s complete sales, which reached around $80 million last year.

All told, this numbers said Derek may have been making as lot as $2 million every year through 2016. And his site, in a hypothetical sale, would be worth a lot of of that. (A substantially less trafficked mattress-reviewing site recently went on the sector for $1.4 million.)

Derek had actually made millionaires among the new mattress entrepreneurs–and he self was among them. For this reason while Derek’s pockets weren’t almost so deep together Casper’s, they absolutely weren’t shallow. He had actually stumbled into what was, outside of jae won products, among the more rewarding niches in affiliate marketing. If this to be a David-and-Goliath battle, it was worth remembering that David ended up being a king.

Still, once his Manhattan lawyers very first quoted your prices, Derek would certainly have found that the cost of a fight come the bitterness end–a attempt by jury–could easily concerned well over a million dollars itself.

THE PEOPLE

Derek Hales, Arizona-based founder and also proprietor of Sleepopolis.com. Sue by Casper in April 2016.Samantha Niezwaag Hales, Derek’s wife. She helped Derek build Sleepopolis.Kenny Kline, Brooklyn-based mattress reviewer who offered reporter David Zax a cost-free mattress.Philip Krim, CEO that the new York-based digital mattress giant Casper.Jack Mitcham, proprietor of affiliate reviews website Mattress Nerd, email correspondent that Casper’s Philip Krim. He cleared up his sue in 2016.David Wolfe, the CEO the Leesa, a Casper competitor, and also Sleepopolis’s favorite mattress.Joe Alexander, CEO of swarm Bedding, a Casper competitor. Friend and also confidant of Derek Hales.

THE MATTRESS COMPANIES

Casper, the top mattress e-commerce brand, i beg your pardon sued 3 mattress bloggers in April 2016.Leesa, a height Casper competitor, and maker of Sleepopolis’s top-ranked mattress.Tuft & Needle, the Phoenix-based mattress e-commerce firm whose product Derek Hales an initial tried.GhostBed, another mattress e-commerce firm involved in several mattress lawsuits.

THE MATTRESS REVIEWING WEBSITES

Sleepopolis, established by Derek Hales, the top mattress reviews site.Mattress Nerd and Sleep Sherpa, the two other sites sued by Casper.Mattress Clarity and Slumber Sage, web page co-owned through Kenny Kline.

In February, Derek Hales faced a new salvo: A letter from Casper’s attorney to the referee alleged that while Derek was reviewing Leesa’s mattresses enthusiastically, he was not only receiving affiliate rose but likewise payments for SEO consulting he detailed Leesa. Reading this, i suddenly understood David Wolfe’s skittishness about the last concerns I had actually put to him end the phone.

At a hearing in March, Derek’s lawyer conceded that the consulting relationship was real; the payments had totaled around $40,000 end 20 months. In a video game of millions, though, this was hardly the smoking gun Casper was probably looking for. Ultimately, after month of searching, ns was can not to discover any major financial inducement because that Derek to favor Leesa over various other mattress companies that payment him commissions. When I asked swarm Bedding’s Joe Alexander why Derek desired Leesa, he synthetic it up for me: “Derek simply seemed favor the type of guy who left the dance through the girl he came with.”

Still, even if $40,000 wasn’t tremendous, the mere reality of these next payments undermined some of Derek’s insurance claims on his site, more than likely harming his case. Around this time, Alexander to be speaking come Derek weekly; they’d gradually come to be friends. The fit was plainly weighing on Derek. “He’d try to save a an excellent face ~ above things,” Alexander told me, “but you could tell–the skepticism in his voice, the contrived laugh. Points weren’t going along as he had actually anticipated.”

In the march hearing transcript, there was discussion of momentum towards a settlement, one in which Derek can pay damages to Casper.

But then, in the last days the April, Derek’s lawyer it is registered a how amazing counterclaim against the mattress giant.

The claim included a dramatic beforehand chapter come the story that Sleepopolis and also Casper–right after ~ Casper announced it would not be renewing its affiliate marketing contracts earlier in the summer the 2015.

“Immediately after Casper announced this termination,” the claim alleged, “Casper approached Hales and also offered to resume the relationship, on state considerably an ext favorable to Hales, if Hales would certainly agree to state a more positive opinion of Casper’s mattress on Sleepopolis. Hales refused.”

Shortly after this refusal, alleged Derek’s lawyer, “Sleepopolis come under a massive negative SEO attack.” tens of thousands of web links to Sleepopolis started mysteriously cropping increase on sites that Google’s algorithms reputed low-quality, he wrote. Because Google demotes websites the are connected to through low-quality sites, Sleepopolis’s esteem to be hurt through association, and Google started demoting Sleepopolis in searches. Suspiciously, a huge proportion the the toxic links pointed to Derek’s Casper content, an especially hurting that in Casper-related searches. (Derek at some point resolved his trouble by searching down the negative links and also creating a “disavow” perform for Google.)

Derek’s lawyer, having actually learned the Casper contracted v a “reputation administration firm” at simply this time, alleged that Casper was behind the SEO assault on Sleepopolis. His lawyer was now insisting that Derek to be the wronged party in the suit, not Casper, and demanded the Derek be awarded loss instead.

Casper’s lawyers quickly fired back with a motion to i disbanded Derek’s counterclaims–a “thinly spun tale,” they scoffed, v “no proof linking Casper to the alleged SEO attack.” The freshly escalated legal fight hurtled on.

On one of the last days of July, I opened up my inbox come find an e-mail from a correspondent, an additional close observer of Sleepopolis. “Did you see this???” ran the subject line. Inside was a attach to Sleepopolis.

The website still looked as it constantly had: the dark header, the elegant logo featuring a skyline nestled in a crescent moon. However in ar of Derek’s smiling face, there was now someone else: a young male in a blue blazer who I didn’t recognize. “Welcome come The brand-new Version the Sleepopolis!” ran the headline.

“Hello!” ran the text next to the headshot. “My surname is Dan Scalco and also I’d like to personally welcome you to the brand brand-new version of Sleepopolis. Here’s what’s up… top top July 25th, 2017 our firm acquired Sleepopolis.com …. Derek Hales and Samantha Hales room no longer associated with Sleepopolis.”

An italicized note added:

“In July 2017, a subsidiary of JAKK Media LLC got Sleepopolis.com. Casper detailed financial support to enable JAKK Media to obtain Sleepopolis.”

This to be disorienting, to say the least. What was JAKK Media? It had bought Sleepopolis through a loan from Casper? ns typed the end a inquiry to mine correspondent: “Who is Dan Scalco?”

The reply described that Dan Scalco worked with someone called Joe Auer, that co-owned two mattress evaluate sites. The name seemed vaguely familiar, and I figured his initials accounted for the JA in “JAKK Media.” yet who to be KK?

Then that hit me.

Kenny Kline, the guy who had provided me my complimentary mattress… currently owned Sleepopolis.

I referred to as up Kenny, trying to make sense of this strange development. However whatever link forms between men who have exchanged a bottle of wine for a mattress wasn’t enough for him to violate his NDA.

“It’s sort of a mystery, what happened,” the said, maintaining mum about details. “The website came up for sale, and I obtained it.” Kenny said he hope to repay Casper soon and be may be to eliminate the disclaimer, but for the time being he wanted to err ~ above the next of transparency.

Kenny Kline and Dan Scalco swore the Casper wouldn’t touch the site. Casper’s Philip Krim told me the same: “We exert no influence and also have no affect over the site, various other than that we lent castle money.” A Casper spokesperson added that the company currently has no access to Sleepopolis’s data.

The new owners the Sleepopolis did disclose ~ above the site: “Until the loan is satisfied, Casper has actually the contractual ideal to repossess the assets and forgive the continuing to be value of the loan…yes, that was written by our lawyers ;).” Repossess the assets: in various other words, take over Sleepopolis, if it came to that. But Krim stated this was simply “lawyer language protecting ours loan, therefore we gain paid back.”

On the exact same day in July the Kenny and also I spoke, Casper v. Hales was getting to its last stages that settlement, with both parties agreeing to drop the suit. Top top July 28, 2017, the court understood the situation resolved.

Derek wouldn’t answer mine calls. I wasn’t alone in that: everything NDA was in ar was evidently ironclad. “I to be an intimate friend through Derek,” Joe Alexander, the swarm Bedding CEO, said me, “and apparently I deserve to never speak to him again.” His best guess was the Derek offered Sleepopolis in the finish for about half what it was actually worth, yet still something choose $3 million come $5 million. “I’m walk to venture to guess: v Derek is sipping margaritas somewhere, laughing at all of us,” stated Alexander good-naturedly. Online, I found a Halloween photo of Derek and also Samantha dressed as Neo and Trinity indigenous The Matrix, wearing sunglasses and also brandishing toy guns. I imagined castle buying a Corvette and also speeding off right into the sunset, the Bonnie and also Clyde of affiliate marketing.

Through August and also September, i watched together Sleepopolis advanced under its brand-new ownership: Dan Scalco’s challenge took the place of Derek’s in comment threads, and also then Scalco disappeared too, quietly replaced by yet another editor. Miscellaneous bedding advertisements began to chop up; the formerly ubiquitous Leesa-touting sidebar disappeared, and Sleepopolis started referring much much less traffic to Leesa.com.

But the most significant change come Sleepopolis came right away. Indigenous the first days that the site’s new management, that thorn in Casper’s side–Derek’s damning yellow box, pointing prospective buyers come competitors–disappeared indigenous Sleepopolis’s Casper review. In its location there appeared a green box, with a coupon linking straight to Casper.com:

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Sleepopolis’s Casper review, together it appears today. View complete size here.

By early on September, the to update Casper testimonial amounted to an endorsement. “Overall my experience with Casper was really positive,” the brand-new review concluded.

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Casper’s fight had been hard fought, yet it got what it wanted in the end. Currently those who saw cute Casper ads ~ above the subway and also later Googled “casper mattress reviews” would certainly no longer have their purchase momentum stymied by the first site they clicked on. They’d be waved along by Sleepopolis’s green light.

Casper had finally hammered the end the last, many troublesome kink in the yawning acquisition funnel that lured ever much more traffic to its billion-dollar digital storefront. The agency could without doubt claim, together it did on the site, to have actually “the internet’s favorite mattress.”