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To aff or not to aff (blogosphere hypocrisy?)

To aff or not to aff (blogosphere hypocrisy?)

Do you tell your visitors that a link to a product or service is an affiliate link that makes you money? Darren over at Problogger does it with a ‘€œ(aff)’€? after the link which is somewhat common, although not so easily understood for some readers.

Do you need to tell your readership that you make money if they click a link? Is there an ethical dilemma here too, as with the Payperpost thing?

I’€™m just asking here, because I see a lot of sites pimping products and services, and using affiliate links to rake in the cash of its visitors. Whether or not they actually like the product is impossible to know, just as with paid posts.

If the blogosphere wants to be all ‘€œwe have to be transparent’€? that’€™s fine, but we should look to our sides every now and then as well. Payperpost is in the line of fire at the moment, perhaps rightly so, but they are not the only ‘€œproblem’€? here. It all comes down to your very own integrity and if your readers believe in you. And what you do with your power. Print media knows this, and since I’€™ve dabbled in that field I know that this mess is small potatoes compared to what’€™s going on elsewhere.

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i don't know what to do purpose

But it’€™s good I guess, you should question yourself and your business. However, if you’€™re going to do it, please do it right. All the way.

To aff or not to aff?

View Comments (14)
  • The question can become an interesting discussion on ethics and honesty. Darren’s (aff) should be adequate for most web surfers, especially those visiting his sites. He doesn’t hide the fact, even referring to affiliate payments in articles regularly.

    PayforPost? If the author hides the fact, it’s spam, masquerading as a review. Of course, the same arguments might be applied to google ads when blended to the point of non-recognition. Is deception the best policy? Hmmm …

  • There is a HUGE difference between a link and fake copy. HUGE.

    You can still write genuine blog content and pop in a link to an affiliate program, sure, I don’t see anything wrong with that. Even better, you do what Darren does and put an (aff) or whatever after the link.

    Again, if a friend is at your house (your blog), and you are talking about a product you like that you had bought, and you happen to say to your friend that if you “if you buy one, use my name I’ll get a 10% discount on my next order” (aff link)…

    That’s COMPLETELY different than…

    A friend comes over to your house, and you spend the entire evening lying to your friend about a product you have never purchased because you know you can videotape the encounter and send it in to XYZ company and they’ll give you 10 bucks.


  • Ha ha — what a great topic.
    How far will disclosure go?

    I guess the broader question is — all other things being equal, do people deserve to know if you’re making cash / benefiting off of a recommendation that you’re making — regardless of how legitimate that recommendation is.

    Personally, I think its a function of how well you trust someone.

  • Great observation Thord. I took a look at Amazon’s affiliate agreements and found zero on disclosure. In fact, it was very clear that affiliate’s own their site/content. I’d love to hear how other affiliate networks handle it.

    Here is a section from Amazon Operating Agreement:
    “10. Responsibility for Your Site
    You will be solely responsible for the development, operation, and maintenance of your site and for all materials that appear on your site. For example, you will be solely responsible for:

    * the technical operation of your site and all related equipment
    * creating and posting Product descriptions on your site and linking those descriptions to the Site catalog
    * the accuracy and appropriateness of materials posted on your site (including, among other things, all Product-related materials)
    * ensuring that materials posted on your site do not violate or infringe upon the rights of any third party (including, for example, copyrights, trademarks, privacy, or other personal or proprietary rights)
    * ensuring that materials posted on your site are not libelous or otherwise illegal
    * ensuring that your site accurately and adequately discloses, either through a privacy policy or otherwise, how you collect, use, store, and disclose data collected from visitors, including, where applicable, that third parties (including advertisers) may serve content and/or advertisements and collect information directly from visitors and may place or recognize cookies on visitors’ browsers.

    We disclaim all liability for these matters. Further, you will indemnify and hold us harmless from all claims, damages, and expenses (including, without limitation, attorneys’ fees) relating to the development, operation, maintenance, and contents of your site.”

    I would note that affiliate deals can actually incentive deception — because bloggers get paid by how well they convince someone to click and purchase. PayPerPost bloggers, on the other hand, get their post sponsored but no additional compensation for clicks or purchases. That also makes sponsored posts much more trustworthy than click-fraud rampant ad networks.

    This is a broad topic, with no band-aid solution. It all comes back to the individual.

    BTW, as a PPP investor I’m curious what your policy is for disclosing affiliates? What about others at BlogHerald? What do you think about documenting your policy with clarity on disclosing affiliate links, paid posts, competitive posts, non-cash perks? Is that detail something you decide or BlogHerald decides for you?

    Thanks again — your post shows leadership in a world of followers…

  • There is a whole category of software that exists (or used to exist) to mask the URL of affiliate links so that people couldn’t tell where your link was going. Alternatively, people have also created redirects on your webpage to prevent the “hover” on a link from showing an aff link.

    Its funny how the web2.0 crowd, which has roots in geekdom, has finally ran into marketing wonks around issues in disclosure.

    It’ll be interesting to see how the lines are drawn. ;)

  • Professional affiliates (coupon sites, cash back sites, online malls, etc…) and “having a blog” are different things. Trying to make them the same thing is disengenious to say the least. I know both, well.

    You can expect a store to try and sell you something because you know that is their purpose. However, you should not expect your friend to do the same, would you?

    The same principles do apply though, and the most important one is trust.

  • @Jim: Are you suggesting there are different rules for different people? Would that extend to those bloggers wanting to be journalist, those bloggers wanting to make a million and those bloggers covering expenses of their personal chatty passion? Or is ‘bloggers’ a single, defineable category that must live by one set of rules? ;-)

    I’d would note that I didn’t see any different rules for disclosure based upon who you are in Amazon’s affiliate program. I’m guessing the other affiliate programs run similarly. If they treat (or neglect to treat) disclosure the same across the spectrum then it probably makes sense to discuss in that context.

  • I think Dan, that attempting to deceive someone, in any context, is wrong.

    A coupon site does not lie when they display a coupon that has an affiliate link it, it is expected from their business model to make money. A cash back site does not lie when they offer the reader money back for clicking on their affiliate link, it is expected from their business model to make money. Those are the “deals” that the site/reader make with each other. You get this, and I get this…

    Even a blogger does not lie when they put an affiliate link in their post, disclosed or not, it is finally now ok to be able to attempt to earn money from you blog. Believe me, I know, I wrote an ebook on this subject 3 years ago where I received thousands of hate emails telling me that “blogging is not for making money”.

    What is NOT expected is a blogger to attempt to deceive the reader, especially in an attempt to make some cashola. So yes, I do think bloggers have different rules than everyone else.

    The expectation of a blog reader is different than that of a coupon site reader.

  • I am a blogger. I have never seen an aff before to my knowledge… I had never heard of aff before now. I only had known the word affiliate.

    How far will disclosure go?

    It’s up to the individual blogger… Not everyone who reads blogs or who is a blogger knows all the aff’s to navigate the deck… I think the more one learns, one must not forget to remember, that one was once a beginner too.

    An earlier post I wrote touching upon experts and beginners.

  • @Jim: My distinction wasn’t between coupon sites and bloggers (you brought that here) — I recognize there are differences along the entire spectrum, including different types of bloggers from journalist to biz professional to personal. I don’t stop the spectrum at the word blogger because it’s just unrealistic.

    Therefore we may be in synch, up until you start saying that affiliate links are somehow special and don’t need as much disclosure as sponsored posts. To the contrary the blogger using affiliate links gets paid specifically for encouraging people to click & buy. That direct financial incentive to influence the reader to click/buy doesn’t exist with sponsored posts. Given your ebook writing experience, I’m guessing you know this, but hesitate clearly stating it.

    I think Thord was highlighting that affiliate links have at least the same disclosure issues as sponsored posts. We can at least agree on this point, can’t we? Anyone else?

  • @everyone except Dan, Sorry for the verbal war VC Dan and I are having. It’s good discussion, and I fear that the more we do it, the more I begin to understand VC Dan, but still disagree with him.

    @Dan, the problem here is your definition of “sponsored posts”. Your Payperpost tool allows for abuse, because it lacks a clear way that the blogger MUST disclose.

    That is my issue with your system. I have said it before, I have no problem with PPP assuming you have a system in place that absolutely requires a blogger to disclose in some form or another. Not just the tools to attempt to disclose, I’m talking about a system that makes them disclose, or else they can’t be in the club.

    Without that, a “sponsored post” through Payperpost is a lie, because it gives the reader the impression that the content (not the ad, not the affiliate link, not the text link) is real content, when in fact it is “sponsored”, which means fake, and that is lying.

    That’s not part of the deal between bloggers and their readers, and I’m afraid I can’t get you to understand that for some reason.

  • I do this (aff link) after an affiliate link on my blog. I have a coupon codes site and I do NOT say those are affiliate links because my opinion is not listed with them. The are just a collection of links.

    Were I ‘selling’ the products with my opin, then yes, I’d (aff link) after them.

  • What publishing medium is not open for abuse? What TV or magazine doesn’t blur the lines? Jim you know i was involved in Nothing So Strange, the film, and it certainly was reality hacked. Same for Blair Witch. Let’s look at EON8… What happens when you don’t give enough information?

    It is all in how they are used, the context, the goals. My first reaction to PayPerPost was *blech*, and some of the offers are just that- blech….make it too restrictive and it might as well be a banner ad, but if you can attract talented writer’s to create buzz…and let them run with it. Why does the deal structure matter?

    I participate in a number of blogs (besides my personal blog) and in some it would not fly, in some it would be crossing the lines, while in others- it would be totally ok.

    For example I use my amazon link at my personal blog and have no problems doing it at all. I recommend books I think are great and should be read or that I have read.

    Back to PPP a couple of the campaigns are pretty intriguing…almost ARG like if you do it correctly. I can see much better ways to implement it and I think it would be even cooler if bloggers could negotiate the rate or get multipliers based on creativity. Reminds me of a certain wine company that sent out bottles of wine to those who blogged about the experience.

    But agree with Jim on some respects. Like here Loren says the market will correct itself…yet what if you blog something that turns out to be a faulty product that kills someone? Are you liable? Same for affiliate or any type of advertising? Gets very murky.

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