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The Skinny on Subnetworks From Brands and Agencies

Mar 20, 2023 by Jim Nichols

Key Takeaways

  • Subnetworks are playing a large and growing component in the affiliate ecosystem
  • Brands choose to work with subnetworks because of the convenience of a single point of contact, access to publishers unavailable through direct relationships, and an efficient way to work with publishers too small to warrant direct relationships
  • Access to mainstream media publishers significantly drives interest in doing business with subnetworks. Some brands that historically excluded subnetworks from programs are now open to them to access unique content opportunities 
  • People define subnetworks in different ways. Some, for example, view owned and operated publisher groups as subnetworks. Others don’t
  • Inventory quality and customer service standards are improving. Some provide excellent service, especially to large brands. Others offer little advertiser service
  • Brands say many subnetworks have made improvements around transparency and data access but want them to do more


Recently, Martech Record hosted a webinar (write-up, recording) with leading publishers and subnetworks to discuss their relationships and the value they deliver to one another. The session was one of our most popular, so we are following up with advertiser and agency perspectives. 

Subnetworks have been part of the affiliate ecosystem since the beginning. Originally developed to make it easier for brands and publishers to do business, subnetworks have evolved considerably and offer more varied value propositions today. According to the Performance Marketing Association Affiliate Marketing Survey, subnetworks represent 12% of total category investment and are growing even faster than the industry average.

We spoke with a broad range of brand and agency industry experts to understand the value that subnetworks deliver and what’s great and not-so-great about working with them. 


Linking entities. Network, networking, social media, internet coCORE VALUE PROPOSITIONS

Brands gave two main reasons why they choose to work with subnetworks: convenience and access to publishers that either don’t work directly or are too niche to justify direct relationships.

Program Convenience and Speed-to Market

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