I don't know how to put this delicately: I don't care about Amazon Affiliate links. I don't. They don't bother me. I use them, and Amazon pays me 4% of your purchase price, starting out, without charging you a dollar more. This is public info on Amazon's Affiliate Page. It creates mutual value for all parties.
Let's assume that the average book price is $12. I like books. I read a lot of them. To talk intelligently on this blog, I reference books, and I recommend them. IF I am recommending them anyway, AND Amazon will pay me 4% of the sale if you click through and buy, why not? I don't see any compelling reason not too.
The notion that I would recommend a book that doesn't make sense to the conversation is 1.) just weird, and 2.) a moot point because if it doesn't make sense to you, you don't buy it. If you see book XYZ recommended, and it makes sense to the conversation, and you like to read, and you buy book XYZ for $12, Amazon will pay me a whopping $0.48 for that recommendation through my affiliate link.
Whoa! Clear out the banks! I need some room for that quarter, dime, dime, and three pennies!
This bothers me most because of the big to-do that is being made of the FTC disclosures "required" by blogs. I was reading an interesting article about effective words in marketing, and I noticed that he had the words "(affiliate link)" tagged next to his book recommendations. Why?
When you hover over the link, it's obvious that it's an affiliate link. Now the extra text interrupts the flow of conversation. Now, when it was just a relevant resource that enriched our conversation, it is a weird elephant in the room. Oh, he used an affiliate link...can't click on that.
About the FTC: Reviewing the Disclosure Source Code
I like the Federal Trade Commission. They're out there to protect you and me from the big guy that is keeping us down using unfair trade practices. According to their own About Us page:
"When the FTC was created in 1914, its purpose was to prevent unfair methods of competition in commerce as part of the battle to 'bust the trusts.'"
These guys are on our side. Here's something that I agree with, which is published in the Code of Federal Regulations, Title 16 (Commercial Practices), Part 255, and is the root of all these FTC Disclosures that blogs are running away with.
"Endorsements must reflect the honest opinions, findings, beliefs, or experience of the endorser. Furthermore, an endorsement may not convey any express or implied representation that would be deceptive if made directly by the advertiser." 255.1 (a)
Endorsements should be honest. I agree. And to an extent, I understand the need for this:
"When there exists a connection between the endorser and the seller of the advertised product that might materially affect the weight or credibility of the endorsement ( i.e. , the connection is not reasonably expected by the audience), such connection must be fully disclosed." 255.5
(e.g. Jessica Simpson is getting paid to say all that great stuff about Proactiv acne solution...even though Simpson admits in other interviews that she actually used Acutane.) That leads into this, which I also agree with:
"When the advertisement represents that the endorser uses the endorsed product, the endorser must have been a bona fide user of it at the time the endorsement was given. Additionally, the advertiser may continue to run the advertisement only so long as it has good reason to believe that the endorser remains a bona fide user of the product." 255.1
Proactive doesn't feature Jessica Simpson anymore. They have other celebrities now. And it's possible that Simpson slapped some of the stuff on her face anyway, during the time of the endorsement. But did anyone actually believe that she was making those statements for pure giggles? And does that mean that we have to put silly tags on EVERYTHING, every time? I beg to differ, with the Simpson case being just one of many examples.
What is TV Doing?
My biggest complaint with this is that it's not happening anywhere else. And this isn't just some moan about how unfair this all is; this is common sense! The other day, when you saw American Idol, were they really drinking Coke from those bright red Coke cups on the judges' tables? No. That's an endorsement. There was not however a bright little sticker on the cup that said so.
When your last favorite team won the Super Bowl, and the MVP drank from an energy drink, was there a little sticker there also that said endorsement? No. What about when Tiger Woods wore an entire outfit of Nike? Was there a sticker that said endorsement? No.
And the last time that I rode in the NYC transit system, and the entire train car was outfitted in some weird Discovery Channel motif...did I see a sign that said, "Advertisement."? No. Because it's freakin' obvious.
That is my major objection.
I don't think that Brett Favre gives two breaths about Wrangler Jeans, but you sure see him wearing them a lot! ...because it's an endorsement, emphasizing my point. When I'm driving down the Long Island Expressway, or coming back through the Lincoln Tunnel, I don't get a note on the side of the advertisement, letting me know that this billboard is an advertisement. It just is.
That gigantic billboard is an ad. Those graphics on the steps in Grand Central Station make an ad. That's City Hall trying to balance its budget! They're advertising.
...and so am I. But not as arbitrarily. I actually use the things I talk about. I actually enjoy them. I seek out their affiliate programs, and I use the affiliate program tools to recommend great services to you. That's why Amazon Affiliate links don't bother me. That's also why I gratuitously click through other blogger's links when they are pointing to something that sounds interesting, and the link is supported by intelligent conversation.
See my entire FTC disclosure here. But first, read this book on how to make money with Amazon Affiliate Links ;) (DISCLAIMER: That's an Affiliate Link! ...and I've never read the book. I just want to annoy someone.)