Affiliate Marketing

Do affiliate links undermine the marketing value of holiday gift guides? – RetailWire

Nov 13, 2020

Holiday gift guides have arrived from Oprah Magazine, Buzzfeed, The New York Times, CNET and numerous other publications and sites promising curated collections of tasteful gift offerings. They also include commission-driven, affiliated links.

Gaining the most coverage is Oprah Winfreys 24th annual Favorite Things?, which highlighted merchandise from Black-owned and Black-led businesses. The list was launched with a video of Oprah surprising a few of the selected business owners.

Among retailers, Oprahs winner is The list in fact has been labeled as Presented By Amazon for the last few years. Purchase links to items on Oprahs list head straight to Amazon, not only from her magazines website, but also from articles showcasing her list on InStyle, Today, Real Homes and several other sites.

Today wrote in its disclaimer, “Our editors independently selected these items because we think you will enjoy them and might like them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission.

Real Homes wrote that it, is supported by its audience and 100 percent independent. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. This helps us continue to bring you more of the content you love.

Among other examples of affiliate marketing, posts separate articles from Nordstrom, Walmart and Sephora featuring their respective holiday lists.

The New York Times holiday guide offers an extensive collection of gifts independently chosen by editors of the paper and Wirecutter, a review site it acquired in 2016. The Times indicates it may earn a commission on purchases through these links.

Reviews from tech blog sites likewise promise editorial independence, yet are supported by sales commissions. In a review, Mashable described Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts guide as especially out of touch in 2020, yet included links in the article to purchase products.

According to an article on Harvard’s Nieman Journalism website, the main tension with publishers earning affiliate revenue comes from the fact that reviews that are positive generate more sales. Some retailers give publishers a larger cut than others, potentially influencing recommendations.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you consider commission-driven affiliate marketing programs to be ethical for publishers as well as for retailers? What guidelines should such programs follow?


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“Ideally, publishers should curate their lists first and then let the manufacturers or retailers know that their item has made the list.”


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