Affiliate Networks – Changing of the Guards?

Last Updated on November 10, 2006

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In his wrap-up coverage of this year’s ad:tech NYC, Scott Rewick of NextInternet writes that one of the things unique about this year’s conference was:

Rise of the “new networks” XY7, ClickBooth, CPA Empire, HydraMedia. I grew up in the early days of the Internet when the companies attracting all of the attention were Adteractive, MetaReward, and Azoogle. I sense a “changing of the guard” as the older companies mature, while the younger ones are aggressively pursuing growth.

I agree with Scott on the transformation that has been happening in the network side of the industry over the past four years. I was with SubscriberBASE at the time when the affiliate network phenomenon was just beginning to take off, and Jeff French had the foresight to see the need to expand our business to include this emerging space with the AdDrive network. Working with AdDrive in the early stages of growth and brand expansion was an incredible experience, and as Scott points out, the main competitors early on were the likes of Azoogle.

However, the market of affiliate networks soon experienced a Big Bang explosion which created an entire universe of networks along with a seemingly inexhaustible supply of material for the creation of new networks.
What’s the reason for this “changing of the guard” as Scott calls it? It has less to do with the ability of the “older” networks to keep up with shifting marketing forces, and more to do with these networks (Azoogle, Adteractive) maturing and expanding their scope in relationship to the largest of networks such as CJ or Linkshare.

As Jeff Molander pointed out last year,

I wonder… is it possible that Azoogle hopes to net a good number of the more cost-sensitive, smaller advertisers from the CJ network (during the most expensive time of the year)? Those, perhaps, who feel under-served (by CJ) and who have declined to purchase service packages for themselves? Might Azoogle be inclined to believe that they can make a better “value offer” to such advertisers… including a more affordable service offering that keys on the existing Azoogle “sweet spot” of hooking advertisers with their existing network of productive affiliates?

Spot on questions, Jeff. These questions are still not answered by Azoogle or any of the networks making the move from a publisher-network to industry competitor and are still relevant for discussions about the CPA space. With Google potentially considering a CPA move, next year could be quite interesting for everyone involved.
The stars seem to be aligning for major acquisitions in this space in 2007, so maybe the haze around the future of these networks will begin to clear then.

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