Digiday+ Research: Publishers need to diversify their affiliate commerce businesses

This research is based on unique data collected from our proprietary audience of publisher, agency, brand and tech insiders. It’s available to Digiday+ members. More from the series →

Affiliate commerce has grown into a small, promising revenue stream for many publishers. But a lot of publishers might be able to significantly grow their commerce revenues just by diversifying the way they generate them, according to new Digiday+ research. 

In September, Digiday asked 82 publisher professionals a series of questions about how their organizations make money and how they expect the 2021 holiday season to differ from last year’s. The 51 respondents who indicated they made money through affiliate commerce were asked a distinct set of questions. 

Asked how they thought their affiliate commerce revenues would change in the next year, around 60% of respondents said they thought those revenues would go up, both on the direct partnership side and on the network side, with larger percentages expecting a significant boost to their direct deals in 2022. A slim percentage of respondents said they expected their direct partnerships revenue to go down.

Significant percentages of the publishers with affiliate commerce businesses are only making money in one way. Among publishers that generate affiliate revenue through direct partnerships, for example, close to 30% do not make any money through affiliate networks. 

Conversely, among the publishers that monetize their affiliate content through networks, an almost identical share do not make any money through direct deals with advertisers.


This split reflects the reality that commerce, as a revenue stream, is relatively new to most publishers. While a majority of publishers now generate at least some revenue from it, affiliate commerce amounts to a “very small” part of most publishers’ businesses.

For those looking to grow its overall share, simply diversifying its base of advertisers would be one way to do that. 


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