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  1. #1
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    Gripe: Terminology (Affiliate Network, rev share, CPL, CPA)
    Okay, first, all the regulars here already know I've been in a bad mood lately. I've invested a lot of time over the past few years on efforts that simply haven't worked out for me.

    But today, I was annoyed by a relatively innocent email, titled "Potential Affiliate Relationship." It was from one of the many "intermediary" companies which calls itself an "Affiliate Network" but which doesn't seem to have any actual relationships with merchants.

    My frustration is't really with this sleazy company, but instead comes from the absurd terminology we all keep using: using a term like "affiliate program" to inaccurately label an advertising relationship, and using terms like "rev share" which also mean nothing at all in the contest where they are often used.

    Over the past 15 years, I've worked with a bunch of "advertising technology intermediary" companies, including companies that have identified themselves as "affiliate networks" (starting with BeFree in early 1997). I've also worked with many merchants who set up arrangements through which they agreed to pay advertising fees to publishers who carried advertising that caused consumers to visit the merchants' sites and initiate a transaction.

    Why the HELL do we keep using the term "affiliate network" when neither term is accurate? I am not an "affiliate" under any traditional legal or common-sense understanding of that word, and these technology intermediaries are not "networks" in any traditional legal or common-sense understanding of that word.

    This muddy language opens the door for anyone to identify themselves with any language they want. Since the terms "affiliate" and "network" don't actually mean anything, it's easy for anyone to claim to be an "affiliate network," and then feign surprise when potential customers or clients assume any particular meaning for the term.

    I started griping in 1996 about the use of terms like "affiliate," "associate," and "partner" to describe advertising relationships, but eventually I reluctantly began using the terms "affiliate" and "affiliate program" whenever it seemed easier than trying to correct others' language.

    Of course, this "loose language" came back to bite the online advertising industry when some tricksters in the New York legislature intentionally misconstrued these advertising relationships, seizing on the inaccurate terms used to refer to the relationships. The bizarre terminology even made it difficult to clearly describe these unconstitutional laws and bills, leading us to struggle with terms like "affiliate tax" before realizing that there are no affiliates here and that these laws are "advertsing taxes," or more accurately "advertising-nexus tax laws" which, under the plain language of the statutes, directly contradict relevant U.S. Supreme Court rulings by propclaiming that a merchant has "nexus" in a state merely because the merchant has purchased advertising in publications based in that state.

    For the past few years, I once again began to resist the term "affiliate," but time and again I find myself using (or defending, or challenging) the term "affiliate," when in fact that word isn't relevant to these advertising relationships.

    Today, I'm going to follow through a bit more, by digging through my own blog (where I've aggregated 15 years of articles from my earlier web sites) and clean up the muddy language.

    I am NOT an affiliate.
    I am NOT an associate.
    I am NOT a partner.*


    I am a web publisher, and in that role I contract with advertisers to place advertising in my publications.

    I am NOT paid commissions. I am paid advertising fees.

    So from this day forward, when someone asks me, "Do you participate in affiliate programs," or "do you work with affiliate networks," I will try to answer NO, I am not an affiliate and I do not work with affiliate networks. But, knowing that these terms are misused by many people, I will strive to also clarify that I do accept paid advertising in some (but not all) of my web publications, and I do work with advertising-technology intermediaries to arrange my relationships with advertisers.
    Last edited by markwelch; January 24th, 2011 at 02:03 PM.

  2. #2
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Well, "advertising marketing" would be kind of redundant. I'll stick with "affiliate marketing".
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
    - Silence is golden. Duct Tape is silver.

  3. #3
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    We use "Affiliates" instead of "Publishers".

  4. #4
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Had this form of terminology been used from the outset, politicians might have a different (if not better) understanding of the industry, which might well have mitigated against the wave of "Affiliate" tax laws.

    However, to attempt to convince an entire industry to re-assess its basic terminology and make such broad revisions, is probably tilting at windmills.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary-AvantLink View Post
    We use "Affiliates" instead of "Publishers".
    Why? Surely you've dealt with the terminology problem when working with merchants (nearly every day, we see merchants identify themselves as "affiliates" in intro posts here on ABW), and I assume your lawyers have raised the issue also.

    Perhaps the concern is that not all participants who propagate your advertising messages have "publications" (fixed web sites or newsletters), so you feel uncomfortable using the term "publisher" to include those other folks (for example, participants who use direct-to-merchant PPC advertising).

    But why use the term "affiliate" when it has so many misleading connotations?

    Quote Originally Posted by AffiliateHound View Post
    Had this form of terminology been used from the outset, politicians might have a different (if not better) understanding of the industry, which might well have mitigated against the wave of "Affiliate" tax laws.

    However, to attempt to convince an entire industry to re-assess its basic terminology and make such broad revisions, is probably tilting at windmills.
    I don't disagree, but today I'm in a mood to do some windmill-tilting.

  6. #6
    Member RebeccaMadiganPMA's Avatar
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    We're challenged with terminology too. Affiliatehound is right, the words 'affiliate' and 'commission' led legislators to believe you're paid agents of online retailers. 90% of our effort to fight this is to explain that indeed, affiliates are simply websites that get paid for ads on their sites. And advertising does NOT establish nexus for out-of-state retailers. It's like we did this to ourselves!

    Recall when Shawn Collins and Missy Ward were considering a name change to Performance Marketing Summit? They opted against it because of the brand recognition of 'Affiliate Summit.' That's too bad.

    We have opted 'officially' to say 'publishers' and 'advertisers' and 'advertising payout', but in practice, I often slip into 'affiliate' which is a bad branding error we have to be more diligent in correcting.

    Great points, Mark!
    Rebecca Madigan
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  7. #7
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    FYI, I don't favor the term "performance marketing" either, because when I'm working as a web publisher, I'm not involved in "marketing." Specifically, "marketing" is what the merchant does; their relationship with me is "advertising." I find the term "performance-based advertising" acceptable, but unwieldy.

    I've certainly appreciated that the PMA and others working on the "advertising-nexus tax law" issue have sought to emphasize the roles as "publisher" and "advertiser."

    I don't like the phrase "advertising payout" (I'm not sure why, but somehow I find a negative connotation for "payout"; perhaps it's a gambling connotation, or maybe I'm just used to seeing the word "payout" used by sleazier advertisers.) I much prefer the terms "advertising fee" or "advertising payment."
    Last edited by markwelch; January 24th, 2011 at 03:02 PM.

  8. #8
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Yeah some people have the terminology backwards, so I just politely correct them. They are probably more likely wondering what the heck "publishers" and "advertisers" are.

    From this list of definitions for the term "Affiliate", I don't see anything confusing with the (semi)-standard terminology we use.

  9. #9
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    Affiliate has many definitions - define:affiliate - Google Search

    And what we do falls under some of those.

    "But why use the term "affiliate" when it has so many misleading connotations?"

    But you prefer publisher, which if you asked the common person, I think the first thing that pops into their head is book publisher. The Association of American Publishers is about book publishing.

    We don't get paid for merely putting ads on your site. Well you can, if you straight up sell advertising. We get paid commissions.

    And commission is right to me because -

    "Payments often will be calculated on the basis of a percentage of the goods sold"

    Seems right to me.

    Commission (remuneration) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

    Plus, aint nothing changing anyway because that's the way it's been for a long time now and trying to change it would just lead to further confusion.

    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch View Post
    I don't favor the term "performance marketing" either, because when I'm working as a web publisher, I'm not involved in "marketing" nor should I be focused on the "performance" of the merchants' ads. Specifically, "marketing" is what the merchant does; their relationship with me is "advertising."
    I actually like that name better because it's exactly what we do. You perform well, you get paid.

    "I'm not involved in "marketing" nor should I be focused on the "performance" of the merchants' ads. Specifically, "marketing" is what the merchant does; their relationship with me is "advertising."[/QUOTE]"

    That's just completely wrong. We are marketers. We market the merchant's products, brand, deals etc. to our site visitors.

    If you want one name that's the most accurate, marketer would be it.
    Last edited by Trust; January 24th, 2011 at 03:04 PM.

  10. #10
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gary-AvantLink View Post
    Yeah some people have the terminology backwards, so I just politely correct them. They are probably more likely wondering what the heck "publishers" and "advertisers" are.

    From this list of definitions for the term "Affiliate", I don't see anything confusing with the (semi)-standard terminology we use.
    When I see "advertiser", I think "merchant". Maybe that's because I've been doing this so long, but even folks I've recently introduced to "affiliate" marketing think "merchant" when they see "advertiser". Yes, we do advertise for them. They sort of sub-contract some of the advertising to us. Calling both parties "advertisers" would get kind of confusing IMHO. And that might just be how the term "affiliate" came about.
    Last edited by meadowmufn; January 24th, 2011 at 03:08 PM.
    -Don't criticize anyone til you've walked a mile in their shoes. Then when you do criticize them, you'll be a mile away and have their shoes.
    - Silence is golden. Duct Tape is silver.

  11. #11
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    Maybe I'm more sensitive, or more "conditioned" to terminology, because I started out my life as a "writer," working for newspapers and magazines, and got my undergraduate degree in "Journalism."

    I'm one of those dinosaurs who sees a "wall" between the "editorial" and "advertising" departments at any publication, even including a one-person publication whose editor is also the advertising sales department. Over the past 15 years, I've consciously maintained a separation of my work in "internet marketing" (serving clients who are usually merchants selling tangible products) from my work as a "web publisher" (serving readers or visitors, while earning revenue from advertisers).

    And that makes me highly uncomfortable with the concept of "performance" in the way it's measured in "performance-based advertising." When I'm creating a directory web site, or a blog article, I see myself as being on the "editorial side" of the wall, serving the reader, not serving the advertiser.

    I perform for my reader, my audience -- I do not "perform" for my advertisers.

    And that, I suppose, is exactly why I was offended by the email I received today -- because the inquiry talked about "selling traffic," and that's not how I view my role. I serve my readers, my audience -- I don't sell them to the highest bidder.

    And of course, folks who view their role as "marketers" are focused on serving merchants first, and often don't view their audience as "readers" but as "prospects to be sold and delivered to a merchant."

    "Not that there's anything wrong with that."

    Okay, then, there we are: that's why the term "affiliate" has won out. It's because merchants want to gain profits from folks with different perspectives: publishers, marketers, whatever.

    One problem, from all of this, is that if "affiliates" are "marketers," and if the relationship is "something different" from advertising, then what is the relationship, really? It's really a bunch of different relationships, and using a muddy term like "affiliate" is just a way of grouping a bunch of dissimilar relationships into a clump.

    (FYI, none of this impacts on the constitutionality of the "Advertising-Nexus Tax Laws," which all directly contradict relevant U.S. Supreme Court rulings. My entire argument, here, is what terminology I will use to describe MY relationships with advertisers.)
    Last edited by markwelch; January 24th, 2011 at 03:28 PM.

  12. #12
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    I've always considered myself as a Manufacturer's Representative working online. Maybe because when I started in 1994 nobody was talking of "Affiliate", "Publisher" or "Performance Marketing". There was no networks at that time and my first merchant was a manufacturer (sort of)
    I've never been in "Advertising" but "Sales" and "Marketing"
    The problem was that Manufacturer's Reps didn't understand Internet in 1994.
    Here's the definition of a Manufacturer's Rep:
    An independent sales agent who works on commission.
    Manufacturer's representative or rep, manufacturer's broker and manufacturer's agent are all terms used to describe independent sales agents who work on commission.

    Anyway, I don't really care for a name. The only one that matter is my name on the check.

  13. #13
    Super Dawg Member Phil Kaufman aka AffiliateHound's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch View Post
    And of course, folks who view their role as "marketers" are focused on serving merchants first, and often don't view their audience as "readers" but as "prospects to be sold and delivered to a merchant."
    I don't buy that. I view myself as a "marketer" but my focus is in no way based on serving merchants first (or second or third). My focus is on providing an information and shopping environment for my site visitors (focus 1) that will provide an income to me (focus 2). Focus 3 is building sites that can be found by these visitors on search engines. Merchants are interchangeable; if one does not work out, exchange their links for another. The majority of merchants have absolutely no allegance to me and will at the drop of a hat fire me, lower commissions, introduce overly-restrictive ppc policies, close their affiliate program, move to a new network, etc., etc. according to their own best interests. Merchants do not "serve" me; I do not "serve" them.
    Since June 10, 2012 a vegan aarf but still writing the Hound Dawg Sports Blog
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  14. #14
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    We can always just call ourselves domainers or web developers. There are some well known domainers that with almost every domain they buy, they develop with affiliate links and such. I see them more as affiliates. I think web developer just sounds cooler than affiliate marketer.

    Hi there, I'm a web developer. (sounds better to me)

    Hi there, I'm an affiliate marketer.

    In the end, domainer, web developer, associate, publisher, affiliate, partner, marketer, affiliate marketer, we still do what we do. It honestly doesn't matter to me the name.
    Last edited by Trust; January 24th, 2011 at 03:35 PM.

  15. #15
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    Quote Originally Posted by Zeus View Post
    I've always considered myself as a Manufacturer's Representative . * * * independent sales agents who work on commission.

    Anyway, I don't really care for a name. The only one that matter is my name on the check.
    I've always thought of a manufacturer's rep as an intermediary between the manufacturer and its independent distributors, wholesalers, dealers, or retailers (and sometimes "industrial customers").

    I first encountered manufacturer's reps in the CB radio business in the 1970s, and even there I saw some very different roles for different reps. Since then, I've learned of a wide range of relationships that are lumped together as "manufacturer's rep," including at least one that didn't include any commission (just a fixed retainer for services).

    Frequently, the manufacturer's rep was NOT a buyer or seller of merchandise (they were distinct from a distributor, wholesaler, or retailer, though they sometimes had possession of "incidental" inventory belonging to the manufacturer).

    As an attorney, I learned that the use of "manufacturer's reps" often created a huge legal headaches, primarily the question of whether the manufacturer's rep is legally an "agent" of the manufacturer (are promises, statements, claims, assurances made by the manufacturer's rep binding on the manufacturer), and whether the rep's "feet on the ground" in a particular state create "jurisdiction" for legal actions against the manufacturer?); also, whether maintaining inventory (even incidental "demo" or "spare" units) brought the rep into the stream of commerce to be included in product-liability lawsuits.

    In the sales-tax context, the presence of a manufacturer's rep in a state has been argued as creating "nexus" (I believe with inconsistent results) requiring collection of sales tax.

    You're entitled to view yourself as a manufacturer's rep, if you and the manufacturer agree on that classification of the relationship; I have certainly never taken on that role myself.
    Last edited by markwelch; January 24th, 2011 at 03:47 PM.

  16. #16
    Influencer Marketing GravityFed's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust View Post
    Hi there, I'm an affiliate marketer.
    How about "Web Marketer" ..yeah I like that one

  17. #17
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    That one might actually have a negative connotation with everything that goes on out there, spam and such. It sounds kind of nicklish* and dimish* to me for some reason. Web developer, sounds powerful

    *Possible new words I just made up, maybe.
    Last edited by Trust; January 24th, 2011 at 03:57 PM.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by markwelch View Post
    You're entitled to view yourself as a manufacturer's rep, if you and the manufacturer agree on that classification of the relationship; I have certainly never taken on that role myself.
    I had no other choice at the beginning.

    The relationship with our "merchants" is defined by the kind of agreement we have with them.
    Let's not forget the importance of that agreement even if it's an online document.

  19. #19
    Moderator MichaelColey's Avatar
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    I'm an "affiliate", I do "affiliate marketing", and I earn "commissions".

    affiliate: an affiliated person or organization
    affiliate marketing: an Internet-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate's marketing efforts
    commissions: a fee paid to an agent or employee for transacting a piece of business or performing a service; especially : a percentage of the money received from a total paid to the agent responsible for the business

    You can change the terminology all you want (and many within the industry have), but that doesn't change anything. It just muddies the water and creates more confusion.
    Michael Coley
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  20. #20
    ABW Ambassador meadowmufn's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trust View Post
    That one might actually have a negative connotation with everything that goes on out there, spam and such. It sounds kind of nicklish* and dimish* to me for some reason. Web developer, sounds powerful

    *Possible new words I just made up, maybe.
    I'm a web developer who just happened to get into affiliate marketing. I would have to agree with you, Trust, web developer sounds more powerful and that's generally what I go with since I've found more people understand it better. It sounds more independent, as well.

    And I vote you change it to nickel-and-dime-ish.... .com. LOL.
    Last edited by meadowmufn; January 24th, 2011 at 04:37 PM.
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  21. #21
    ABW Ambassador writerguy's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey View Post
    I'm an "affiliate", I do "affiliate marketing", and I earn "commissions".

    affiliate: an affiliated person or organization
    affiliate marketing: an Internet-based marketing practice in which a business rewards one or more affiliates for each visitor or customer brought about by the affiliate's marketing efforts
    commissions: a fee paid to an agent or employee for transacting a piece of business or performing a service; especially : a percentage of the money received from a total paid to the agent responsible for the business

    You can change the terminology all you want (and many within the industry have), but that doesn't change anything. It just muddies the water and creates more confusion.
    Exactly how I see the matter, too.

    Gary
    Generate more fake news.

  22. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by MichaelColey View Post
    I'm an "affiliate", I do "affiliate marketing", and I earn "commissions".
    That's the best definition for all our online activities.

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