Opinion

Prime Day for publishers

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I don’t tend to buy anything on Amazon Prime Day, but I do like to spend the day refreshing my search page on Amazon Prime Day Best Deals to see which publications are winning the affiliate wars.

While all the attention is on the best summer deals, the Big Tech firm is also helping news outlets’ bottom lines. Publications include links to Amazon’s best deals so that if a reader clicks on that link and makes a purchase—any purchase—on Amazon within a 30-day period, the firm will pay the publisher a portion of commission on that sale.

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It’s known as affiliate revenue, and it’s been a godsend for some publications over the past decade. Affiliate revenue from The New York Times’ Wirecutter gadget-review site hit US$15.5 million in the last quarter of 2018 alone.

This year, it’ll be a contest among the usual search engine optimization heavyweights, with Digiday reporting that Verizon Media Group is more than tripling the number of titles distributing Prime Day content this year. Last year, that included AOL and the Huffington Post. This year, TechCrunch, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo Lifestyle, Yahoo Sports and Engadget are all involved, according to a company spokesperson.

While U.S. firms are doubling down on affiliate revenue, there’s a dearth of Canadian publications seeking to capitalize on it. MobileSyrup appears to be running affiliate links today, as does Huffington Post Canada. 

There are ethical questions raised by this practice. While many of these sites have strong ethical guidelines proclaiming their editorial independence, reporters and editors are incentivized to highlight the products that will generate the most clicks and, in turn, the most revenue. 

Publications go to great lengths to assure readers that they uphold the highest standards of editorial integrity, but it’s worth keeping an eye on what you read and what you click on during this Prime Day extravaganza.

As for me, I’ll just keep refreshing my search results.