ProductsLast week I was at an office supply store getting some things photocopied.

As I was standing in line, I flipped through the magazine and saw a little box on one of the pages.

(To green box on the right is a scan of that box.)

As an internet marketer (or presumably someone somewhat interested in internet marketing), what do you see wrong with this picture?

I’ll tell you what’s wrong…

The URLs listed ( & aren’t affiliate links!

Why aren’t these affiliate links? They could be made to look like, which would redirect to an online store that has an affiliate program.

The magazine would then make money whenever someone buys one of the products via that link.

The magazine does everything else the same and doesn’t have to spend a penny, but they get a commission off of every product sold. They’d make more money by doing that one simple thing!

So why AREN’T magazines, newspapers, and books using affiliate links?

I came up with a few reasons, though feel free to chime in and add your own:

Reason 1: The product company might already be paying the magazine (or at least giving them the stuff to try for free) to mention or review the products, and they (the product company) don’t want any additional money taken out of their bottom line.

Reason 2: There might be an ethical gray area here. I’m guessing that one reason magazines and newspapers don’t do this is that they’d say they want to be as neutral and unbiased as possible when it comes to reviewing things. For example, if the magazine did a big review of the shoes seen in the box above, it could be in their best interest (financially) to gloss over the negative aspects.

At the same time, though, it would be in the magazine’s best interest to be objective and unbiased when it comes to reviewing things. It could hurt their credibility otherwise. For example, if a magazine very highly recommends a certain book and I follow their affiliate link to Amazon, do you think I’d still trust the magazine if the most of the reviews gave the book only one or two stars? No.

Information is too accessible these days, and because of that, like I said, it would be in the publication’s best interest to stick with honest reviews. So I don’t think that reason #2 is valid.

It’s the same way with blogs online; bloggers review products and often use affiliate links in their reviews. But it is in the blogger’s best interest to honestly and completely review the product (while disclosing any affiliate links) and not just give it glowing reviews.

And one more thing… No magazine or newspaper is unbiased and unaffiliated anyway! They all have some kind of agenda. I don’t think that becoming affiliates for certain products would tarnish or alter their image any more than that.

Reason 3: This is actually just a few more possible reasons.

  • Maybe the publications simply don’t know about affiliate marketing (though I find that a bit hard to believe)?
  • Maybe they’ve tried it and it doesn’t work (though I find that doubtful for the vast majority of publications)?
  • Maybe they’re too antiquated, stuck in their ways, and stuffy to try it?

What do you think? WHY aren’t magazines and newspapers using affiliate marketing for their product reviews?

Want an example?

Now, there IS a book that’s doing it right… almost (and I’m sure there are many others out there that I don’t know of). It’s the new The 4-Hour Body by Tim Ferriss, author of The 4-Hour Workweek (which changed my life). And yes, both of those are affiliate links, by the way :)

I actually started reading this book the day after I realized that print publications should have affiliate ads/recommendations.

At the end of each chapter, Tim lists several resources online where you can either find out more about what he’s talked about, or buy products he mentions. I could have sworn that Tim does announce somewhere at the beginning of the book that some of the links are indeed affiliate links, and that all proceeds from those links go to some charity. But I just tried to find where in the book he said that so that I could share the exact words he uses, and I couldn’t find it. Maybe I made it up, because I DID find the thing at the beginning where he says,

10% of all author royalties are donated to cure-driven research.

And then later on in the intro he says,

To spare you the headache of typing out paragraph-long URLs, all long website addresses have been replaced with a short address that will send you to the right place.

So maybe I just combined those two in my head and thought he said that some of them we affiliate links…?

ANYWAY. Doesn’t matter that much. Let me show you what he does at the end of each chapter:

4 Hour Body

(Sorry for the poor quality; it’s a photograph and not a scan.)

He lists additional resources, complete with URLs. How easy would it be to turn these into affiliate links (if they’re not already)?

Now again, the argument might come up that an author would recommend things he/she doesn’t use just so that he/she can make that affiliate sale. But tell me…

What do YOU think? Would you be concerned seeing affiliate links in a book?

The other side of affiliate marketing…

Let’s talk about another aspect of affiliate marketing…

As I understand it, magazine and newspaper circulation rates are down; people are not subscribing and buying as many issues as they used to. Well… why don’t the publication companies set up an affiliate program?

Now, I realize that magazines make their money from ads and not at the newsstands. But still, couldn’t the magazines figure out how much each reader is worth to them, and then pay less than that to their affiliates for referring new subscribers?

I don’t know. I don’t know the economics of the industry well enough to know if that would be possible at all. But I think it would. If they can sell magazines at a discounted price to retailers like book stores, why couldn’t they give the dollar equivalent of that discount to those people who refer new readers/subscribers/buyers their way?

Few things are more powerful than an evangelizing fan club that is extra motivated by making an extra buck.

Final words

Would this actually save print publishing? Who knows. I’m certainly no magazine executive and have no idea if this would work. But here’s the bottom line:

Adding affiliate links in print—whether they be included in product reviews, as “For more information, check this out…” type plugs, or any other kind of recommendation—would make the authors or publishers more money.

It works for bloggers and online publishers; why wouldn’t it work for print publishers? Granted, it might not work quite as well (since you can’t just click on a link in a magazine), but I still think it would make extra money.

Even if newspapers, magazines, and books don’t include affiliate links in their articles, they should at least have redirected links for every URL. Why? So that the product company can track, monitor, and analyze exactly how effective their ads were!

Over to you

Affiliate marketing is not something I’m very comfortable with. Sure, I know how it works and I’ve made affiliate sales, but it’s not a game I’ve been in for very long.

So I want your views. What do you think?

  • What would you think if you saw affiliate links in magazines? Newspapers? Books?
  • Would you still buy these publications?
  • Would you think any less of them?
  • Do you think this would really make any money for the print publications?
  • What are some other reasons of why print publications currently don’t use affiliate links? Do you agree or disagree with my reasons?

Let me know!