Wall Street Journal Enters the Affiliate Marketing Fray with “Buy Side”

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The Wall Street Journal wants a cut of your next online shopping spree.

According to a report in Axios, the storied financial newspaper will launch a new commerce website today called “Buy Side from WSJ.” Reviews of consumer products will live alongside links to buy them, with revenue made from referral links known in the industry as “affiliate marketing.”

Corporate Affiliates

The WSJ is just the latest media org to get in on what’s called affiliate revenue, a term for the commission made from featuring consumer products. A simple example: you’re reading an article about the 10 best electric shavers and it includes links to buy them on Amazon. If you click through and buy, the publisher you were reading gets a commission from a partner. (Amazon, Skimlinks, and Red Ventures are among Buy Side’s affiliate launch partners).

Buy Side will operate independently from the newsroom as a unique section of the WSJ website. Expect reviews of products that interest WSJ readers, more likely to be tie-sporting financial professionals than t-shirted tech millennials — that means quality commuter backpacks, office furniture, and financial products. The site launches amid an affiliate marketing lull, but long-term growth prospects are strong:

  • According to Skimlinks data on publishers in the Comscore Top 250, total commission from affiliate revenue has grown just 2% this year, after increasing 37% in 2021 and 163% in 2020 during the pandemic ecommerce boom. But ecommerce ad spending, which was $28 billion or 13% of digital ad spending last year is projected to grow to $63 billion and 20% of digital ad spending by 2025, according to eMarketer data.
  • “Despite the current headwinds, building an affiliate strategy is the right strategy for publishers to build a sustainable revenue stream long-term,” Lauren Newmann, a VP at Skimlinks, told AdWeek.

The New York Times bought consumer review site Wirecutter for $30 million in 2016 and by 2018 it was making $20 million in annual revenue. BDG (owner of Bustle, NYLON, TZR, and Elite Daily) and BuzzFeed, which has its own branded Amazon shop, are two other media companies with major affiliate marketing businesses.

Ad Blocker: Publishers rely on Google search to drive traffic to their affiliate articles — Buy Side won’t have a paywall like the regular WSJ, opening it up to more readers who arrive by click — but Google is cracking down. In the last year, the web giant began demoting affiliate articles that lacked original photography or a diverse mix of outbound links — though that may just breed some very poorly lit photos of new shaving kits.