Open Sourcing Affiliate Marketing

Could affiliate marketing, or online marketing for that matter, ever work on a complete open source model?

Or perhaps to frame the question more appropriately…

Could an affiliate marketing network, broker, agency or even publisher ever succeed (yes, I know that’s a subjective term) with an open source model?

6 thoughts on “Open Sourcing Affiliate Marketing”

  1. Hey Sam –

    I would say that I made my affiliate management methods wide open with my book, “Successful Affiliate Marketing for Merchants.”

    Things have changed in areas since I wrote it in late 2000, but it’s still the basis for how I do things today as an agency.

  2. Sam, what is it exactly that’s open sourced?

    Are you referring to the tracking infrastructure and technology so we can all see how it works?

  3. I’ve probably read your book about 5 times since it’s publication, Shawn (and I do recommend it as a must-read for anyone interested in this space), and I keep a dog-eared copy near my desk (even after 2 moves) handy for referencing things to make sure they haven’t been covered. I didn’t consult “SAMM” (as I call it… bc… well… my name is Sam and I think it’s funny) since I’ve been pondering setting up something up that has to do with open source and affiliate marketing, but I’ll go back and read tonight.

    It’s not necessarily the methods I’m interested in, but the technologies. Scott hits on it with his question. It has to do with the infrastructure and technology.

    What if a platform such as DirectTrack was open source and allowed any person/merchant/vagabond who wanted to a chance to create a network relatively easily based on the specs they created? They could develop a community of developers to continually improve the technology a la Linux platforms (see while perhaps charging for people who wanted to implement the software but didn’t have the time/care to do it themselves (a la RedHat).

    I’m trying to open source everything I do in life (beyond a bicycle it’s hard to do in the vehicle world) from the software I use to the alarm clock I use to the kind of soap I wash with. It’s not a crazy hippie dream, it’s do-able and it does make a difference if we all took the time.

    I think affiliate marketing has the greatest to gain from such movements b/c of its focus and reliance on relationship.

    Imagine if some distributor of network technology went open source? What would you do?

  4. Hi Sam –

    At first, I figured you must be referring to technology, but then I was unsure when you referenced brokers, agencies and publishers.

    I thought you were then talking about sharing concepts. Sorry about that.

    That said, would there be an upside for DirectTrack to go open source? I’d think it would limit their ability to sell product and stunt their internal development.

  5. Shawn-

    >I thought you were then talking about sharing concepts. Sorry about that.

    It was a wide open sort of question, and there was definitely some concept stuff going through my head when I asked the question. There is sharing of concepts, but I still think there is room for improvement, so that’s why I later limited it to something like networks.

    >That said, would there be an upside for DirectTrack to go open source? I’d think it would limit their ability to sell product and stunt their internal development.

    I think it would explode their internal development. For example, think of Netscape in the late 90’s who was eventually conquered by Microsoft’s IE and then decided to go open source. Now, that platform has become Firefox (Asa could probably speak more to this transformation), which is universally recongnized as a better alternative and eventual successor to IE.

    If DT did go open source, I’d imagine a number of savvy developers (myself and Jangro included) would probably leap at the opportunity to play with the code, improve upon it and allow others to share in the joy of discovery. That inclusion process creates a better product (rather quickly) and would allow DT to figure out how to monetize it’s software for those who didn’t want to bother with the configuration stuff while benefiting from a growing community of developers who would love a crack at being able to improve upon the software.

    I think it’s a win-win, but I’m not Jason.

  6. I’m a big fan of open source as well, but I think there are reasons that affiliate marketing software might not benefit from being open source:

    1.I don’t think the market is big enough to create a community that would be able to make significant contributions. Each of the big providers has less than 2,000 clients (rather than hundreds of thousands or millions as in the case of FF for instance), so the pool of developers who care enough to devote time is fairly small.

    2. On the affiliate end, we (as a provider) haven’t seen a lot of requests from affiliates for new tools or improvements; merchants are much more demanding and need more customization but again, the pool of merchants is small. Any reporting affiliates need can generally be handled by exporting everything into Excel.

    3. Being the one large provider who has offered custom software for the past 8 years, I will say there are a number of different ways that merchants want to track or report on their programs, but there have been almost no cases where we couldn’t provide the custom work for them, and probably do it much less expensively than if they had to hire a programmer to make modifications for them.

    I’m not saying there isn’t room for improvement in affiliate software, I just think open source would be less effective here than in most other cases.

    I do, however, think there is room for collaboration in affiliate marketing among affiliates in the ways they market, but that’s another discussion.

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