Sales Commissions and the Anchordudes’ Usenet Reviews Policies

The Anchordudes web site was developed over 10 years ago, and we got in to doing reviews even before we realized that some providers had affiliate programs that paid commissions. We just wanted to share our knowledge and experience, not make money.  And while it’s nice to get a check every so often, we’re still committed to those ideals. 

Through the years there have been providers with great products but no commissions, yet we recommended their products when they were the best in the industry. We’ve had providers write (or even call) us when we documented some problem they had – we’ve even had them cancel affiliate programs on us – yet when their products improved, we put them back on the recommended list. 

We don’t let commissions determine who we recommend, how we rate them, or what we say about them.  

We’ve had titans of the industry stiff us and screw us over, but because their service to end users is exceptional, we still recommend them.

Yes, we have built professional relationships, and at times even developed personal friendships, with members of the industry, but we promise to give you the straight scoop to the best of our ability. And no matter how hard any Usenet provider tries to lean on us, we don’t intend to change this policy.

How affiliate programs work:

Ever wonder why a certain book gets a big display near the entrance of a big chain bookstore? Why this week there’s a big pyramid of Coke products near the checkout at the supermarket – but next week it’s all Pepsi products? Or even why the ads on a Google or Yahoo search page appear in a certain order?

It’s pretty simple – Those suppliers or merchants are paying an extra fee to have their product displayed prominently. Floor space at the supermarket or book store is limited, and there’s only so much space on web page. The best real estate usually commands the highest price.

This can get a company in trouble – if not legally, then at least morally. Back when search engines like Yahoo and Google were trying to find ways to make money, they started letting advertisers pay them to make some search results appear before others – even mixing the advertising in with the real results. The public called foul, and now all the legitimate search engines are careful to separate the “organic” search results from the paid placement. But even within those restrictions, it’s still the advertiser that pays the most that gets the first listing within the advertisers.

Affiliate programs are a special way of paying companies to advertise a product or service.  Instead of paying a website for a specific place on the page, or the number of times the ad displays, they pay the website based on how many products they sell to people who followed a specific link.  Usually it is a percentage of the sales price, sometimes it is a flat amount per sale.  They effectively are selling something on commission.  If nothing sells, the advertiser pays nothing.

To make it more attractive for a website owner to push a specific product, advertisers often provide extra bonuses, or increase the payout per sale.  The specific payout isn’t the only thing that drives a website owner’s decision – the product has to be something his visitors would be interested in.  It doesn’t matter if Bartaloni’s Shoe Store is offering the website 80% of the sales price for each pair of alligator boots it sells – a pet rescue site just isn’t going to be a good market for advertising the boots.  For may websites, it’s a combination of what pays them the most and what is most likely to sell that determines what gets the best advertising position on a page.

You may be interested to know that just about every company selling something on the internet has a way of paying commissions to other web sites that refer customers to them. Amazon is probably the biggest, paying between 4 and 10% of the product selling price to any web site that induces a visitor to go to and buy something. So does Barnes and Noble, Tire Rack, and just about any other online store you can think of (including web sites that sell penis enlargement pills!) The referring website just has to make sure they include some special codes in the link to the store site, and they get credit for whatever the visitor buys.

99.5% of all the internet get-rich-quick schemes you read about (and try to take your money) are based on trying to help you take advantage of this model. The bad news is that it’s a saturated market – there are already 500,000 people trying to cash in on this sales approach, and at least 50,000 of them are really good at it already. The even worse news is that another 50,000 are abusing the business model by sending email spam with these kinds of links hoping that 1 in a thousand of the recipients will actually make a purchase off their link.

Another unfortunately by-product of this model is that rating and reviews web site owners have big incentives to give the most attention to the products and suppliers that pay them the biggest commissions. There are many fields where this is a real problem – most notably the Web Hosting industry. We (the Anchordudes) have struggled through site after site of hosting reviews trying to find quality results, while seeing the same low quality, high commission hosting companies show up time after time on review sites. It’s depressing.

So, we’ll come right out and say it: we get a commission of some sort whenever someone signs up for a Usenet account based on our recommendation. Just about every Newsgroup provider in the industry has some sort of commission structure (there are a few exceptions, but they are small niche players that don’t meet our other standards). We’d be stupid not to accept them. Interestingly, the market is pretty mature and for the most part the commissions paid by most of the major Usenet providers are pretty much the same, so there’s no incentive to play games with the reviews.