Fog Creek Software
Discussion Board




Purpose of affiliate links in the Fogbugz review?

Could someone explain the effect of the affiliate links in the review Joel linked to?
http://archipelago.phrasewise.com/stories/storyReader$1285

It contains links like this:
http://redirect.fogcreek.com/?id=affdaniel&url=http%3A//www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000029.html

Thanks.

Tj
Friday, October 18, 2002

Oh, I see.
http://www.fogcreek.com/Affiliates.html

Tj
Friday, October 18, 2002

Many years ago, a product reviewer who received a cut of each sale for a rave review was considered a conflict of interest, unethical, a violation of journalistic ethics, and in some juristictions, illegal.

Am I the only person for whom there sorts of links work the opposite way intended?

It just feels slimey all over to me.

X. J. Scott
Sunday, October 20, 2002

Simply put, I didn't write a review. I wrote a recommendation for the readers of my site. And when I posted the link to the story on my home page, I disclaimed the affiliate links.

Subsequently, Joel refered to it as a review. Since there are probably many more people who won't give someone the benefit of the doubt, I added the disclaimer at the top of the story.

I'd like to know if you read any developer mags, because if someone wrote the same review for a magazine that takes advertising dollars, and who pays the reviewer, while the path might be more indirect, it's there and you never see a disclaimer in magazine review. That's why Consumer Reports is so careful about this issue.

No slime on me about this.

Daniel Berlinger
Sunday, October 20, 2002

BTW, If I hated FogBugz and wrote a scathing review that would be acceptable? Seems it would be worse, if stupid.

Daniel Berlinger
Sunday, October 20, 2002

When I read the review, it seemed a very nice one. At the time I read it there was no disclosure of the business relationship. I am glad to see that there is a disclosure now and I believe that is considered the proper way of handling these things -- like on the stock news when someone recommends a stock and then gives fair disclosure that he owns shares of that stock.

The affiliate relationship seemed to be first revealed in this thread and I was very surprised by it, especially the large commision per license (nearly $300 according to Joel's affiliates page which is more than what most people would consider to be a few pennies).

I know that this practice is widespread; I guess amazon was one of the first to set up such a system.

Regarding developer magazines I think the comparable situation would be if a reviewer gave a positive review of a product and then stood to gather a commision on each sale of a product that came as a result from that magazine's referral (which I suppose could be technically done by using a special 1-800 number or PO Box or whatever that would be particular to the contact info given in the review, though I don't think any magazine does this that I know of).

If the reviewer mentioned this relationship in the article that would be fair enough, or if the article was labelled 'advertisement', as some newspapers place around ads.

But if I happened to discover the existence of the special phone number and the fact the magazine reviewer was getting commisions and he had not disclosed any of this, I would be disappointed and the reviewer, the magazine and the product would lose all credibility to me -- I would consider the whole thing a con.

In this particular case, I don't consider it to be a con since I think it came up innocently enough and I am aware that to a certain extent 'everyone's doing it' -- the affiliate thing. But even though everyone's doing it, I still think there is an ethical problem when the disclosure is not made clear. And I'm very glad that now you've clarified it, which is the right and appropriate thing to do. Thanks.

X. J. Scott
Monday, October 21, 2002

I was disturbed too, but after thinking a bit, it seemed that blogs sort of turn trust on its head... so that it's an issue of trust between his readers and him.  And when I checked his front page, he just posted a little link to his "thoughts on Fogbugz," not calling it a review.

So I don't mean to cast doubt, but on the other hand little things like this damage trust subconsciously.  At least among people who were raised to distrust ads/propaganda.

Anyway, I hope that Daniel writes more about these products if he wishes, just accepts affiliate links as an odd sensittive issue for some.  Caveat emptor, unless they pay their "reviewers."

Tj
Monday, October 21, 2002

I'll continue to write, and I'll continue to disclaim. No reason not to make everyone as comfortable as possible. :-)

As for the $299, its *if* I manage to sell a site license... so if everything goes right (they click through from my links and then purchase) and they happen to be so convinced as to purchase the largest license... then and only then...

Generally speaking, I suspect that I will never be able to buy lunch from the affiliate program... that's not a slam on the program, but an acceptance that these things work better (in a sales sense) for some people than others.

Daniel Berlinger
Monday, October 21, 2002

*  Recent Topics

*  Fog Creek Home