Do affiliate links undermine the marketing value of holiday gift guides?
Holiday gift guides have arrived from Oprah Magazine, Buzzfeed, The New York Times, CNET and numerous other publications and sites promising curated collections of tasteful gift offerings. They also include commission-driven, affiliated links.
Gaining the most coverage is Oprah Winfrey’s 24th annual “Favorite Things?,” which highlighted merchandise from Black-owned and Black-led businesses. The list was launched with a video of Oprah surprising a few of the selected business owners.
Among retailers, Oprah’s winner is Amazon.com. The list in fact has been labeled as “Presented By Amazon” for the last few years. Purchase links to items on Oprah’s list head straight to Amazon, not only from her magazine’s website, but also from articles showcasing her list on InStyle, Today, Real Homes and several other sites.
Today wrote in its disclaimer, “Our editors independently selected these items because we think you will enjoy them and might like them at these prices. If you purchase something through our links, we may earn a commission.”
Real Homes wrote that it, “is supported by its audience and 100 percent independent. When you purchase through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. This helps us continue to bring you more of the content you love.”
Among other examples of affiliate marketing, NBCnews.com posts separate articles from Nordstrom, Walmart and Sephora featuring their respective holiday lists.
The New York Times holiday guide offers an extensive collection of gifts “independently chosen” by editors of the paper and Wirecutter, a review site it acquired in 2016. The Times indicates it “may earn a commission on purchases through these links.”
Reviews from tech blog sites likewise promise editorial independence, yet are supported by sales commissions. In a review, Mashable described Neiman Marcus’ “Fantasy Gifts” guide as “especially out of touch in 2020,” yet included links in the article to purchase products.
According to an article on Harvard’s Nieman Journalism website, the “main tension” with publishers earning affiliate revenue comes from the fact that reviews that are positive generate more sales. Some retailers give publishers a larger cut than others, potentially influencing recommendations.
- The Oprah’s Favorite Things 2020 List Is Here! – The Oprah Magazine
- 2020 Gift Guide on BuzzFeed – BuzzFeed
- Oprah Just Revealed All of Her Favorite Things for 2020 — and Of Course 2020’s ‘It’ Bag Made the Cut – Instyle
- Oprah’s favorite things just dropped on Amazon — here are 7 home gifts to grab this holiday season! – Real Homes
- Gift Guides – Today
- Best Nordstrom gift ideas 2020: Holiday Nordstrom gift guide – NBC News
- 2020 Holiday Gift Guide – The New York Times
- Shop 18 of the Best Holiday Gift Ideas for Home Lovers and Hosts — Chosen by People Editors! – People
- The Neiman Marcus Fantasy Gifts are especially out of touch in 2020 – Mashable
- Neiman Marcus Makes It Magic With The Unveiling Of The 94th Edition Of The Iconic Christmas Book And Legendary Fantasy Gifts – Neiman Marcus/PRNewswire
- Ethics Statement – The Verge
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you consider commission-driven affiliate marketing programs to be ethical for publishers as well as for retailers? What guidelines should such programs follow?