Skimlinks, a company that helps online publishers make money through affiliate links, says that it had a record year, driving more than $500 million in e-commerce sales.
A spokesperson told me that three quarters of Skimlinks sales go through affiliate networks that report e-commerce sales value, and they reported $402.3 million in sales driven by Skimlinks in 2013. However, since there are other networks that don’t report sales value, the company is estimating that it drove more than $500 million total for the year (more specifically, based on historical analysis, the company says the number was probably between $502 million and $536 million). That’s about double the sales from last year.
Skimlinks’ technology includes the ability to convert regular links and relevant words into affiliate links (in other words, links where the publisher is paid a commission for driving purchases). Recent additions include last fall’s launch of Skimlinks Editor, a browser plugin that allows publishers to compare the current affiliate commission rates across different merchants.
In a conversation with CEO Alicia Navarro before the launch, and in follow-up emails with a company spokesperson, Skimlinks emphasized that the Editor product is the first step toward “intelligent linking,” i.e., links that are automatically updated and don’t require any work from the writer, editor, or publisher: “They won’t have to find products or list prices; and readers won’t be faced with dead links or redirects or outdated pricing.”
Navarro acknowledged that providing monetization data may be seen as a risk to editorial integrity, and she noted that in some cases, publishers have chosen to hide the actual commission rates from editors. At the same time, she said, “There’s a very strong feel that publishers are realizing that if they keep doing what they’re doing, they’re going to become obsolete. … [and] that it’s not a dirty word, making money from something.”
Navarro added that that 2014 will involve building a lot more of that intelligent linking infrastructure.
One thing that doesn’t seem to be a big priority is mobile. While that seems to be where a lot of publishers and startups are putting their energy nowadays, Navarro said that when it comes to actually making purchases, there doesn’t seem to be much traffic from mobile, “So I don’t think we’re missing out on too much yet.”