Amazon just made a big change to its affiliate program, which could have an impact on the incomes of members ranging from YouTube stars to traditional media companies.
The Amazon Associates program has long allowed its members to earn a commission when a shopper buys a product through a special tracking link. The percentage varies by category, but it is usually on the order of five percent.
Currently, that percentage goes up whenever an affiliate hits a new volume threshold. In other words, the more you sell, the more you earn. But as of March 1, Amazon appears to be axing that feature and cutting rates in several categories. Moz CEO Rand Fishkin posted a compare-and-contrast tweet Friday:
Amazon didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. The email they sent to affiliates said, "We have received feedback from associates that the advertising fee structure could be made clearer, especially with respect to understanding which products are in fixed-fee categories and which products are in tiered-fee categories. These changes simplify the fee structure, clearly defining the advertising fees you can earn by referring traffic to Amazon."
Media reporter Mathew Ingram tweeted, "Not great for media who rely on affiliate revenue[,]" potentially a nod to popular gadget reviews The Wirecutter, which was acquired by The New York Times. Technology journalist Michael Morisy quipped, "Amazon reworks affiliate program, cutting commissions 50% for electronics. Guess they think Jet threat has passed?" in a reference to up-and-coming Amazon rival Jet.com, which sold to Walmart in a deal largely regarded as a failure for the startup.
On the technology-focused forum Hacker News, a user who goes by "graeme" pointed out, "This is likely to have a massive [e]ffect on the blog/article review ecosystem. Most of the review sites that exist today only do so because of [A]mazon's fairly generous programs. I expect in aggregate there will be a shift in what lines of business people decide to get into, based on this." A user called "sharkweek" said that "[a]s an Amazon affiliate who has done quite well with it, this is definitely a gutting." The mood is equally grim on a subreddit for people building affiliate websites.