Put Hate On Hold: Keeping Survivor Stories Alive With Affiliate Programs

George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Today we are all faced with this fact, and for me it is particularly relevant. For some time, I’ve been involved with a project that’s aimed at averting that type of repetition — by making sure that we remember the horrors of the past.

But I’m a bit conflicted. On the one hand, I want to share how affiliate programs are powering a site called Remember.org, which I helped create back in 1994 and which now teaches over 1 million visitors a year about the Holocaust. Only on the Internet, with affiliate programs, could such an effort take place.

On the other hand, I hesitate even to mention the site, partly because it’s not the easiest of subjects and partly because I’d much rather quietly do my work — letting the attention flow to the stories on the site. I see my duty as honoring the survivors of the Holocaust and the memories of those who did not make it. I rarely, if ever, discuss this in public. But in the light of recent events, it is more important than ever to remember. Though recent events are not comparable to the Holocaust, the root causes — hate and intolerance — are. Remembering what happened back then can help us prevent another such tragedy.

Through a study of the Holocaust, students can come to realize that: democratic institutions and values are not automatically sustained, but need to be appreciated, nurtured, and protected; silence and indifference to the suffering of others, or to the infringement of civil rights in any society, can, however unintentionally, serve to perpetuate the problems; and the Holocaust was not an accident in history — it occurred because individuals, organizations, and governments made choices which not only legalized discrimination, but which allowed prejudice, hatred, and ultimately, mass murder to occur.
United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

My work on the site started back in 1994 when I saw that very few U.S. students had access to Holocaust materials; most had only a copy of “Anne Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl” and pictures of the Nazis to help them grasp this complex subject. For my master’s project, I decided to create an educational platform to help fill this void, but I had no funding until Amazon.com started its affiliate program in 1996.

Remember.org is an educational site set up to teach students from sixth grade to early college. The visitors to this site are mostly teachers and students from around the world who come for the free information. The site has had a long growth curve to its current steady traffic of 1 million visitors a year, getting 10,000-20,000 visits in slow months and over 100,000 in its two peak months.

This site had no funding or content, but by sharing Web space in exchange for original content on the Internet, a huge site quickly developed. Joey Korn shares Abe’s Story, the story of his father’s survival. Harold Gordon shares his own story of survival through an interactive map with audio. Sixth-grade students posted their paintings at the Imagine art gallery. Alan Jacobs shares his profound photography of the camps today and has helped survivor Jan Komski post his own paintings.

The site developed around shared content, which we allow teachers and students to access for free. Being careful about commercialism, we found that affiliate programs such as Amazon.com and, for a short period, AltaVista helped us spread the message while funding our own efforts and allowing students to focus and learn.

While most people laugh about the small affiliates, Remember.org and many other excellent sites are grateful for affiliate programs that help them pay their monthly hosting fees, Web development fees, and maintenance. In this case, it is not the quantity of dollars but the funding of good ventures that really stands out.

The Value of a Small Affiliate

So how does this apply to the business of affiliate programs? Look at an example from 1998, when Remember.org posted ads for Amazon books; this site generated an estimated 18,864 visitors that year, who bought somewhere around 1,440 books (about 120 a month, or 30 a week). Let’s break this down to see the real value of this little affiliate.

Here’s what this site generated:

Per Month Per Year
Total Hits 1,988 23,856
Total Visitors 1,572 18,864
Total Sales $1,000.00 $12,000.00
Total Affiliate Payout $38.40 $460.80

Net Profits: $12,000 – $460.80 = $11,539.20

If Amazon.com could get 10,000 of its affiliates generating these kinds of sales, it would make almost $120,000,000 and spend $4,608,000 to do it, a profit of over $115,000,000.

Do the math in terms of buying cost per click (CPC) or cost per thousand (CPM); these affiliate numbers add up because they are effective.

But the real rewards are emails like: “I write this for Elsie, a woman who tells me her story. I still see the fear in her eyes.” That’s when the reality of the events strike you, and that’s how an affiliate program can allow people to make connections to other human beings, not just numbers.

Some people think affiliate programs are just about making money. Others understand that a vast network of small businesses, schools, and worthy causes are using affiliate programs to help finance their own efforts. Most affiliate programs can generate significant traffic and revenue from small niche sites.

These little affiliates make all the difference. Without Amazon’s affiliate program, I would not be able to share these words… We are the Children…

We are the children of the Holocaust.
We are both Germans and Jews
We are the children of the victims
We are the children of the oppressors
We started out on opposite sides
but the memory of the Holocaust
will join us forever.
We shall never let the victims be forgotten
for if we do, we will forget that the
perpetrator can be in all of us.
–Rudi Raab (Copyright 1992 Rudi Raab)

Remember that those little affiliates may be doing amazing things that go way beyond the little dollars they earn. Many gather content, share it, and make sure that students have access to it. The Internet is such an amazing place.

Most importantly today, remember the sites that share a message of peace. Remember…

Peace,
Declan

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