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Market-Share Update: Affiliate Marketing on the Move

  |  March 16, 2001   |  Comments

Affiliate marketing continues to steam ahead, but not without hitting some choppy water. Luckily, Joel delivers a thorough update of category winners, losers, and everything in between.

Overall, 51 percent of the top 100 Web sites operate some type of affiliate program. Be Free still leads all vendors. In-house solutions are the second most common among the top 100 sites. Commission Junction (CJ) moved into third place, while LinkShare fell to fourth. ClickTrade and Performics (formerly Dynamic Trade) are not believed to power any top 100 sites.

Methodology

Like the previous market-share analysis, the data in this article was compiled from several sources. First, the list of the top 100 Web sites came from PC Data. Next, client lists were obtained from Be Free's Reporting.net, CJ's public Web site, LinkShare's affiliate interface, Performics' affiliate interface, and Revenue Avenue at ClickTrade. All merchant lists were compiled on March 13, 2001.

These client lists were compared against PC Data's Top 100 list. Any sites left without an affiliate program partner were manually visited. Some of these sites were found to operate "in-house" affiliate networks. Finally, as before, each site was assigned a category.

What's Changed

Affiliate programs slipped a few points in market share, down to 51 percent from the previous 55 percent. The sites in the Retail category have nearly total penetration, with the only holdout in this category being Microsoft's Passport service. Other sites in the category include Amazon, eBay, and barnesandnoble.com, plus credit card issuers like NextCard, American Express, and Aria.

The Email, Freebies, and Games category, which includes sites like Blue Mountain Arts, Flowgo, and Jackpot.com, has the biggest number of affiliate programs. Least likely to offer affiliate programs are News and Community sites like CNN and iVillage. The Adult and Taxes category has two adult sites and the IRS, which we almost lumped into the Shopping category as a cruel joke. Portals took a step back with Go, AltaVista, and Google all folding their programs. Web Hosting and Services includes sites like Angelfire, Akamai.com, and even BFast.com.

Category

Don't Have
Aff. Program

Have Aff. Program
Totals
Email, Freebies, and Games
13
15
28
News and Community
17
7
24
Portals, Directories, and ISPs
9
10
19
Retail and Shopping
1
13
14
Web Hosting and Services
8
4
12
Adult and Taxes
1
2
3
Totals
49
51
100
Source: AffiliateHandbook.com

Land of Giants

AOL Time Warner owns six of the top 100 Web sites. Excite@Home and Microsoft each own four of the top 100 properties. Terra Lycos and Disney each own three. Yahoo, InternetFuel.com Inc., InfoSpace, iVillage, and CNET each own two of the top 100 Web sites. Let the aggregation begin.

Be Free Still in the Lead

Overall, Be Free held on to its top position. However, in the aggregate, it lost four merchants, dropping its market share from 26 clients to 22 clients. Still, it owns the Portals category by itself.

Though all is not well. Notable Portal category losses include AltaVista, which stopped paying commissions after telling affiliates "if you find benefit in having the AltaVista search functionality on your site, please feel free to continue to use our links." In some circles this is called charity. Former Be Free client Google went even further, killing its program completely.

American Greetings also stopped its affiliate program. Fortunately, some of Be Free's merchants entered the top 100 between measurement periods, including credit card issuer Aria, travel site Expedia, and portal Direct Hit. Other Be Free clients like MP3, DealTime, Gamesville, pogo, and Gator fell from the top 100.

BFast.com, the URL from which Be Free's merchant links are served, also broke into the top 100. Overall, BFast received 6 million visitors in February, making it the 94th largest Web site according to PC Data.

Category
Be Free
CJ
LinkShare
In-House
Email, Freebies, and Games
3
3
4
5
News and Community
4
1
1
1
Portals, Directories, and ISPs
10
Retail and Shopping
4
3
3
3
Web Hosting and Services
1
2
1
Adult and Taxes
2
Totals
22
9
8
12
Source: AffiliateHandbook.com

In-House Programs Remain Solid

Overall, in-house programs slipped from 13 sites to 12 sites. A few sites dropped from the top 100, including Webshots, LifeMinders, Uproar, and PostMasterDirect.com. Surprisingly, a few sites made it into the top 100 between measurement periods using homegrown affiliate programs. ValuPage, ExitFuel, and AdultRevenueService all operate affiliate programs that are apparently based on in-house solutions. Powerhouses like Amazon and CDNOW still dominate the in-house category. Others like Focalex and MailBits are essentially affiliate networks in their own right.

Commission Junction Moves to Third

Commission Junction picked up an aggregate of three merchants, moving it into third place. Perhaps its biggest win was eBay. Additionally, it scored a major moral victory as JobsOnline defected from LinkShare. Other new merchants include top 100 newcomers Fastclick.com, NetFlip, ticketmaster.com, and TwistedHumor.com.

Of CJ's six top 100 merchants from the previous period, only two remain: Jackpot.com and NextCard. SpeedyClick moved its program in-house. Capital One, Half.com (now owned by eBay), and Z Media all fell out of the top 100 sites.

Like BFast, CJ itself also broke into the top 100 list. It ranked as the 85th largest Web site with 6.3 million visitors in February, according to PC Data.

LinkShare Falters

In the aggregate, LinkShare dropped from 10 merchants to 8 merchants in the top 100. Besides losing JobsOnline to CJ, it also watched MyPoints and Go.com close their programs. Additionally, LinkShare client AT&T fell out of the top 100. However, American Express made it onto the Top 100 list, as did Disney.com, both of which are LinkShare clients. Overall, LinkShare continues to have the most apparent problems in keeping merchants on board.

Clearly, affiliate marketing continues to steam ahead, but not without hitting some choppy water. Most of the fallout has been in the Portals category where AltaVista, Google, and Go all folded their programs. Meanwhile, the Retail and Freebies categories continue to look strong.

Note: To report any corrections or request a Microsoft Excel workbook containing the underlying data, please email clickz@affiliatehandbook.com with the subject line "ClickZ Stats." Include your company and title when writing.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Joel Gehman

Joel Gehman is the creator of AffiliateHandbook.com. He consults, writes, and speaks about the dynamics of affiliate marketing.

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