— Bombay Bicycle Club (@BombayBicycle) September 24, 2012
The band’s manager confirmed to Evolver.fm that “the band itself is actually not an iTunes affiliate” yet the above-quoted link indeed shows a mysterious affId appended to the end of it (when viewed through a browser’s address bar):
While it’s hard to imagine that affId could stand for anything else but an “affiliate ID”, “quietly generating revenue by modifying user submitted” content is a risky business. Yesterday night, however, in a Billboard.biz article entitled “Yes, Twitter Is an Apple iTunes Affiliate” we read the following:
A source familiar with the situation told Evolver.fm that Twitter has been adding its own affiliate ID to links tweeted by users since it first launched that early integration with iTunes Ping, and that it continues to do so today.
…”When you click on a Tweet that’s sent via Ping or that contains an iTunes link,” reads the original announcement about Twitter/iTunes integration, “you’ll see the song or album in Twitter’s details pane, with the ability to listen to song previews from iTunes, making the experience even richer.”
It makes Twitter richer too, assuming people click through to buy — though not enough for it to forsake its main strategy of including advertising in favor of becoming primarily an affiliate marketer, from what we hear.Apple, Twitter, and Linkshare, which administers Apple’s iTunes affiliate program in the United States, would not comment on the record.
All of this is very interesting (especially, keeping in mind that the Twitter-Ping integration happened nearly two years ago). One thing, however, doesn’t work out for me. Using Tamper Data I’ve analyzed what happens upon the click on the link in the originally-quoted Bombay Bicycle Club’s tweet, and I don’t see click.linksynergy.com (which is always how iTunes US affiliate clicks start) anywhere in the stream.
On top of the above-quoted, another interesting claim was made by Evolver.fm’s Van Buskirk in the course of the week: while Twitter won’t replace another affiliate’s iTunes link in a tweet, the “preview” which appears under Tweets containing iTunes links will not have the “affiliate link” and is likely to land money in Twitter’s pocket. In this case, we’re told:
…all the affiliate marketers who count on Twitter and iTunes for making money just saw some of their monthly paychecks fly out the window.
This example (with a made-up “affiliate link”) is being quoted to support the hypothesis.
I asked my affiliate friends to send me a link, and here’s how a real one would look:
Should I buy the Walk the Moon album? click.linksynergy.com/fs-bin/stat?id…
— Todd Martini (@tmartini) September 29, 2012
So with the “previews” experiment the problem is that (a) iTunes affiliate links never start with itunes.apple.com (unless, of course, in addition to the affiliate program mentioned on their website, they also have a proprietary one of which I’m not aware), and (b) when a real affiliate link (which does go through Linkshare) is tweeted, no “preview” (“the window” through which affiliate paychecks may, as suggested, “fly out”) is being generated.
Do my two experiments (one – with Tamper Data, and another one – with Todd Martini’s affiliate link) mean that Twitter is not monetizing through an affiliate marketing relationship with Apple iTunes. They don’t. But, unless iTunes is simultaneously running an in-house affiliate program, they do point to flaws in the original argumentation.
I am, however, still very much intrigued by that affId parameter, and the reference to the “source familiar with the situation.”