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Transparent data in commerce content: better servicing publishers and advertisers

Posted 5 years ago by Seb Blanc

Commerce content publishers and affiliate merchants pull very different levers to maximize incremental revenue at the lowest possible operational cost.

Affiliate networks are great at providing merchants with the data and features they need to grow their program.

But their solution is less of a natural fit on the publisher side. To get a decent market coverage a publisher needs to work with at least half a dozen networks. That makes it complicated and costly to automate the affiliation of links and aggregation of data. Every affiliate network has its own approach on UI and processes, which is great for advertisers as they can choose the approach best for their strategy. But it is hell for an editor that has to work with all of them.

Content publishers have now experimented with commerce for a while and found decent work-arounds.

A few have built very profitable businesses on the back of it – Gizmodo, Ziff Davis, Buzzfeed and Meredith are all great examples. But as the industry matures and publishers become increasingly cost-conscious, the economics of working directly with the networks become less appealing. Publishers end up maintaining a complicated tech stack, with several different vendors, data issues and mounting external and internal costs.

Publishers have to focus on writing great original content their users love and negotiating great partnerships with the top strategic brands they like.

Just like advertisers need affiliate networks to build a strong affiliate program, commerce content publishers need a partner that will free their time and resources from all the nitty gritty of affiliation. It is allowing them to focus on the only two things that create lasting value: writing great original content their users love and negotiating great partnerships with the top strategic brands they like. Affiliate sub-networks tried to play that role and have been successful at automating affiliation of links and providing good analytics to publishers. But critical attributes were missing:

  • Transparency of data to the networks
  • Ability to support exclusive rates for specific merchants
  • A flexible business model that allows content publishers to capture most of the growth they generate.


Skimlinks has turned into a fully transparent data platform, that helps commerce content publishers benefit from the best possible rate from thousands of affiliate programs across dozens of affiliate networks at the lowest possible cost to themselves.

Over the last year, Skimlinks and the main affiliate networks worked tirelessly to build this vision of a world where affiliate advertisers can easily access commerce publishers at scale from day 1 and give any rate to anyone with no additional work on their side. CJ, Awin, Impact, Partnerize, Rakuten Marketing and most recently, Commission Factory have all signed up to our new approach and all teams have done a tremendous job of upgrading our integration and how our commercial teams work together.

While a lot remains to be built, as of November 2019 we have:

Network Signed up to our transparent data initiative Domain-level transparency available to their advertisers Seamless rate management available
Awin Yes Yes Yes
CJ Yes Yes Yes (PID commissioning)
Commission Factory Yes Yes Yes
Impact Yes Yes Yes
Partnerize Yes Yes Yes
Rakuten Marketing Yes Yes TBD

After 12 years in the space, we are convinced that the days of black-box affiliate subnetworks are gone and that the future belongs to transparent data platforms, where setting up individual rate is both automatic and granular. Affiliate was ahead of display in providing attribution and CPA base model, it is still ahead of the game in providing transparency to advertisers.

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