Roger Ebert has been tweeting Amazon affiliate links for film-related products and various other kinds of items via his @ebertchicago Twitter account. From Jan. 7 through Jan. 14, he tweeted a message about a product with a shortened Amazon link 27 times to his 311,000 followers. With less regularity, Ebert has also been posting about offers on Facebook.
Of course, celebrities pitching product on Twitter and Facebook is not exactly new. Beverly Hills, CA-based Ad.ly specializes in helping the rich and famous leverage their social media audience and says it has more than 1,000 well-known clients. But it's intriguing to see an internationally known editorial brand like Ebert transparently benefiting from e-commerce endorsements for items like O.N.E. coconut water.
ClickZ sent Ebert's PR team a list of questions about the effort. He responded by answering them on his Chicago Sun-Times blog.
Below are excerpts from the Q&A:
ClickZ: When did this relationship begin?
Roger Ebert: It is a one-sided relationship. I signed up for Amazon Associates about the beginning of December.
CZ: How long is it scheduled to last?
Ebert: As long as I choose.
CZ: Who exactly has Mr. Ebert signed a deal with for the tweets? Amazon? Please explain.
Ebert: I have not signed a deal with anyone . I haven't spoken to a soul at Amazon.
CZ: Is there a social media marketing agency involved in the deal? If so, who?
CZ: Are these Amazon links and tweets part of an affiliate marketing program? If so, what affiliate marketing company is involved?
Ebert: Just the regular Amazon Associates.
CZ: Does Mr. Ebert author the commercial tweets himself? If not, who writes them?
Ebert: I write every single word on my Twitter account, and everything else under my name.
CZ: Are there supposed to be a specific number of Amazon-linked tweets per day? If so, how many? (There has been three each of the last two days.)
Ebert: No number. It all depends on how I feel.
CZ: How would you characterize the financial terms of the deal?
Ebert: I'm glad you asked. I receive the standard percentage as published by Amazon. The Sun-Times itself has been an Amazon Associate for as long as I can remember, and receives a percentage of all my books and DVDs displayed on RogerEbert.com and from the Amazon "Ebert Store" on the site. This does not amount to much.
The web site has expenses. It pays the salary of Jim Emerson, my friend and invaluable site editor.
Since I've never received a dime of profit participation from the site, I began to think of ways to monetize it more directly. Last year I began The Ebert Club Newsletter, a labor-intensive weekly publication, as an experiment in that direction. I charged $5 a year, which I now realize was not enough.
Currently, members can pay $5, $10 or $15. Most new members choose to pay $15.
My company, The Ebert Company, pays the (way too small) salary of Marie Haws, who compiles and edits the Newsletter with a great deal of care. The Sun-Times does not contribute to her salary. Mightily impressed by our Hon. Sec'y's love and care of the Newsletter, I have now asked her to help me with the posts for my Far-Flung Correspondents. She has also helped compile some of the one-shot WebPages I create for the specific purpose of tweeting. I originally called them TwitterPages, but that seemed over the top…
…The posting of the Far-Flung Correspondents and the creation of WebPages is very time-consuming, and in addition to writing movie reviews and my blog entries, I have been engaged in writing my memoirs. Marie is of immeasurable assistance to me and frees up lots of time. I might mention that she puts genuine love into the Newsletter, and untold hours in scouting for treasures, as you can see.
The Ebert Club has been well-received, but the low admission fee limited its income. I somewhat over-optimistically figured tens of thousands of people would sign up. In the beginning I wanted to charge $1, and was persuaded to go to $5. I was informed by readers that my low price scared people away; they figured nothing that cheap could be worth anything.
So, additional income would be welcome. I decided to establish my own separate Ebert Company account at Amazon Associates to reap the benefits of their commissions in the hope that they would offset my out-of-pocket expenses for the web site.
Every day I link to a few Amazon offerings via my Twitter and Facebook. Since these two social media are voluntary for me and do not involve Sun-Times expenses, I feel it's legitimate to receive the commissions directly. After all, they go to defray the cost of content on my site, and that benefits the paper. In the course of a week, the page visits from my new and older WebPages add between 200,000 and 350,000 to the Sun-Times web numbers.
I hope my Amazon links are often useful or amusing. Recently I've been recommending that readers cook their oatmeal in Coconut Water. One reader informed me… that this tasted so good it ought to be a sin. My link to a $5 collection of 20 early Hitchcock films has so far sold about 90 sets. I make about 7% on each sale. That collection is a hell of a bargain, including many of his rare early silents. I also linked to a mega-collection of 50 movie musicals including many early African-American musicals long out of print…
At the bottoms of WebPages devoted to a star or movies (Jeff Bridges, the Thin Man series) I add an Amazon widget. So far these widgets have been a disappointment in terms of revenue. However I consider them Value Added for the readers, because each film is linked to a trailer, and to an Amazon page with information and User Reviews.
Previously I often added YouTube videos of two or three trailers to a WebPage. Now, with hardly any work, I can make a dozen or more trailers available, and remind readers of many titles they may have forgotten. I am also happy to feature Video on Demand itself, a quickly-growing platform via such sites as Netflix, Amazon and Mubi. I tweet a great deal about Netflix and its Instant Streaming. I continue to tweet when I spot a great title on, for example TCM.
I've received no complaints about my Amazon tweets, which are a small part of my daily average of 30 tweets. Followers can tell from the link that it's Amazon, and don't have to click. I am the only Tweeter I know about who creates content specifically for tweeting.
Have I made a lot of money from Amazon? No. Have I made some? Yes. Am I happy to have it? You bet. Have I been amused? Yes. It's kind of like fishing.
Do my readers like my Amazon salesmanship, or not?
Well, this is a WebPage, so will be seen mostly by my followers on Twitter.
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Christopher Heine was a senior writer for ClickZ through June 2012. He covered social media, sports/entertainment marketing, retail, and more. Heine's work has also appeared via Mashable, Brandweek, DM News, MarketingSherpa, and other tech- and ad-centric publications. USA Today, Bloomberg Radio, and The Los Angeles Times have cited him as an expert journalist.
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