Amazon Associates commissions and “platform dependence”

Another article about the changes Amazon made last week to its affiliate commission structure and rates—all in the downward direction.

‘This is exposing our weak points’: Amazon changes teach publishers – again – platform dependence is risky

Back in 2017, after the painful Facebook algorithm changes, which had followed the similarly traumatic pivot to video, publishers large and small declared they’d gotten serious about revenue diversification and being free of platform dependence.

Yet one of the brightest spots of diversification — tapping into affiliate programs with shopping guides and other product recommendation content — was for many publishers just another form of platform dependence. But this time, the platform was Amazon (and to a lesser extent, Walmart) rather than Facebook.

As I said in last week’s post, Amazon Associates is still worthwhile for most online publishers as a secondary revenue stream

But the days of building an online business model based entirely upon Amazon commissions is likely a thing of the past.

Not unless you take this model to an extremely high level, as The Wirecutter does. The Wirecutter provides price and delivery comparisons across multiple retailers: usually Amazon, Walmart, and at least one other source.

When you combine that with the site’s extensive product reviews, it is a fairly sophisticated business model. That’s a long way from slapping up a few webpages and simply telling people that they can order various products from Amazon—which they can discover quite easily on their own, by visiting Amazon directly. 

The Wirecutter, though, isn’t a one-person operation managed from someone’s bedroom or den computer. The site is owned by the New York Times, no less. So a team of writers is involved.