Publishers are seizing on affiliate marketing to make up for lost traditional ad revenue.
“You have major media houses who’ve lost revenue in traditional digital ad buys having to shift to affiliate marketing,” said Blagica Bottigliero, who was most recently the director of affiliate marketing at JEB Commerce and has worked with brands such as Cotopaxi and Dr. Squatch. Bottigliero cited Condé Nast and Meredith publications, as well as offshoots of other outlets specifically created for affiliate marketing, such as New York Times-owned Wirecutter and the Wall Street Journal’s Buy Side.
Articles with affiliate links often include a disclosure line that says something like “every product on this page was chosen by an editor. We may earn commission on some of the items you choose to buy,” to make it clear that the publication is earning money off these placements.
For DTC brands, paying publishers via affiliate marketing can help secure coverage in coveted publications—coverage that can be make-or-break for new entrants in competitive categories.
Vivek Agarwal, founder of DTC swim company Ookioh, said that three years ago, if he wanted an Ookioh suit in a magazine spread, he could contact a fashion editor, and that was it. But now Ookioh must now add affiliate marketing to the mix—and offer a solid commission percentage to stand out.
“Almost all the fashion editors love our stuff. But it's the affiliate managers and the commerce managers who are behind the scenes, and they only look at numbers—so you have to sort of make your value proposition better for them to consider you,” Agarwal said.
And as more of his competitors use editorial affiliate marketing, he said he has had to boost commissions paid to the publishers to get placements: The brand increased its commission rate from 10% of each sale made through affiliate links to 15% of each sale, leading to an overall increase in its affiliate spend.
Of course, depending on the publication, the details of these commissions and what it takes to make a list vary. Betches, for instance, has been growing its affiliate efforts recently; and David Spiegel, chief revenue officer at Betches Media, confirmed that it’s becoming increasingly competitive as more DTC brands enter the space, and more media companies double down on the strategy.
For DTC brands, he said, affiliate marketing became more appealing after Apple cracked down on privacy and DTC companies needed to diversify concrete sales channels. At the same time, due to the recent economic downturn, publishers were trying to diversify their revenue.
“It has become a much more competitive marketplace,” Spiegel said.