Affiliate Marketing: Then and Now…

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.

Quarterly & Monthly Payments Become Weekly Wires…

Who remembers working for Associate Program back in the day? The world of affiliate marketing may never have become what it is today if wasn’t there to propel the concept of “referral marketing” and “commissions” to the internet. As an 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. 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. $38.72, Jul 30, 1998

Save Up for That $70 Domain… Now they are Pocket Change!

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.

Commission Junction was a King, but still a Valuable Today

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 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,,, 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.

You’re Going to What Kind of Conference???

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.

Pay per click, Email & Web Sites… to Everything Imaginable!

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.

The Future of Affiliate Marketing

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! 😛

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  1. This is really interesting to see the kind of evolution this industry went through during these years.

    I'm still a newcomer in the affiliate world with a little over 2 years in the industry and the fast-paced changing environment is definitely a huge positive point that made me stick around.

    It's both exciting and challenging!
    My recent post eCommerce- Mini-sites Empire or Giant Site

    1. Even if you just look at the past two years, there has been massive changes and growth. It's amazing how fast things come and go and evolve in this industry.

  2. The Amazon check and CJ payment letter are a real antique Zac.

    Wonder what you will post about in 2021 🙂
    My recent post Most Lucrative Writing Websites to Make Money Online

  3. CJ "IS" still a king, tons of offers, high payouts. I have some friends who ONLY work with Clickbank and CJ, but put six figures in their pocket each month. "Focus" is what we need in affiliate marketing, for niches or marketing methods.

    I also read in some blogs that as an affiliate marketers we must attend conferences, to know people, to get in touch with networks, to be informed with the latest trends etc. But it's so difficult for marketers outside North of America, although we're eager to…
    My recent post 5 Hot Internet Topics in 2011

    1. CJ will probably always be a powerhouse, as expected, but their business model and support has definitely changed over the years. CJ usually grabs the big name companies, which have the money to deal with their high transaction costs. I remember when I dropped three of my merchant programs when them in the early 2000s along with a ton of other merchants, when they made the move to 30%-35% per transaction fee.

  4. You really scratched my itch with this post. I love posts about a time when i was wet behind the years where affiliate marketing was concerned (and almost everything else for that matter).

    I don't know how i would cope today if i was still charged £20 for every US affiliate payment check cashed – bad time, but good!

    1. Luckily I've never had to deal with foreign checks and bank issues, but I hear a lot from others who have. It can really be a burden on your time and payments.

  5. It is so crazy how Amazon Dot Com started everything. Things have changed so much with affiliate marketing and will continue to change as things come. I am an affiliate of Commission junction and they offer some great deals for there affiliates. I am excited to see what will come out in the months for affiliate networks.
    My recent post Networking Pays Itself Off

    1. It's crazy to think back of the old and first affiliate programs…, CDNow,,, … who can name a few more?

  6. It's really amazing to see the changes that affiliate marketing has gone through. The value of the pay increases at the same time the as the number of hours you put in the work. The internet is truly a money making business and it keeps getting better each year.

  7. Wow, there have been a lot of changes in affiliate marketing industry. I thought the game was the same even 10 years ago but it was not. For sure competition has raised but it's still a different game then before!
    My recent post How To Define Your Niche Topic

  8. I've only been doing affiliate marketing for 3 years and there have been significant changes made since I first started…in just three years. Especially, in Adwords and social media advertising.

    HaHa…"Next update in 2021"…it might be sooner when you consider how fast things are changing!


  9. Great post! I actually got my first check around 1999-2000. It was under $100 but I was around 16 years old that time so it was something for me 🙂

  10. Nice to see your perspective Zac. What most of your readers might not realize is that Zac was too young to drink or gamble back in those cruises, which started in 2001. I never saved any of my old checks, but I think the first one was for $1.27 or something like that. I do have canceled checks from our first affiliate payments, but those are stored in a box of records from the '90s! The oldest check I have in my desk is in the returned mail folder, and that one was from December 1998.

  11. Those quarterly checks from Amazon – I remember them well. I started there in 97 and there wasn't online reporting. You'd get the highlights by email quarterly, too.

  12. It was a trip meeting Zac on those cruises when he had to have his dad with him to go… was even cooler when Zac was over 21 and brought dad because they enjoyed the events.

  13. Great post Zac! Brought back a lot of memories. I still have my first domain bought for $70 from Network Solutions that was hosted on Tripod and remember those checks as well (but never thought to keep copies of them)! I also remember you and your dad on the Affiliate Force cruise! The industry has definitely evolved (and lots of friends have been made along the way).
    My recent post Special Offer: Domain Names $1.50 per year.

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