Mail Online Embraces Affiliate Marketing

Mail Online, the world’s most visited newspaper website is embracing affiliate marketing to help convert the 8 mn daily visits into a new revenue stream for the publisher. According to Experian Hitwise, Mail Online leads the way in terms of market share when compared to Guardian, Telegraph and Sun Online.

Although a very different target market and editorial content to the Daily Mail newspaper, Mail Online has deliberately focused on the showbiz, celebrity culture fine-tuning its content tailored to this online audience eager to return for more on a daily basis. With the appetite for celebrity gossip – it provides a perfect digital content marketing plan geared around a global publishing brand.


Migrating to an online channel

There has been mounting speculation as to how the traditional newspaper sector can embrace and can create a viable business model in sustaining healthy revenues through a digital platform. The dramatic changing landscape of users expecting content to be made available online and for free has hit the traditional newspaper market hard. And with the rise in more competition online to cater for the growing demand for content – there is an expectation from the end user that such content should be accessible and be made free of charge.

Certain online newspapers such as The Times Online, Financial Times and New York Times have responded to this by creating a revenue stream through establishing a paywall where users are expected to pay a monthly/weekly subscription to access the newspapers digital content. Recently the Telegraph opted for a subscription based model should the user decide to view more than 20 articles per month.

However the Mail Online seems to be taking this alternative approach, whilst continuing to grow traffic (the site grew in visits by 5% based on May 2013) it’s looking to monetise it’s content by aligning commercial revenue streams off the back of published content through affiliate marketing

So what exactly is Affiliate Marketing?

This is a digital performance based marketing approach where websites (affiliates) will promote your business through advertising your products or services. Here is a simple example: Online sports retailer e.g. Kitbag has an affiliate program hosted through a 3rd party affiliate network (e.g. Trade Doubler, Affiliate Window). Affiliates will be attracted to the Kitbag program as Kitbag will pay the affiliate website a % commission on any sales generated through their website promoting Kitbag products.

For the retailer, there is no risk, as you are only paying a commission out to the affiliate website on any sales they generate. This is backed up by industry evidence according to a recent survey by Affilinet, where 32% of marketing delegates believed that affiliate marketing is more effective at generating sales than other digital channels. For affiliate sites themselves, there has been a notable increase in the amount of sites (30%) generating at least 20,000 visitors a month to merchant sites, this is up 19% two years ago (Econsultancy / UK Affiliate Census, 2011).


Affiliate Marketing Opportunities for Mail Online

For Mail Online, there are a number of opportunities to maximise their affiliate channels to drive a healthy incremental revenue stream into the business and a number of considerations to explore:

-Strategic Partnerships – According to a recent article in the Financial Times, the Mail Online affiliate program has already signed deals with up to 90% of high street & online retailers – this provides an opportunity for the newspaper to build and optimise their online content associated with select retailers.

The online newspaper’s  USP will be the level of traffic and editorial content engine – providing a distinct opportunity in negotiating commission levels on sales generated for retailers working with the newspaper.

Content Optimisation  – The creation of an affiliate channel will mean opportunities to embed a revenue model within the Mail online editorial approach to creating content generation. Having a well polished editorial and production engine of content delivered through to the website and it’s syndication partners, suggests tailored, themed content could be the next stage in monetising this content with select retailers e.g. seasonal products and promotions.

In house Affiliate program –  The affiliate channel is monopolised by 3rd party networks eager to create their own USP in terms of best network for tracking, monitoring and account management. Although affiliate networks alleviate any issues with regards to resource, The Mail Online could consider running this affiliate channel in-house – this will not only allow them to build and work directly with online and offline retailers (without the need to go through a 3rd party network) but to also look to negotiate a better fee on commission fees or opt to buy in their own performance affiliate program bespoke for their organisation e.g. Performance Horizon

Global brand – Optimising editorial content and celebrity news stories around products to promote thorugh affiliate links, provides an opportunity for Mail Online to further enhance its online content to key global audiences.

Editorial Sponsorship – Could this provide opportunities for retailers, designers or clothing brands to work with Mail Online in creating advertorials promoting their products with associated content and product placement opportunities.

By bringing together the world’s most visited online newspaper and integrating a performance marketing approach to monetising its content, it provides an interesting platform in how to monetise a content marketing strategy through online newspaper publishing. It’s a wise and creative move by Mail Online, looking to generate revenue through content whilst at the same time harnessing ways to monetise its traffic levels rather than opting to penalise its users by inserting a paywall. At the same time it should offer a wealth of opportunities to create strategic content partnerships with leading retailers.


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