The Di5ru.pt blog

In challenging economic times, monetisation comes to the fore of media owners’ and executives’ agendas as they try to find new ways of generating revenue.

Over the previous few years more and more have turned to introducing affiliate schemes as a way to offset money that would otherwise have been harvested via traditional display advertising. Sometimes they have been successful, at other times things haven’t worked as they had planned.

So where are we with affiliate revenue in summer 2023? Will the tectonic shift in advertising, ignited by the shift from third-party data, once again push affiliate revenue to the fore?

One person who has some strong opinions on this is Richard Bean, the CRO of Affiliz which has created a single tool that manages all a company’s affiliations, from content production to billing.

In this interview, Richard, whose company is also part of the MX3 Collectif (see here for more details) acknowledges that affiliate systems haven’t always been huge successes in the past but is confident that thanks to technology companies can now make the revenue source work for them.

Do you think media companies across the globe are now on a permanent shift from relying on advertising to other revenue sources? Or might their enthusiasm for ads as a primary source return one day?

I wouldn’t say that anything in the media industry is permanent because everything is shifting all the time! Always has done, always will do.

But yes, there does seem to be a global focus on establishing a broader revenue base and looking to maximise opportunities from sources other than advertising.  

Who do you think in media companies is driving this shift (Directors, editorial teams, CROs) and how do you, as a potential partner, target them?

Everyone!  I think everyone in smart media businesses are thinking about how to broaden the revenue base.  The impetus needs to come from the top, but the initiative can come from anywhere in the business.

Affiliate is a great example of this as one of the cries we quite often hear is, “Our editorial teams will fiercely protect their integrity and independence”.  

But there’s absolutely no need to compromise either of these principles when building a successful affiliate revenue stream.  You can review a product and call it good, bad or indifferent but where is the harm in showing your readers where they can buy it?

It’s really pleasing to see how many editorial teams embrace the affiliate opportunity once they recognise this.

Why do you think there are still many media companies that don’t take advantage of the possibility of affiliate revenue?

I think most media companies have dabbled with affiliate at some point, but a lot have quickly concluded that it was a long walk for a short drink.

However, over the past few years the support for media companies looking to take advantage of the affiliate opportunity has grown enormously.  Companies like Affilizz can take care of the fiddly, administrative back-office tasks that are so laborious but so very, very critical.

Affilizz makes the affiliate journey more palatable. We enable media businesses to build scale quickly and efficiently and to redress the imbalance between walk and refreshment (apologies for the terrible analogy – it’s Friday evening and I want to go to the pub).

What advice would you give to companies in ensuring that their affiliate offering is as effective as possible?

Start with your editorial teams. Great editors understand their audiences and – even though they may not consciously realise it – great editorial teams will have an awareness of what their audiences want to buy, when they want to buy it and where.     

Then don’t get bogged down in technology.  Work with companies like Affilizz who will help you realise your latent affiliate revenue potential.

Are there any technologies that will change the way affiliate offerings will evolve? AI potentially?

Ah, the question of the year!  The simple answer is yes.  We’re a tech business and our team are constantly looking at new ways to evolve our platform to improve the performance of media businesses affiliate programmes.

And AI is absolutely front and centre of these developments.  Affilizz has an exciting new product feature very close to launch which I think will have an enormous impact on the way media businesses build out their affiliate offering.  I can’t say much more at the moment but watch this space!

And what if anything will be the impact of the ongoing shift away from third party data to affiliate offerings?

One of the great things about affiliate is that it can be personal data free.  We don’t need to know who you are when you make a purchase, we just need to know that a purchase has been made.  

We are not reliant on third party data to serve up to a user a product that we think they may want to buy. The user is already looking at editorial content about a product or service they have an interest in buying and we can inform them where that product or service is available and at what price. 

Ultimately what do you see as the future of affiliate revenue in publishing?

Affiliate is quickly becoming a core component of tier-1 content media businesses revenue mix and its importance is going to increase.

Media businesses have always generated consumer demand.  Driving purchase intent through news, previews, reviews, tutorials & features has been fundamental (to a greater or lesser extent) in every single commercial media business I have ever come across.  But historically, the moment someone has taken out their credit card out to make a purchase we’ve waved them off to who knows where?

We can now sit at the business end of the relationship between media brands and their consumers – at the point where a consumer is about to spend their money on demand generated by that brand.  

When someone is about to spend $200 on a new pair of running shoes, they will do so on the recommendation of an expert.  On the advice of someone they trust.  They won’t take a chance on some bot.  And the opportunity now exists for trusted brands to be compensated for that.  

For the foreseeable future, I think this is where Di5rupt’s audience has an advantage over AI.