A poll was posted at ABestWeb today where one of the affiliates is asking other affiliates to express their opinion on whether ShareASale, an affiliate network known to stand up for affiliates’ interests, should start allowing affiliates to use downloadable toolbars in their marketing.
The question stems from this post in ShareASale’s blog and this thread of Brian Littleton, the founder and president of the ShareASale affiliate network. ShareASale is contemplating changing their Terms of Service to start allowing affiliates to use toolbars. On 3 February 2009 Brian is holding a roundtable where he wishes “to lay out a base guideline document” regarding what toolbars may be acceptable for use by ShareASale affiliates, and what mechanisms to put in place to police the unappropriate behavior (however it is defined). Kellie Stevens rightfully called this a “shift from the historical policy of ShareASale which has not allowed software in the network,” a shift that has naturally produced a “heated discussion” in the above-quoted ABestWeb thread. [source]
Much can be written about the topic, and I certainly encourage my readers to review all of the above-quoted links (it may take you some time, but it’ll be a time worth spent — especially, if you do not know much about the problem), but in this post I would like to draw people’s attention to the results of the poll. At the moment of this writing, over 85% of the poll participants have said “no” to toolbars.
Having been discussing this issue over the past several days with different affiliates and fellow-affiliate managers, I have heard different opinions. The basic undertone of every conversation that I’ve had has been that of concern that by allowing toolbars in, the affiliate network makes itself vulnerable to parasitic affiliate behavior. One affiliate told me: “I’m afraid that if the door is opened, even just a little bit, it’ll be a disaster. You can’t control in real time what is downloaded on the customer PC.”
I do applaud Brian for setting an unprecedented example of a real time communication channel between the affiliate network and all other involved parties. I also applaud his boldness and his openness. I am, however, in agreement with those affiliate marketers that see the dangers of allowing toolbar affiliates in. I’ll be present at the roundtable teleconference tomorrow. I pray it is constructive, as it is a historic moment both for one particular network, and for the industry as a whole.