opinion

Free Content for Affiliates?

Stephen Yagielowicz
I ran an article at XBIZ today, “Smart Surfers Milk Us Hard,” by Zoltan Csesznik, that brought up the issue of “slick surfers” – those characters that sign up to affiliate programs simply to glom all of the free content readily available from sponsors, rather than pay for a membership.

It’s an interesting read, the upshot of which is that the author believes affiliate programs need to cut off this promotional pipeline to plug a potential revenue leak.

This topic has been discussed before, but the realities of needing to offer free content to affiliates if you wish to recruit and retain them outweigh any potential losses from freely offering this material. Especially if, as Mr. Csesznik advised, sponsors took more care in approving affiliate applications.

Face it; if you put pornography on the Internet, whether it’s in your member’s area or in your free areas and affiliate materials, it’s out there for good: it’ll be downloaded, traded, posted, swapped, cropped and distributed far and wide. Mitigation of the downside to this is hard to accomplish without overly limiting the upside, however, but it is possible.

Monetization of the loss is even possible by ensuring that all of your sample content has a clear URL “watermark” – if your content license allows this – so that when your slick surfer uploads his latest finds everywhere from Usenet to YouTube, you’ll benefit from surfers seeking more of the same. And who knows; if this character finds your exclusive content compelling enough, he may eventually decide to join – of course, he’s probably much more likely to ask you for a free password instead.

And did I mention that sophisticated DRM applications can be your friend in this area?

The bottom line for me is that this potential loss is simply a cost of doing business, just like the “shrinkage” percentages from shoplifters that retail stores include in overhead cost calculations – and just like those stores, using good security to keep thieves at bay, such as pre-screening affiliates before allowing them access to content, can minimize these losses.

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