Back when I started working in affiliate marketing at a network in 2005, I remember a constant schedule of meetings and introductions to new publishers who wanted to show the account managers and advertisers their new websites, or technology. 

I remember when we had Quidco into the office for the first time and being genuinely excited about what this opportunity could mean for our clients and for the industry. 

Fast forward 11 years and new, weighty publishers are harder to find, and instead of coming direct, it is up to networks and advertisers to go out and source them. 

Why the shift? 

Affiliate Marketing was always a great route for start-ups, as the industry is a sandbox of great ideas when marketers don’t know where else to put them! Obviously our market has matured, so we can’t expect to hear from hundreds of new high-profile publishers every day, but the current rate worries me. 

I’m hearing more and more from advertisers that finding the next big source of traffic is a challenge, so even though a start-up might not be able to prove their value up front, clients are willing to listen, which is positive. 

Today, large organisations’ internal teams are more structured than they used to be, making it easier for a start up to gain access to clients via alternative routes. Technology has also helped speed this along, advertisers tend to have some form of analytics on their sites that allow new traffic sources to be easily integrated and valued.

However, from my point of view the problem is bigger and goes back to peoples’ perception of the industry. 

A start-up is usually a fast paced, innovative, disruptive environment and not one I’d suggest is synonymous with affiliate marketing. Although the IAB has done good work in quantifying our industry, we still do not project the right image to most CMOs.

Tradedoubler has re-started its Zoo Project, which launched in 2012, designed to nurture start-ups and this year it also launched TD Ventures, our business accelerator investment fund.

Other networks have contributed to driving industry growth by trying to introduce new traffic sources, but it is not enough, we’re losing momentum in the start-up space. Our industry is growing, but not as fast as other channels within the digital arena.

Why write this column? 

I believe that if the industry doesn’t start welcoming new traffic sources with open arms, we risk losing some of our entrepreneurial spirit. 

We need to create environments where start-ups can thrive – maybe the recent moves towards showing the full user journey can show the value and influence performance marketing channels can add and reward these influencers for the roles they are playing. 

Secondly, if you’re a start-up, I urge you to harness the technology that is available, speak with the networks and clients regularly, pitch your idea.

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