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TopList: Seven Content Types That Will Change Affiliate in 2024

Dec 15, 2023 by Michael McNerney

Affiliate is a constantly evolving space because its essence isn’t a particular channel but rather a merchandising strategy that can apply to virtually any digital media.

 

From its narrow scope a decade ago, affiliate has expanded in all directions. Sometimes, new types of content appear and quickly fizzle because they don’t drive the outcomes our industry requires. Other times, new content types fundamentally alter the space. Witness how influencers and mainstream content publishers have radically altered the landscape and driven accelerated sales growth.

 

Key Takeaways

  • Several forms of content have strong potential to drive significant change in our industry next year
  • Embedded Commerce, which puts fully functional stores on publisher sites next to related content, reduces friction in the buying process and may significantly improve conversion rates.
  • Content Site Discount Venues, which create sections offering collections of coupons and discount codes, may help content publishers capture more last-mile conversions and disintermediate traditional, discount-centric affiliates.
  • AI Content Farms are growing in number and scale, posing increased risks for brands and agencies and diverting traffic from quality publishers and content. Brands and their agencies must focus on quality partners and scrutinize small and medium-sized content sites as well as their subnetworks
  • TikTok Shop has debuted in the US. The company’s massive reach into younger demos and its slippery-slick buying process give it serious sales potential if it can navigate the many governmental challenges it faces at the state and federal levels.
  • Domain Licensing refers to one publisher brand working with another to develop new commercial content on its domain. It has the potential to dramatically expand the pool of available commercial content
  • Reddit and Niche Social Platform Marketing leverage large and growing

So, which new types of content will be game-changers in 2024? Here are seven content types that have enormous potential.

 

Embedded Commerce

Perhaps the form of content with the greatest potential to impact affiliate, embedded commerce moves the purchase mechanism from the advertiser’s site to the content site. The consumer transacts without the redirect to the retailer site. With embedded commerce, mini-shopping experiences are integrated into editorial and other content to facilitate immediate shopping and buying.

We all know that results improve when we remove friction from the buying process. Embedded commerce eliminates the need to leave the content that attracted prospect attention to transact. It may also make it less likely that rival merchants could somehow intercept would-be customers. Many companies focus on this area, including several Martech Record highlighted in the past. Carted, Katalys, and Fermat Commerce have different approaches for you to look into.

Embedded commerce may also significantly improve the fortunes of content publishers. Consider: If a content creator drives a large share of a brand’s sales through embedded commerce on its pages, they might try to take a meatier cut. Equally, embedded commerce is so strategically appealing that it may act as a “killer app” to help affiliate leaders increase brand investment in the space.

IMPLICATIONS: If it can live up to its promise, the business potential of embedded commerce is enormous. Brands and agencies should learn how your top partners are experimenting with the space and look into the growing number of companies trying to “bring the store to the customer.” This is a Wild West at the moment, and some solutions require a commitment from both advertiser and publisher while others are trying to find a way to deliver commerce functionality inside ad units. Content publishers should also be examining the business potential here closely, as it may help them drive more immediate transactions and, over time, increase their power in the affiliate relationship.

Content Site Discount Venues

As content publishers get more and more savvy about affiliate, they are constantly looking for new ways to monetize traffic. Many sites are now implementing deal and coupon areas to disintermediate traditional affiliate coupon and cashback sites from the customer journey.

This idea isn’t new – Global Savings Group, TSG Commerce, and Savings United have offered publishers coupons and other services for years. What is new is the number of publishers committed to building their coupon areas. Many top publishers are now working with the providers above or have established internal teams to create coupon and deal subsites.

IMPLICATIONS: Understanding how and where your products are being merchandised is vital for brands and agencies. Similarly, opening your program to promotion-centric opportunities on content sites creates great growth opportunities while bringing the brand association that makes content partnerships so appealing. For content publishers, the scale of the potential business opportunity will depend on your traffic, audience composition, and the kinds of products appropriate for your editorial mission. The more “impulse-oriented” a category, the more likely you can get an immediate lift from this content type. For traditional affiliates, it’s important to recognize the sales potential of these new competitors and formulate strategies to make inclusion in the customer journey more compelling and frictionless. For example, many coupon sites are challenging to navigate and contain incorrect or outdated offers. By improving the quality of customer experience and merchandising the larger number of available offers, you can continue to add consumer value and prosper.

AI Content Farms

AI is changing marketing for the better in many ways, but like all powerful technologies, there are swings and roundabouts. On the plus side, many platforms have implemented AI to help affiliate marketers make mundane content assets (do we really need humans to write “20% off with code GIMME20”) and are assisting publishers in choosing new content topics based on what’s popular. Additionally, Affiliate.ai has launched an offering that enables industry practitioners to ask questions about their data and get answers instantly.

One of the destructive consequences of generative AI is the rise of “content” sites where what’s being produced is published with little or no oversight. According to the Wall Street Journal, quality publishers are inundated with content pitches for subpar AI-generated content.

Additionally, because it is so easy to ask AI platforms to generate content that includes keywords, AI content farms are proliferating. NewsGuard, a company that provides transparent tools to detect misinformation, published a study focused on the programmatic ad space that found $2.6B in advertiser messages running on error-riddled AI content farms – some publishing 1200 articles per day.  That waste figure is equivalent to more than a quarter of the entire affiliate spend in the US.

Low-quality content is a severe problem for a media industry built on CPM impressions. But what about for affiliate/CPA? At first glance, farms that attract potential clickers may not seem like a big problem. After all, a (human) click is a click, no matter where it comes from. But all this “spam” content makes it harder for customers to find the right products, poses risks for brands when their ads appear next to incorrect information, and increases the potential for integration in objectionable content.

But even reputable media companies are leveraging AI to produce low quality content. Sports Illustrated was recently found to have published AI generated stories where even the bylines and photos of the "journalists" turns out to have been produced by third party Advon Commerce via AI. Much of the leadership team at Sports Illustrated subsequently lost their jobs - ostensibly for other reasons.  

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