Is Affiliate Marketing Dead?

It's a far different landscape than what it was in 1999 when I first heard the term “affiliate”. Heck, just think about it. This was 2 years before I discovered Google, 6 years before YouTube and dial-up Internet connections were the norm.

In 1999 there were no Internet conferences like Affiliate Summit, and people were being routinely being told by mainstream media not to use their credit cards online. Back then there were certainly no credible affiliate marketing trainings.

It's hilarious to think back and recall that often I was asked, “is it legal?” when telling family and friends and I was making money online as an affiliate.

We've come a long way since the early days.

But is the end in sight?

The New Rules

I make it a point to attend at least 4-5 conferences a year. I do this partly because it's fun to meet up with students or listeners to one of my affiliate marketing podcasts. And I usually attend with my wife Arlene, who works with me in the business, often adding a few extra days holiday, which we call a “breakation”.

But I also feel the need to stay up-to-date on industry trends and get the latest on the regulatory front.

And so, I like many others who make a living online, are aware of big changes in the way in which we now operate. When some hear about the new “privacy rules” soon to be implemented by the U.S government people ask, “does this mean merchants will lose the ability to track sales and pay commissions?”

It's a legitimate concern. And one could easily make the case that the industry will die once these privacy rules are implemented.

But one also needs to realize that without “cookies” the Internet itself would die.

You would not be able to handle much of the online work we all take for granted, such as online banking. The search engines themselves could not function without data mining.

Right now things are in flux. And there is no doubt in my mind that what will emerge, after all sides make their case, is a sane privacy policy that does not restrict e-commerce in any way.

So let's be reasonable. Nothing can stop ecommerce now that it's such an important global economic driver.

Merchant Liability For Merchants In Some States

Another concern I hear about are those related to state laws holding merchants liable for content posted on affiliate sites. Amazon has already taken the step of not accepting affiliates who live in three jurisdictions where they could now get sued if an affiliate were to make false and misleading statements.

Personally, I don't think these jurisdictions have the right to do that. And there probably are court challenges underway because Amazon's ability to do business is being unfairly hampered.

But for now, it is what it is.

We All Need To Adapt

There was a time when you could board an air plane without taking your shoes off or given the choice ow low-dose radiation or a lurid pat down.

And there was also a time when we who make our living online had few regulatory issues to deal with. Heck, in the early days we were mostly concerned with reverse engineering Google's latest algorithm so when the “Google Dance” began we could see our rankings soar!

But those days are gone.

And maybe that's a good thing. I don't mind the regulatory guys coming in because, frankly, there are some characters online who seem to think the “Internet” is their license to steal.

If the new sheriff in town can take a few of these crooks out of the game, I say great!

A year ago it became a requirement that affiliates post a disclaimer stating they could receive remuneration for posting their content. That's okay. No problem being square with people by saying, yes, this is what I think – and oh, by the way, be advised that I may be biased in my opinion because I get paid if you make a purchase from anyone I recommend.

In our society it's nothing new to see celebrities pitch products. And, does anyone really care if Troy Polamanu uses Head and Shoulders shampoo? (my guess he can afford better stuff than that)

So let's not be too concerned with new rules. Those who adapt will always come out on top.

About the Author

James Martell lives in White Rock, BC with his wife Arlene and their four children. James is a pioneer in the affiliate marketing industry and was successfully profiting with affiliate websites as early as 1999. Visit his website for the very latest in news and tips on how to make money with affiliate programs.


  1. Pete Markovic says:

    "But I also feel the need to stay up-to-date on industry trends and get the latest on the regulatory front."

    As one of your long-time bootcamp members and an affiliate marketer, I find it reassuring that you believe that the affiliate marketing industry will undergo some change but that it will be for the better.

    I have watched the internet evolve from its infancy to current day, and find it increasingly difficult to try and stay abreast of the latest technology and marketing techniques.

    It is a “big load off’ however to have someone I can trust, that stays on top of the rolling ball, and keeps me up to date with all the latest information that I need to keep my online business on track.

    Thanks James and Arlene

    Pete Markovic

  2. James Martell says:

    Hey Pete, great to hear from you. I agree it is tough to stay abreast of things. The industry seems to be growing exponentially. I do find attending as many conferences as I do helpful, but it is a challenge. It's a good thing that we don't need to know it all to succeed.


  3. puppet shows says:

    I'm interested in this kind of business. I've been reading a lot of ebooks but I don't know where to start. The thing is a lot of things are happening in the online industry - lots of changes! What kind of conferences are you attending to and can you please give me a rough idea on how much it would cost me?

  4. Kevin says:

    Great article James!

    I understand this article is dated Feb 2011. Since then (now being September 2012), there has been this huge debate over the Affiliate Nexus Law which has crushed my dreams of being able to make a decent side income through amazon and other merchants. I live in Georgia (Nexus Law has passed here) and Amazon and several other merchants have dropped their affiliates. What do newbies like myself do in such a scenario. I have not lost any money since I was on the verge of creating my site & starting my affiliate business. However, where do I go from here? What other ways can I make money online legit way? Please help.


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