The last seven months or so have been an incredible journey. A year ago, I was eagerly looking forward to a great year of growth for my sites. I had recently redesigned some sites which really paid off, and started a couple new ones which were picking up nicely. I believed that 2008 would be great year.
In the spring I was still optimistic. The early rumblings about the “Amazon Tax” didn’t really worry me. I took my cues from the industry and no one else seemed overly worried. No one was really talking about it. Besides, Eliot Spitzer had already backed down before on this issue. Then Spitzer’s off duty antics caught up with him, and he stepped down from office.
In comes David Patterson who, within a couple of weeks after assuming office, signs the budget. Faced with a budget gap around $4.6 Billion Dollars, NYS sought to both decrease spending and increase revenue. They cut $1.8 billion from the budget leaving a $2.8 billion deficit. They decided on five ways to increase revenue. One tactic was to require Internet retailers to collect sales tax and the estimated result was to be $50 million in additional monies paid to the state.
When Amazon filed lawsuit I was a little more concerned but it wasn’t until Overstock terminated their NY Affiliates that I really became worried. I met with my accountants and then I was really worried. That night I could not sleep.
Terminations of all New York Affiliates by merchants began to flood our emails and there seemed to be a domino effect. A common phrase in these emails that terminated us from merchant programs was “We apologize for this temporary inconvenience”. That phrase and the last minute unexpected terminations by a few trusted merchants was for me the last straw. The real journey was about to begin.
It was those terminations, that phrase “temporary inconvenience”, and the lack of notice from merchants I had trusted and valued that made me realize that affiliates need to step up. We need to realize that we are valued partners and we need to be treated as such. Valued partners should not just be a catch phrase, it needs to have true meaning.
Late May-early June also marked the beginning of this blog, NY Affiliate Voice. This blog began as a way for me to voice my opinions and thoughts. At first it was my form of catharsis; but this blog has evolved into more than that. I too have evolved.
Over the past seven months I have had to make changes to my websites and to my business model, and of course like most NY Affiliates, I’ve suffered financial loss. My sites were hurt by the loss of some merchant relationships but that is just one of the effects.
The realization that as an affiliate I was so vulnerable was depressing. I knew I had to deal with competition, tracking problems, cookie blockers, cookie overrides, leaks on merchant sites, hosting woes and other problems but the added vulnerability of the relationship was almost too much. I saw that merchants could terminate at will and void sales at will, even retroactively. I saw that many within our industry do not realize that we are small business owners and not hobbyists. How can we expect those outside of the industry to understand or value what we do unless our industry as a whole does it first? We cannot expect legislators to enact fair and balanced law governing our industry if they do not understand it.
After our meeting in Albany and the formulation of the NY Affiliate Tax solution I was optimistic. 4Checks implemented the solution! We presented the solution at ABW and at Affiliate Summit East 2008 (full video of NY Affiliate Tax Solution and Issue from Affiliate Summit) . Some merchants embraced the solution and reinstated NY affiliates, others promised to work on it. After Affiliate Summit, I was exhausted, June and July really taken it’s toll on me. I was physically and emotionally tired. I needed to take a little break. Although I continued work on the NY tax issue, I kept a lower profile. Besides, I was giving merchants time to take action. I find it ironic that jury duty was also a part of my break.
After a month or so I was somewhat energized. As September arrived, examination of where NY Affiliates stood showed we needed to make more progress on the NY issue. New terminations trickled in and I needed to devote time and energy to it. The lack of progress of some merchants has also caused me to reevaluate my place in the affiliate industry. The lack of more progress also made me contemplate if it was time to move on from affiliate marketing.
It is hard to let go of something that took years to build, something that was created from your heart. I still maintain my websites but have realized that I can not depend solely on affiliate marketing. Though I adjusted my sites, adding new merchants and Adsense, some holes have been impossible to fill. My sites are still recovering, I am still recovering. Seven months is not enough time to rebuild what took me years to create.
Last week I spoke about the adaptation of NY affiliates. I too have adapted. Needing to supplement my income, I launched a new venture this month, Seery Writing. So although I am not leaving affiliate marketing, I am branching out.
Looking back on the my voyage, I realize I have evolved. I have realized that all of us can have an impact on the direction the affiliate industry takes. I have also seen the power of a group, “the Albany Group” and the power of a voice to help institute change.
I am not sure where I will be a year from now but I do know that for now, the voyage continues.