With nearly 15 years under my belt in the internet marketing and affiliate space, I thought it would be fun to throw a post together that highlights some of the changes in affiliate marketing over the decade place. There really is no better industry to work than on the internet. You have the freedom to run your own business and progress with changes that are moving at the speed of light. Where else can 15 year old become millionaires from the corner room in their parents house? Did you know what affiliate marketing was five years ago? This post will bring you back in time if you’re a veteran marketer, or simply show you what you may have missed if you’re a recent player in the affiliate marketing game.
Who remembers working for Amazon.com Associate Program back in the day? The world of affiliate marketing may never have become what it is today if Amazon.com wasn’t there to propel the concept of “referral marketing” and “commissions” to the internet. As an Amazon.com affiliate, you would receive a commission ranging from 5-15% for all referred sales, which was mainly books and movies back in the late 90s. Amazon.com would send out affiliate checks on a quarterly basis… now over a decade later, the majority of affiliate networks are offering weekly wire transfers and debit cards to pay affiliates.
Amazon.com: $38.72, Jul 30, 1998
I’ll never forget the first domain name I purchased. I was already making good money online for a while now, but hosting most of my sites off free AOL/GeoCities/Tripod sites. I finally paid the insane $70 ($35 per year/2 years required) for a domain name through Network Solutions, and I still have that domain name today. Now only if I bought a ton of generic domain names that were still available in 1998!!!! Now you can grab a domain name for a few dollars, and some web hosts will even give you a free domain name just for setting up a hosting account.
Network Solutions was the Domain Monopoly Back in the 90s.
Back in the day, if you wanted to make money with affiliate marketing, there was really only one place you needed to go, and that was CommissionJunction.com. CJ was a major player in the affiliate space and actually the first conference I ever went to in 2000, which was a collection of all their publishers and merchants. Many names in attendance back then were Jackpot.com, Coupons.com, WinDaily.com, Grab.com. Thinking back to 1999, online business was so personable, and CJ even sent out letters with each check, today you will be lucky if you hear back from some affiliate managers within a few days… though this usually happens to most companies when they are purchased and acquired by a new company. Commission Junction is still a powerhouse today, but nothing like the near monopoly they had in the late 90s and early 2000s. In 2003, Commission Junction was acquired by ValueClick for $53 million in cash. In 2005, ValueClick also purchased WebClients for $141 million, which was one of the first affiliate networks I used to push CPA related offers.
As mentioned earlier, CJU 2000 was the first internet marketing conference I ever went to, but there were still a few other pioneers at this time that knew affiliate marketing was going to be huge. A man by the name of Herby Olschewski created an affiliate marketing event like no other (at the time), which was called Affiliate Force. The whole conference was held on a cruise that sailed out of Miami Florida and around the Caribbean, then back to Miami, Fl. Keep in mind, this is back in 2003… throwing an event like this today would be nothing out of the norm, but back in 2002, affiliate marketing was rarely known and having to convince companies and their staff that they were going to a conference on a cruise was valuable, was a bit of a stretch. Affiliate Force was an amazing event and it actually put together some of the great partnerships we see today. Many attendees of Affiliate Summit were first introduced to each other at Affiliate Force. Affiliate Force 2002 was also the first event that I spoke at. Between Commission Junction’s annual CJU event, and Affiliate Force, there weren’t too many other affiliate related conferences and events going on. Jump forward nearly a decade and we can’t even try to attend the amount of conferences there are today! Just to mention a few… Affiliate Summit, Social Media Week in NYC, Linkshare Symposium, BlogWorld, AdTech… and not to mention all of the private and smaller networking conferences put together by individual networks.
During the last night of the Affiliate Force, there was always a crazy after party on the ship deck.
Warren Corpus, Shawn Collins, Missy Ward, Jim Kukral and others were always in attendance.
Thinking back about a decade, you didn’t have too many options for creating an income online or through affiliate marketing… that is at least, compared to today! Building a web site, creating ppc campaigns with Google Adwords and sending out to mailings lists, newsletters and spam were the methods of choice back then. Today your options for revenue generation is limitless. Social networking, Facebook Ads, PPV, game installs, zip offers, and nearly every web site having some form of affiliate marketing… the times have definitely changed. With more affiliate networks and tracking solutions available then ever, affiliate marketing is now thriving more than ever.
What will the future hold for affiliate marketing? Those who continue to spend endless hours creating new methods for promotions, testing ad creatives and building networks and platforms the put others to shame, will continue to develop this space. The future of affiliate marketing lies with us, the affiliates, publishers, gurus, bloggers, merchants, networks and everyone in between.
Look for the next update in 2021! 😛
My name is Zac Johnson and I have been an online entrepreneur for the past 18 years and blogger since 2007. This is my personal blog and I welcome you to the site. In full disclosure, it is safe to assume that I am benefiting financially or otherwise from everything you click on, read, or look at while on my website.
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