This person wrote a blog post with a few Amazon links under his affiliate code. Some people read his blog post, click the links, (and probably read the reviews), and decided to buy the book.
The person gets the kickback, the interested readers get the books they want to read, and everybody is happy.
But why am I reading stuff like "getting away with murder", "purity", and etc?
Why such negativity/hate?
A concrete example would be writing an especially glowing review of the new Kindle because you have a vested stake in people buying them. Or, perhaps, NOT writing a glowing review because you fear it will be perceived as shilling for affiliate cash.
It's the reason why most reputable newspapers do not allow their ad sales staff to communicate with the editorial staff about content.
In fact On The Media recently did a story about the Washington Post struggling with whether or not to include Amazon affiliate links in its book reviews. I think it presents both sides of the argument: http://www.onthemedia.org/2011/nov/11/web-links-money-makers...
I'd like to think that a regular reader of a publication should be able to figure out if that publication is shilling when it should be objective. On my Nine Inch Nails site, when I link to Amazon, it's about a CD/Vinyl/MP3 album that just came out, and I think that makes sense. If I posted about some shitty Trent Reznor bio and mentioned the linkKindle Version/link available for the linkKindle/link I fully expect my readers to flog me. And I'm not saying that every blog out there pays attention to editorial ethics the way I feel I do, and I've given people a hard time about sneaky affiliate links too. But I think that there is a 'right' way to use them.
When I started my site a dozen years ago, I wanted it to be a place people went to read NIN news. Money wasn't part of the equation. But if you're already linking to sites that have affiliate programs, you'd be foolish not to take advantage of those affiliate programs.
If someone writes a meaningful glowing review of the new Kindle, then there should be information and details in the content of the writing that explains why they think it is so great. If there is no such information in the article, then the article probably isn't very helpful, and neither the presence nor absence of affiliate links will change that.
But what if it is an awful fluffy review written for the express purpose of making an affiliate sale? Is this wrong, per se? If something in the article either directly or indirectly prompts a reader to click on the link and they make the purchase, then what harm has been done?
Newspapers likely disallow such practices in order to maintain journalistic integrity, but a blog author who is writing posts on purpose to sell things is probably not interested in maintaining journalistic integrity. The blog author is just interested in selling stuff. Maybe the blog posts are well-written and interesting, or maybe they are not. If they are not, then readers who care principally about content will likely avoid the blog on the lack of merit of the content itself.
A product review is close to useless if you have no trust in its author. The crux of a review is the author's opinion about something. Whatever verifiable facts are contained in the review are still only those facts the author chooses to highlight. Consider: if authorship doesn't matter, why is a review different from a press release? In short, a review cannot speak for itself because context matters.
Let's set aside the ambiguous case of adding affiliate links and talk about out-and-out payola. If a blogger takes a secret cash payment to write a false product review, then I believe that is dishonest and wrong no matter how well written or useful the review may be. (And not to confuse what's legal with what's ethical, but taking cash for reviews on your blog might even be illegal.)
You might be in a position to turn down free money for hypothetical reasons, but I'm not.
Edit: I'm not saying I agree with the negativity. It's just an answer to the parent's question.
Leaving aside that I have to ask this question (WTF dude?) for a $12 book you get something like 60 cents, considering a 7% referral fee. And you can make less than that per the number of items sold, as lots of people end up buying something a lot less expensive, like an MP3 (since they buy from Amazon and are right there anyway), with the more expensive items helping to balance that. And I haven't sold any tractors.
So the total fee pales in comparison with the revenue Amazon generated from that article and if Amazon wouldn't do that, then the affiliate program would be basically a joke.
This is why online communications are though and no substitute for real world interactions - there's no body language to read between the lines and so you have to be pretty specific in expressing yourself.
Person purchasing the 'other stuff' never knows/cares.
Amazon is happy.
Affiliate is happy.
To some people, whenever anyone is making a profit, however small ... some people believe that someone, somewhere, has to be getting the raw end of the deal.
Note: I'm not saying putting Amazon links on your blog means you can be still be 100% objective (you can't), but rather pointing out a deep-seated belief that I have noticed among some, especially those who've found a way to make a living on GPL'd code, for example, and think iPads should be free.
It's a stretch, but you could argue that prices are slightly higher because Amazon has to pay the affiliates.
Also, seriously, his cut doesn't get added to your bill. Almost nothing happens totally for free, and I'd rather have free-to-view content with affiliate links than buy my way through a paywall for every damn thing on the internet.
I've seen way too many poorly thrown together blog posts about the top 10 CS books to read, that I have my finger on the back button when looking at those types of links because past experience has taught me that 90% of them are just put together so they can put Amazon affiliate links on the books.
The rule of thumb I use is that if each blog post I see on the site has an Amazon affiliate link then the blog is probably trying to spam me and they'll have a harder time of keeping me there.
Some blogs do succeed via their tremendous writing.
Is it just me or do others feel this way? Does anyone else care at all if affiliate links are all over a blog page?
Personally, I never install ad-blockers. If a website or a mobile app is too obnoxious, I just close the browser window (or hit back, just as you). Ad-blockers, IMHO, solve the wrong problem. However, in general I tolerate such attempts, as content authoring can take a lot of time and trying to make a buck or two is not a sin.
Disclaimer: I'm the author of this article.
Originally I wanted to write a blog post about my adventures in learning how to draw, however feeling that my experience isn't adequate, I settled for a summary of the books I've been reading, plus I always wanted to experiment with either AdSense or Amazon's Associates, basically to see what happens (what the conversion rate is and so on).
That's why on TVs you get the 'infomercial' warning and the 'this is an advert' banner in papers (certainly in my country anyway).
Having an affiliate link makes the article an advert as you are selling the book. An article such as yours can be interpreted as a shop front masquerading as free advice as soon as you put affiliate links in it, regardless of whether it affected your article or not.
Bloggers are getting away with murder right now compared to print advertising.
I realise this is not your intention, but that's why it is not the same as ad-supported products in general should be held to higher standards as their adverts are usually clearly marked where yours was not.
Bloggers are getting away with murder right
now compared to print advertising
Incidentally, that's exactly what happened when I followed the link to the post we're talking about :)
I agree with your point of view, I wasn't aware of this aspect however as I haven't been spammed with Amazon links (probably because many such websites are filled with other kinds of advertisement keeping me away).
See most magazines. They'll have 6 page pullouts that while they look like articles, they make it clear with bold print that its an advertisement.
> my feeling is that we are spoiled by free stuff, enough to make us get picky about the purity of the content viewed (supply and demand).
This I agree completely with :)
And to be fair I wasn't judging you post.
I guess my question to you would be...
Why not be upfront that you are trying to make money off of me, the user?
What benefit is there to trying to hide it?
If the blog post is a poorly-written list of links to books, then it probably isn't content that you're interested in, whether if it has affiliate links or not. I do not see why the presence of affiliate links makes the content any worse (or any better), though I suppose it may make people more inclined to slap up some poorly-written lists of links to books, so there's more low-quality websites to wade through on the internet.
But then again, there's already lots of low-quality websites on the internet. I hardly think there's any stopping that problem now, and I'd much rather see ads for Amazon, a place I actually shop at, than for some shady Nifty Larry's Bargain Basement or whatever.
Yes I agree, this is pretty much exactly what I said above.
My point was that there are so many of these posts written just to attempt to get affiliate commissions that whenever I go to a link that has a top 10 books it already has 2 strikes against it due to previous experience.
You take on more responsibility but you can also make more money.
This is a trend I have noticed with affiliate programs, the closer a company comes to market saturation in a space the worse the terms get. It makes sense has had the blog post not provided links there is a good chance people will head over to amazon anyway.
I was under the impression from years ago that the Amazon cookie was actually pretty long-lived and, for that reason, I always kind of think twice before clicking a link that I see is an affiliate link. (e.g. if I just want to check what book is linked, without thinking that the particular post "deserves" the affiliate money quite yet)
but you still funnel visitors to Amazon and get paid when they buy it... And since they're searching for Amazon stuff, they most likely will buy it from Amazon.
That said, it's also pretty obvious affiliate links can be done badly, and there's a nice slippery slope in there somewhere. I actually like how Tim Bray does it on his blog - when he posts affiliate links he points it out explicitly (I think they're usually his partner's) and provides non-affiliate links as well so you can opt out if that's how you feel.
In general, more transparency is better, as usual.
What I look for in products to promote is something more like a $10 average commission per transaction and a conversion of more like 8-10%. Promoting of the kind done in this post only really works as an aside if you were going to mention these products anyway.
While much less invasive than AdSense in general the same amount of traffic would make you more (although probably not in this case given the large proportion of HN/Reddit traffic that are either blocking of ignoring AdSense).