Amazon's Onsite Associates program

What Does Amazon’s Onsite Associates Program Mean for Publishers?

How to generate revenue through Amazon’s invite-only Onsite Associates program

As a digital publisher, you probably remember Amazon Spark. The Instagram-meets-Pinterest product board was quietly released by Amazon in 2017 as a social shopping experiment. Amazon Spark eventually shut down two years later, but a new product has grown from that experiment, and it could have big implications in the digital publishing space.

Amazon’s new program is currently invite-only, but for the publishers who’ve gotten involved, the commissions have been substantial. According to a new report by Digiday, at least one news publisher is seeing average monthly revenues from the Onsite Associates program in the “six figures.” At just a few months old, the opportunities from this new program appear to be very lucrative.

While Onsite Associates is currently invite-only, many digital publishers are wondering how the program works and whether it will be financially advantageous to join on.

What Is Amazon’s Onsite Associates Program?

Amazon’s Onsite Associates program is the ecommerce company’s attempt to fit publisher content into its retail platform. Onsite Associates takes product guides that have been put together by publishers and includes them in the search results that shoppers see when they search for the “best” of certain items on Amazon.

For example, let’s say a shopper enters “best blow dryer” in the search bar on Amazon’s homepage. Midway through the search results page is a breakout section with the heading “Editorial recommendations.” Below that is a link to the profile page of the publication and an introduction to an editorial guide put together by that publication’s writers. (In this specific case, the editorial recommendations for “best blow dryer” are made by Simplemost, a digital publication that features cultural events, money saving advice, recipes, and inspiring news.) Beside the publisher’s review article are links to the products recommended in the review. The complete editorial review article is published on Amazon’s Onsite Associates page.

Amazon only shows one guide, or editorial recommendation article, per search. If a shopper adds a product from the publisher’s guide to his or her cart, the publisher gets an affiliate commission.

Since the program launched last year, it has been invite-only. A quick search on Amazon shows that publications participating in the program include TechGearLab, PureWow, Gear Hungry, Sleepopolis, and Simplemost. Although publishers have the opportunity to create exclusive editorial recommendations specifically for Amazon, many are opting to repurpose existing content. That cuts down on the cost of participating in the program, since publishers aren’t paying their editorial staffers to create entirely new product recommendation guides from scratch.

Because the Onsite Associates program is new, publishers are still figuring out which keywords to use to increase the likelihood of their editorial recommendations appearing in Amazon’s search results.

Many of the publishers participating in Onsite Associates were already embedding affiliate links before the program was launched. This practice has been going on for years, with publishers like Wirecutter generating substantial revenue. However, payouts on Onsite Associates work slightly differently than with traditional affiliate links. Rather than paying commissions for the full contents of a customer’s shopping cart, which is what publishers get credit for with traditional affiliate links, publishers participating in Onsite Associates only get commissions paid for the specific items purchased from their guides. Commissions vary depending on product types, with some verticals being more lucrative than others.

What Are the Benefits of Amazon’s Onsite Associates Program?

The real benefit of Amazon’s Onsite Associates program is volume. More product searches now start on Amazon than Google, and having your guides show up on the first page of Amazon’s search results represents a major opportunity.

The biggest downside, as discussed earlier, is the commission structure. Publishers in the Onsite Associates program don’t get credit for the full contents of shoppers’ carts.

Another concern among publishers is the lack of data Amazon is providing. According to Digiday, there is currently no way for publishers to see how much time people are spending reading their editorial guides. This can make it difficult for publishers to optimize their content moving forward.

Whether Amazon’s Onsite Associates program is a good fit for your publication depends largely on your audience. If you are on the hunt for new, larger audiences, then the program has clear advantages. If you are already seeing tremendous traffic and generating substantial revenue through existing affiliates programs, then you may not need the boost that the Onsite Associates program can provide.