As of today (March 1), Amazon will be making changes to its Associates programme rates in the US, meaning earnings will no longer be based on the volume of products sold.

The update means affiliates will earn the same commission on each sale, regardless of quantity sold, and spells the end of its “variable standard programme fee” which gave sites a higher cut depending on business driven to the site.

Instead – and a system already implemented in Europe – certain categories will now be favoured more than others, with “digital video games” and “luxury beauty” seeing the highest commission rates (10%), while the majority have taken a steep decline.

Shock for small affiliates

As reported by The Verge, the difference between a 6% and 10% commission under the new system could see small-scale content creators’ affiliate revenues drop dramatically, in some cases, by around 20%.

While the largest affiliate publishers are likely to have custom contracts in place and are therefore less likely to be affected, the Amazon Associates’ overhaul – launched with just a few days notice – will be a wake-up call to any publisher whose business relies on affiliate revenue from the site.

While Amazon has in the past offered “bounties” to drive traffic to certain products, the new commission system gives the company more flexibility to adjust rates in order to meet demand, with obvious implications to its content affiliates’ output.

The announcement also joins a wider, shadowy narrative around large ad techs’ growing power over the world wide web, with concerns that Amazon could use higher commission rates to push sales of its own products, having already faced criticism over its own goods being favoured by its product recommendation engine.