I did a similar post on my personal blog earlier this morning, but think is fitting for the CPN readership to ponder as well…
My friend Shawn Collins writes:
Affiliate marketers are the epitome of the Time Person of the Year accolade. They are the straws that stir the drink. Experimental Netizens that explore, test, and evolve.
I was not going to write about the Time Person of the Year (surprise, it’s “You”) which has gotten so much coverage in the blog universe. If you haven’t heard the news, you can read up on the much discussed “award” there.
However, I don’t think affiliate marketers, as a whole, are the experimental bunch that Shawn describes, and definitely not the epitome of the web2.0 movement.
Are affiliate markters, as a whole, resourceful? Yes. Are they experimental on the web2.0 level? No. Affiliates and affiliate marketers are good at using metrics and figuring out more efficient ways to move traffic from point A to point B, but few affiliates actually push the limits of the top-down hierarchical structure which was predominant on the webs before 2003.
I’m not arguing that affiliate marketers are bad people or ineffectual because of the slow adoption of next-gen platforms and services. But do we really think they are the epitome of what Time is describing as the Person of the Year?
Are there any affiliate marketers on Second Life? Are there any affiliate marketers on Twitter? Are there any affiliate marketers effectively using YouTube (or even MySpace beyond spamming and networking)? Do most affiliate marketers even know what StumbleUpon is? Or how to use Ma.gnolia and del.icio.us to gain quality readers? Flickr? Meebo? 30Boxes? Do most even use a feedreader and not just email subscriptions? Widgets anyone?
The straws that stir the drink?? Hopefully one day, but not now.
25 thoughts on “Affiliate Marketers Stirring Their Own Straws”
Respectfully, I don’t think that the use of any of those tools that you mention is “required” to be on the “cutting edge”.
“Are they experimental on the web2.0 level? No.”
I disagree. … there are many affiliates using 2.0 “concepts” without the taglines or marketing names. A lot of those affiliates were using the same concepts prior to the branding of 2.0 in the first place…
From my perspective, 2.0 is a philosophy shift… towards a web-dominant and web-based mostly peer driven power structure. In those terms, affiliates were there … AND successfully earning there … and continue to do so.
I’ll agree with you in that not every affiliate has the inkling to deal in 2.0 concepts… many do not…but I would argue that there are probably an equal number of people using the “tools” you mention above who don’t necessarily qualify as “straws that stir the pot” either.
Hey Sam –
I think you’re being myopic here.
Of course, ALL affiliates aren’t progressive and experimental. However, I stand by my assertion that the user generated content revolution is a strong suit for affiliates.
As far as your rhetorical questions, who do you think all of the people are that are exploring these new methods and tools? And why are you cocksure that affiliates are not part of this group?
I’m sure some affiliates/affiliate marketers might be using these tools on their own, but I just don’t see many, if any at all, of these tools being implemented in actual programs. I’d love to, but I just haven’t seen it in my experience in the networks.
I agree there, Sam – not so much forward thinking on Web 2.0 opportunities by merchants. I meant to convey that affiliates themselves are taking the initiative.
It would be great to have someone step up to the plate and offer an example of affiliates using “concepts” or tools which Sam pointed at as part of their argument.
Shawn, I am not seeing how Sam’s comment had anything to do with merchants. Rather, he seems to be inviting opportunity for yourself, Brian and others to lay out examples of how affiliates are “exploring, testing, and evolving.”
If “affiliate marketers are the epitome of the Time Person of the Year accolade” then we should be able to point at some examples, right? One maybe two?
> Shawn, I am not seeing how Sam’s comment had anything to do with merchants.
Jeff – see the third comment from this post where Sam stated, “I’m sure some affiliates/affiliate marketers might be using these tools on their own, but I just don’t see many, if any at all, of these tools being implemented in actual programs.”
Those “programs” are run by merchants.
> If “affiliate marketers are the epitome of the Time Person of the Year accolade” then we should be able to point at some examples, right? One maybe two?
Jeff, there is who knows how many affiliate sites out there, just have to look. There are plenty of affiliates trying stuff out.
I started a thread on that alone a few months ago.
“Or how to use Ma.gnolia and del.icio.us to gain quality readers?”
Yes, I’ve seen sites offer social bookmark links. You have stuff like:
I’ve seen many affiliates use that.
So yes, affiliates are good like that, trying new things out. Anything to get traffic and sales. You just have to read around. If you’re not seeing it, you’re just not looking in the right places.
Great examples. Indeed, these are difficult to spot. Here’s another that *might* qualify: Jellyfish.com.
I suggest that all of this points to Sam’s remarkably insightful (important) question that remains largely unanswered by the community: What is “affiliate marketing?”
Less important: Answering the question.
More important: What we could all learn by talking about it.
Jellyfish and Riya/Like.com don’t belong in a conversation about “web2.0” (yes, I hate that term too so come up with a better one and I’ll use it).
Yes, they offer some comparison and ajaxy features and a shiny GUI, but bells and whistles are not what the web2.0 platforms that Time was describing rely upon for their communities.
Sorry, Jonathan… I forgot to address your comments. In short, I’m looking and still not finding. What you point to (platforms facilitating automatic submission to social networks) is precisely the kind of experimentation that has historically given affiliate marketing a bad name. That stated, I recognize it as a borderline example. You Sam? I just wish there was a better one as this is such a bastardization of UGC (user generated content).
Also, (respectfully) it’s not that interesting that you’ve spoken about Widgets within the context of this topic. What would be interesting is if you’ve used them creatively within the realm of “affiliate programs.”
Sam is right. So far we have no examples from anyone — including Shawn, the hands-down icon of the industry who has gone out on a limb with his statement.
Specifically, we have no example(s) of an “affiliate” definition yet TBD using user generated content (a la Time) within a social context. Please note, I am not trying to be combative; I’m simply helping Sam make his point. Candidly, I hope that someone might step in and make me look a fool by demonstrating Shawn’s comment to be vividly true! Shawn would be in a great position to do so given his stature in the business. He’s likely more networked among affiliates than any of us, certainly myself.
Again, IMHO, defining “affiliate” broadly allows statement’s like Shawn’s to ring true and go un-challenged. Avoiding this discussion (which most folks have IMHO) furthers the notion that is, I suggest, one rooted in lack of information. Kudos to Sam for calling for some examples.
> Yes, they offer some comparison and ajaxy features and a shiny GUI, but bells and whistles are not what the web2.0 platforms that Time was describing rely upon for their communities.
I don’t think Time aspired to define Web 2.0 – they referred to it a lot in generalities:
“Web 2.0 is a massive social experiment, and like any experiment worth trying, it could fail.”
“Web 2.0 harnesses the stupidity of crowds as well as its wisdom.”
“Silicon Valley consultants call it Web 2.0, as if it were a new version of some old software. But it’s really a revolution.”
I’d say a much better reference would be Tim O’Reilly’s article: http://www.oreillynet.com/pub/a/oreilly/tim/news/2005/09/30/what-is-web-20.html
In that article, section 1 starts… “Like many important concepts, Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core.”
> Sam is right. So far we have no examples from anyone — including Shawn
I was asked by you to provide two examples and I did, Jeff.
Now I’ve got a lot of things to tend to for my conference, consulting and family, so I am afraid I don’t have time to entertain your further requests for citations.
I respect your choice to not participate, Shawn, by taking on those statements which challenge yours. I also recognize you’re busy. Happy holidays to you and your family.
>In that article, section 1 starts… “Like many important concepts, Web 2.0 doesn’t have a hard boundary, but rather, a gravitational core.”
Good point, Shawn. Things like web2.0 defy boundaries and are not held together by the same gravitational constraints as other forms of media.
In fact, I think there’s some similarities between Tim’s description of 2.0 and what I think affiliate marketing might or might not be (to answer Jeff’s question).
In my world view (which Wayne describes as Hippie2.0… I should try to copyright that like Tim did with Web2.0… oh wait, I’m opposed to copywrong), affiliate marketing defies traditional boundaries. It’s wide open, ambiguous, and not a neat and clean channel (sorry, Jeff). In fact, I’d venture to say that it includes a wide variety of people we’d never associate with affiliate marketing.
That’s why I like that name… because it signifies a non-specific area of online experience for both marketers and consumers/individuals. Affiliate marketing could be the next big thing if we come to terms with that sloppiness of definition and realize the nexus of creative potential which exists in such a paradigm.
Good point, Jeff…
>”Also, (respectfully) it’s not that interesting that you’ve spoken about Widgets within the context of this topic. What would be interesting is if you’ve used them creatively within the realm of “affiliate programs.””
Soon… soon… 🙂
Please stand corrected. My perspective on defining “affiliate marketing” is likewise — it’s not a channel but a cog in a wheel of many, highly similar online and offline channels.
Please don’t make me plug Mercent again. BTW, no… I don’t hold any interest or equity 🙂 although I should probably be on their payroll. As well, ChannelAdvisor, Channel Intelligence and a few others.
I am not surprised to be finding the industry literally running away from the discussion once again — rather than embracing it for doing so would validate your main thrust: This is much bigger than CJ, Performics, Linkshare, Kowabunga, Shareasale et al COMBINED!
Regarding examples, it isn’t my place to provide them or discuss with anyone in public what they might be doing that is innovative. Unfortunately that doesn’t help this specific conversation…
On the 2.0 subject…. In my opinion 2.0 is an extremely broad umbrella and if you are looking for an affiliate that fits into a certain compartment of that umbrella you might not find one. I guess it just comes down to what you consider to be innovative, or even 2.0ish … some here have suggested more narrow definitions or boundaries than I would, and I think it is one of those topics which has no wrong answer.
Sam’s original question might be better suited to ask specifically about each individual component or technology, instead of trying to decide whether any fits into the global definition of 2.0… In other words…
Are there affiliates using “insert tech thing here”? Why or why not, etc… Is Twitter, for example, something that can be used effectively in affiliate marketing at all?
Isn’t someone who has figured out a way to effectively create commerce using social aspects of 2.0 at least equally as innovative as the latest in a string of social networks ?
Jeff – I just read your comment above as you type faster than me 🙂 Concerning running away from the conversation… I must say, I don’t have any idea what you are talking about. Who was in the conversation that is now running away from it?
Thanks for the link, Jeff. That was written the same day I got back into the affiliate side of things as well, so it takes me back to my optimism six months ago… feels like six years ago at this point!
Of course I know where you stand on defining all of this, and I was baiting you a bit to get your definition out there. I agree with you, but instead of cog and wheel (how 19th century!), I like to use the analogies of molecules in a glass of water.
This is much bigger than the networks you mentioned, but I don’t think they’d find that to necessarily be a problem. If anything, realizing the messiness in defining affiliate marketing opens new doors to other avenues such as the web2.0 stuff discussed above.
I think the perceived threat in asking questions or trying to provide answers is that people like to have a firm definition and grasp on what they believe in, whether it’s the world being created in 7 days 5,283 years ago, or the value of CPC or affiliate marketing.
My point (and eternal hope) is that affiliate marketing can lead the way in showing that online marketing is no longer a vertical channel driven business, but is sloppy, messy and spills over into all sorts of areas and channels. Definitions provide limits, so we must ask ourselves when we define affiliate, or online marketing, what limits we would like (or not like) to put in place.
Fully agree with your re-positioning of the question. This obviously makes better sense yet doesn’t whack Sam’s use of the shorthand (Web 2.0). I think that we’ve got a solid list of technology examples here now that it’s shaken out.
As for running away: I’m sorry — de-prioritizing the debate.
Sam… Indeed, I read that piece as well (your molecular example). I’m a total CostPerJunkie (hmm… perhaps your first stalker fan site?).
If anything, realizing the messiness in defining affiliate marketing opens new doors to other avenues such as the web2.0 stuff discussed above.
Bingo. (cue Sam’s phone ringing for a bit of consulting)
Your last two paragraphs are perhaps among your most insightful and important. Long live critical thinking and CPN.com!
So, would a series of posts on the types of technologies we’ve discussed be helpful?
>This obviously makes better sense yet doesn’t whack Sam’s use of the shorthand (Web 2.0). I think that we’ve got a solid list of technology examples here now that it’s shaken out.
Maybe a series like what Jeff and Brian have laid out in terms of “Can Twitter (or MySpace or YouTube, etc) Work Within Affiliate Marketing?” and then give possible examples?
I’m sure most wouldn’t want to spill the beans on how they are using these platforms as this sort of implementation is still “valuable” knowledge, but maybe we can lay out some ideas without giving away too much of the secret sauce (again, I’m channeling Wayne)?
Let me know what you think and I’ll set up a series like that here.
On the side, if any companies, networks, etc out there would like to know more about the secret sauce involved in these sorts of things, don’t hesitate to give me a call or email. I don’t have a ton of spare time, but I’m more than happy to help you out. No, I don’t charge for consultancy work as the companies I’m working with now have found out … that sort of info should be free b/c I’m trying to change the world before the aorta blows out.
CostPerJunkie? Now that’s funny!
“Let me know what you think and I’ll set up a series like that here.”
That would be great.
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> I respect your choice to not participate, Shawn, by taking on those statements which challenge yours.
Jeff – You initially stated, ‘If “affiliate marketers are the epitome of the Time Person of the Year accolade” then we should be able to point at some examples, right? One maybe two?’
So I provided you those two examples: Like.com and ThisNext.com
I didn’t realize “participate” meant playing forum ping pong with you all day. I supplied you with a requested answer and happily moved on.
Anyhow, there are many more that I know about personally – people doing interesting Web 2.0 things who choose not to issue press releases about it (for now).
As they are interested in sharing their stories, I’ll point them to your affiliate2dot0.com site to share their stories.
With all due respect, your two examples were directly challenged and not just through a quip but with thoughtful reasoning. Sam is attempting to raise the bar and so far a handful of people are participating — engaging in discussion. I believe you’re the first person to comment the equivalent of “I’m too busy for a more thoughtful reply” here at CPN.com only to return later… repeating yourself and criticizing someone over a URL that they chose to not invest time in.
Rather than defending your right to not engage in debate by coloring yourself as “too busy” (only to demonstrate that you’re not when it comes to criticizing how people invest their time) why not participate in the actual discussion?
You don’t seem to be one to back away from a good discussion and certainly not one who prefers to hear himself talk over listening to the viewpoints of others… let alone those that challenge or differ from those viewpoints you hold. You are one who is heavily invested in bringing people together to learn… listen to each other and engage in debate.
Respectfully, nobody is asking you for tedious citations… they’re asking you to engage in thoughtful dialog about the industry that seems synonymous with your name. They’re asking you to do more than just show up. I hope that you might consider participation given your stature in the industry.
> With all due respect, your two examples were directly challenged and not just through a quip but with thoughtful reasoning.
Actually, no. I haven’t seen anybody besides me mention ThisNext on this page. And as far as Like.com, it was Sam’s opinion that they “don’t belong in a conversation about web2.0”.
I rebutted with a link to the definition of Web 2.0 and considered it to be inclusive of Like.com. Sam replied “Good point, Shawn. Things like web2.0 defy boundaries and are not held together by the same gravitational constraints as other forms of media.”
> Rather than defending your right to not engage in debate by coloring yourself as “too busy” (only to demonstrate that you’re not when it comes to criticizing how people invest their time) why not participate in the actual discussion?
You’re right, Jeff. I’m not too busy. I was just counting off the minutes until 8 hours passed before I posted again. It was all for effect.
> I hope that you might consider participation given your stature in the industry.
I participate in multiple arenas to the extent my schedule allows. If my stature takes a hit, because I do not make enough posts that qualify as thoughtful by you on a given site, well I guess I’ll just have to live with that.
I’m getting back to work now – and I’m afraid I’ll probably be “too busy” until next Tuesday or so. Please do your best to carry the torch.