Monday, February 13, 2012


I've read a lot this week about Pinterest and the fact its gaining revenue through affiliate marketing. Shock horror - social website makes money. This really resonated with me from my past again.

In the interest of transparency first though, let me inform you that I do have personal interest in this story. I own a small stake (very small) in the company who does the affiliate marketing for Pinterest - Skimlinks. Happy days (hopefully) - Right thats out of the way.

There seems to be people shocked that a site like Pinterest could possible make money from people clicking on the images on their site. Why could anyone complain - its not intrusive advertising - do these people want the site spoilt by adverts everywhere. And they only get a commission paid if the person clicking on the image goes to a third party site and buys a product or a service. It's win-win-win.

Affiliate marketing does have some other sides to it I admit. Fake sites that draw users into them to then pass them onto other proper consumer sites to try and earn a commission are not in my mind legitimate businesses. In fact, if truth be told, I managed to recently find myself associated with one, didn't like the practise and am now politely excusing myself.

But back to people getting out of their tree on such things.

These are the same people I suspect that I had to deal with 11 years ago. Yes it's time for me to harp back to the old days of FriendsReunited (sorry I always do this) 

In early 2001, FriendsReunited, which had sort of started off as a hobby for Julie my wife, was beginning to get some traction. Therefore bandwidth and server space was beginning to cost us more and more (a lot more expensive than now) Our time was getting taken up too, nearly full time. The ad revenue from the one ad we had on the site was paying peanuts - this was the bust period of the internet boom/bust a decade ago. We didn't want to start selling email addresses and stick ads all over the place (like some companies that had just gone bust did)
So therefore what to do. 

Over a round of drinks in the pub we decided to introduce a subscription model for a premium service on the site - i.e., to actually contact people. It was the massive sum of £5 per year (that figure because we didn't get change from 2 pints of lager)

Whilst almost from the start the idea of introducing this charge became a great success, initially from some quarters we had a backlash from certain users. We got "The internet is free", "How dare you charge to send an email", "I loved your site until this" etc etc. It was such crap. I actually enjoyed responding to each one individually explaining how the site was run by 3 of us from a bedroom and how much it was starting to cost us. Nearly all were won over.

Strange that things have not moved on in over a decade - that people still begrudge a revenue on something perceived as free. I suppose there are always ranters out there - me being one.

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