This morning, eBay is announcing that they are moving their affiliate program in house to the eBay Partner Network effective April 1, 2008 (no fool’s day joke). eBay is also bringing Half.com over to the new network. Affiliates and publishers need to have links changed over by May 1, 2008.
Of course, this means that eBay is leaving Commission Junction as its affiliate network platform. This is a blow against CJ in terms of a solid long lasting program with significant revenues and strong brand name in a month where CJ is already wrapped up in a PR food fight with Pepperjam Network.
With over 60,000 affiliates here in the United States and 100,000 affiliates worldwide, eBay is a significant powerhouse in the affiliate marketing world. So why the move?
I spoke to the Senior Manager of the eBay affiliate program, Will Martin-Gill, and he emphasized that the move had nothing to do with a dissatisfaction with CJ or ValueClick.
Instead, Martin-Gill said it was time to bring the affiliate program in-house the same way eBay brought their search services in-houe a couple of yeas ago. Martin-Gill told me eBay is also looking to build in more flexibility and innovation into their program to reach and sustain the more diverse crowd of affiliates and publishers on the web today and to have a direct relationship with those affiliates (key point, I believe). In short, eBay wants more control over data and wants to be able to coordinate across marketing channels.
Martin-Gill said the international factor was also a major reason for the move away from CJ to in-house managing of the affiliate program. eBay is looking to turn its program into a global platform where publishers and affiliates can sign up to all the various country-specific programs at once through the same interface.
Shopping API’s and eventually RSS will be implemented into the program as well as in-depth reporting.
I also spoke with ValueClick VP John Ardis and CJ’s Dave Osmond on Friday about eBay’s departure. They emphasized the mutual good will on both sides and said the move was not a surprise, but something that CJ had been working with eBay on for the last couple of years realizing the needs that eBay had for their affiliate program.
Ardis also pointed out that eBay is not severing all ties with ValueClick or Commission Junction since VC’s Mediaplex tracking solution is being used for the eBay Publisher Network and Tradera AB, ProStores, Reseller Marketplace, Media Marketplace, eBay Stores and StubHub will continue to be on the CJ platform.
This is certainly a major development and could signal a sea change for the place of the networks in the affiliate marketing world. We’ll have to see how affiliates and merchants respond to the news.