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Web sites may be losing affiliate revenue as mobile access increases

April 27, 2010

Affiliates of networks like LinkShare and Commission Junction are not being properly compensated for traffic they refer when end-users are on mobile devices, according to MobForm.

Per mobile publisher network MobForm, brands developing their mobile strategy may not have the full picture with respect to the restrictions that are currently in place preventing mobile affiliates from promoting their offers. MobForm claims that for the most part, such advertisers would be outraged to know of this issue, and would be very interested in finding out how to prevent it from happening in the future.

“We can harness publisher traffic and drive it to advertiser offers,” said Fassil Befekadu, founder of MobForm, San Francisco. “So advertisers sign up through the affiliate programs and if there is a conversion the affiliate marketer is supposed to get paid.

“We were looking for mobile commerce sites that are using affiliate programs and a lot of them are built by Digby and Usablenet,” he said. “In driving consumers to advertisers’ mobile sites, we were not being compensated and the clicks were not added to our accounts.”

MobForm is a mobile publisher network. It was founded by former AdMob executive, Mr. Befekadu. 

Mr. Befekadu said that when a brand’s link is clicked on via a Linkshare or CJ-type of affiliate network, the clicker is redirected to the mobile version of the PC site.

Apparently, when this happens, the affiliate network cookie is lost and the network does not receive credit for the redirect.

In a nutshell, brands who prefer that affiliates promote their offers via exchanges like CJ and Linkshare are not currently providing any compensation for such affiliates.

“We can use the case of 1800Flowers, for whom we are an affiliate through Linkshare, as an illustration,” Mr. Befekadu said. “If a consumer was to come from one of our publisher sites, and he/she was to make a purchase from 1800Flowers, we would not be compensated.

“We have an idea why – but it would require the advertiser to make some very simple adjustments in terms of what they do with respect to mobile traffic,” he said.

On the contrary
Lance Obermeyer, chief technology officer of  Digby, Austin, TX, said that brands are not focused on driving affiliate traffic via mobile yet.

Digby customers are more focused on driving organic traffic.

“Our customers have been focused on driving their organic traffic to their site and they have not been relying much on affiliate traffic,” Mr. Obermeyer said. “But that is slowly starting to change.

“We have our first customer using a mobile affiliate network and we are fully supporting that,” he said. “In general it is probably true [that Web sites are losing affiliate revenue as sites are accessed more via handheld] but it’s such a small percentage of traffic.

“So, as it grows we will support it, but for now customers are not asking for that.”

MobForm recommendations
John Osborne, vice president of MobForm, offered the following recommendations:

1) LinkShare, CJ, and others should do an inventory of their advertisers to find out how many have a mobile presence.

They should then ensure that their affiliates are being properly compensated for all traffic they refer.

2) If the affiliates cannot be compensated for mobile traffic because of other agreements, then LinkShare and CJ need to be transparent about this, so that their publishers can make alternative arrangements to monetize mobile traffic.

Since CJ proxies clicks and can look at user-agent strings, they know exactly how many clicks their publishers might be throwing away.

The publishers, could, for example, show ads from AdMob or Quattro Wireless in place of those from CJ when the user is on a mobile device.

Clearly this is not ideal for the affiliate networks since they will be losing publishers in the most rapidly growing channel.

3) Companies like Digby and Usablenet should inventory their advertisers to see which have affiliate relationships. Then they should ensure that affiliate tracking code is properly installed on these sites.

Usablenet’s take
Jason Taylor, vice president of mobile products at Usablenet, New York, said the company works with its clients to support affiliate programs and has a unique platform in both extending URL affiliate linking programs and current tracking, such as Omniture and Yahoo conversion tags, to track these.

“Usablenet has worked in recent months to support many clients’ mobiles sites in this way, including FTD and,” Mr. Taylor said. “Usablenet recommends that affiliates contact the primary vendor and set up a call to ensure they are rewarded for sending traffic to mobile sites, and Usablenet remains committed to working with clients to enable this.”

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Giselle Tsirulnik is senior editor at Mobile Commerce Daily and Mobile Marketer. Reach her at

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