Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Commerce Journalism AKA Affiliate Marketing

Commerce Journalism
As a marketing concept, affiliate links have always had a slightly disreputable feel to them. Adding an affiliate link to content always suggests, at some level, the publisher is more interested in getting paid than providing quality content. At the same time, trusted and authoritative content can move significant traffic through affiliate links, so plenty of marketing strategies focus around affiliate sales.

What's a marketing tactic to do when it falls under a cloud? Well, it falls back on another time honored marketing trick - it changes its name. What was once affiliate marketing is now known as commerce journalism, a name which spawns its own controversies.

Defining Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketing is a subsection of native advertising, although the strategy has a history much longer than the native advertising name. Native advertising describes any marketing which blends with the surrounding content.

Affiliate marketing specifically describes links to sponsors or products within content. An image of a Mustang and a link to Ford parts are both native advertising, but only the link is considered affiliate marketing.

Can Journalism Advertize and Still be Journalism?

Commerce journalism works well enough as a replacement term for affiliate marketing, but the expression puts many people's noses out of joint. At its core, pure journalism is both trustworthy and credible.

Yeah, I know a quick flick through the newsstand or cable news networks reveals how rarely we see pure journalism, but in an ideal world, you should be able to trust the people who provide you with information.

Of course, it's more difficult to trust content containing sponsored links, or when a company pays a writer to produce articles about them. That's not journalism, detractors cried - that's marketing, and calling it anything else is misleading.

Google News and Commerce Journalism

It would be easy enough to dismiss the commerce journalism debate as mere semantics. After all, most commerce journalism doesn't pretend to be real news stories. A gulf of intentions separates a news story from content on a commercial page.

Expect, of course, sometimes the gulf narrows, especially when a canny marketer sees an opportunity. Marketing masquerading as news became so common, the practice goes against Google News' quality guidelines. Affiliate links in Google News articles will attract the unwanted gaze of Google's penalties, which no one wants.

Commerce Journalism or Commerce Content?

Given concerns about journalistic content and the nature of affiliate links, the term commerce content might have raised fewer eyebrows. Most readers expect some monetization in their online content. Readers aren't stupid; they understand bloggers and website owners need to eat. Still, "commerce journalism" was the term coined, so marketers are just going to have to live with it (at least until the concept receives another name change).

Succeeding in Commerce Journalism

Ultimately, your readers probably won't mind commerce journalism, as long as you strive to provide them with trustworthy and accurate information. Building trust takes time. Readers need time to assimilate, test and verify your content, although they may not be aware they're doing it.

As you build trust and authority in your field, you start building a social community based around your content. Once you have a large enough community, you'll start to see traffic through affiliate links.

Honesty is important in commerce journalism. If a company sponsors content, be upfront with your readers. You may not need to give them a heads up about affiliate links within content, but when money changes hands for an entire article, a disclaimer helps build your readers trust (and makes them more likely to click on links, as you've proven you're not hiding anything.

Most importantly, commerce journalism provides content and information first, and market opportunities second. Obvious advertising copy drives off readers. Give them useful information so they keep coming back, and eventually they'll check out your affiliate links.

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  1. Renaming affiliate marketing to commerce journalism - I'm not too happy with this idea!

  2. In fact, I agree with the former comment.There are enough of serious affiliate marketers to make this expression stand out even in the future.Don´t press this too far, Derek.Don´t forget the need of the right attitude towards this niche as well.


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