Understanding Web Monetization is Essential to Tech Blogging

Listening to the most recent Gillmor Gang today brought about more head-scratching for me as to why or what is so hard to understand about the basic understanding of what affiliate marketing is and what affiliate marketing is not.

Don’t get me wrong. I completely understand that it will (probably) not help my bottom line or profit margin by any degree if the participants of the Gillmor Gang and the associated San Francisco Bay-centric clique understand what affiliate marketers do and that they are not SEO’ers, spammers, arbitragers, MLM’ers or general web-pollutionists.

I’m referring to Jason Calacanis doing a series of well (or ill depending on your sense of humor and sense of segue way cadence) placed ads for the Affiliate Summit during tapings of the Gillmor Gang podcast. I’ve covered the first episode of The Gang where Jason caused a few ripples by doing the Affiliate Summit ads over on ReveNews.

On this past Friday’s taping, it was TechCrunch‘s Mike Arrington who asked the now inevitable “Are they SEO’ers?” question when Jason did his now tongue-in-cheek ad followed with an odd “they must be all black-hatters.” Jason answered that affiliate marketing is a billion dollar industry that no one knows about and isn’t SEO or MLM. Good to hear that Jason has been doing his homework and I do look forward to hearing his thoughts on the industry since he is the Affiliate Summit keynote.

So, my question is whether or not I should keep feeling a sense of frustration or exasperation that such web influentials know so little about affiliate marketing or seemingly care so little to learn about affiliate marketing before slapping it with an unfair brand of spam/blackhat/arbitrage/junk.

You’d think (or at least I do) that bloggers who blog about technology and web2.0 monetization such as Google’s acquisition of DoubleClick would also investigate the business model of DoubleClick’s important Performics division. Or perhaps these bloggers would seemingly be interested as to why the Japanese mega-corp Rakutan spent hundreds of millions on Linkshare or why ValueClick and its Commission Junction property are considered next in line for a major acquisition after DoubleClick, Razorfish and Right Media (if you listen to the rumors and sites such as SeekingAlpha). In all of these examples, affiliate marketing plays a major role.

Perhaps I’m just being protective and defensive over an industry that I’ve seen dramatically mature and “grow-up” over the last few years and one in which I’m proud to be a member. Nevertheless, in order to adequately understand the web landscape and the future shape of web apps, bloggers and thinkers must take into account the various forms of monetization that exist on the web without dismissing them as black-hat. Or at least that’s my hope.