Revolution and Steam Punk Penguins

Are The Affiliate Walls Crumbling?

Jeff Molander thinks so in his latest piece and I must disagree, although I think drop shipping holds promise. The walls of affiliate marketing are not “crumbling”, but the boundaries are shifting. This shift is happening for several reasons and I will note a few:

  • Retailers have mastered trench affiliate tactics. Affiliates tend to be early adopters, merchants lag behind.
  • Quality Web and search real estate is more concentrated and therefore turf wars (i.e. keyword bidding) break out.
  • Age-old “run and gun” SEO tactics will continue to falter as personalized search and social media grow.


No. Search Engine Optimization is not dead, but as I have said for years, it is not a good hinge pin to build your business around. It is important to master rules of good architecture and reap the benefits of natural SEO. By natural I mean not contrived, but the type of growth and organic linking you receive from putting out quality. There are now more avenues for distribution of content than ever before. A few include:

  • Video
  • RSS
  • Social Networks
  • PDF
  • Other types of media

What Should Affiliates Do?

What they do best. Zero in and master a niche, and master them quickly. Micro-production is one area Brian Clark explored years ago. Let me show you a prime example of how far we have come since 2004. has buyers waiting and sellers producing intricate and interesting items you cannot find elsewhere.

Think of it as an online marketplace for buying & selling all things handmade. Their mission is to enable people to make a living making things, and to reconnect makers with buyers. As far as I know there is not an “affiliate” option but I think that might be a matter of time.

Show Me An Example

I mentioned sometime ago about my discussions with the Second Life citizens who embraced the Steam Punk aesthetic in the world of Caledon. I acknowledge that Second Life has myriad problems (See: Exclusive with Timeless Prototype), however it is still excellent for networking, fast prototyping, and a good place to pan for emerging trends. Second Life is all about niche and fringe. The future of healthy web profits are in niche and fringe too. Here you cannot compete as easily on price or dominate a market. Small is good. Small means fast. This calls for operations that can turn on a dime and affiliates can not only turn on a dime, they can work with less than a dime.

Wikipedia has this to say about Steam Punk:

“Steampunk is a subgenre of fantasy and speculative fiction which came into prominence in the 1980s and early 1990s. The term denotes works set in an era or world where steam power is still widely used—usually the 19th century, and often set in Victorian era England—but with prominent elements of either science fiction or fantasy, such as fictional technological inventions like those found in the works of H. G. Wells and Jules Verne, or real technological developments like the computer occurring at an earlier date. Other examples of steampunk contain alternate history-style presentations of “the path not taken” of such technology as dirigibles or analog computers; these frequently are presented in an idealized light, or a presumption of functionality.

In general, the category includes any recent science fiction that takes place in a recognizable historical period (sometimes an alternate-history version of an actual historical period) where the Industrial Revolution has already begun but electricity is not yet widespread, with an emphasis on steam- or spring-propelled gadgets. The most common historical steampunk settings are the Victorian and Edwardian eras, though some in this “Victorian steampunk” category can go as early as the beginning of the Industrial Revolution. ”

There is even a Western genre and Steam Punk communities are starting to take seed.

Try to find Steam Punk at your local WalMart and I doubt you will have any luck, but Etsy has dozens of unique and exquisite Steam Punk items. Steam Punk is an emerging trend and mapping it out on Google Trends we can see an increase in press and a sudden spike in search activity. The search activity tells me people are looking for Steam Punk items. Doing a little keyword research I would imagine it is around literature and fashion, I know this from exploring Steam Punk communities in other virtual worlds.

Is Anyone Micro Producing?

You bet. I didn’t get much time to spend with her at the last Affiliate Summit, but I think JGoode is a great example. Her penguins, art illustrations, t-shirts, and greeting cards are excellent examples of owning one’s own brand, producing quality, and knitting it together with niche. Look at her operation and learn.

What’s next? If I were her I would probably come up with some Steam Punk themed penguins or perhaps find a subject matter expert on Steam Punk to work and/or collaborate with and start approaching some communities and hit the niche head on. (I know just the person…)

Affiliate marketing is not dead. The walls are not crumbling and the world is not going to explode- yet. The terrain is changing and in the long run it will change in favor of the small operation who can find, dominate and serve a niche. The long tail is real. Just like the penguin Todd Crawford is holding on my shoulder from MyPenguinTravels. I must not have been paying attention.

Todd and Wayne

About Wayne Porter

Wayne Porter is one of the original founders of, and served as the CEO and founder of XBlock Systems a specialized research firm on greynets and malware research before being acquired by unified communications security leader, Factime Security Labs. His work includes serving as a panlist at the Federal Trade Commission to shape legislation on software and the creation of two patent-pending technologies for corporate networks. Wayne is a frequent speaker at e-commerce & business events including CJU, ASW and RSA and frequently cited in the press. He has been designated a Microsoft Security MVP three times and is recognized on Google’s Responsible Security Disclosure page- in addition to receiving the first Summit Legend Award. Wayne currently works as a Security Consultant on Social Media and operates a consultancy on digital worlds. His hobbies include reading science fiction, playing chess, fishing, writing, collecting shiny digital gadgets, playing racquetball and studying memetic engineering. He maintains a personal weblog at detailing his explorations in security, web 2.0, and virtual worlds.
You can follow Wayne on Twitter: @wporter.

17 Responses to Revolution and Steam Punk Penguins

  1. Wayne Porter says:

    I would argue with you for the sake of argument…Viva la Argument!


  2. Wayne, you have to take his posts in perspective:

    "So what’s next?

    Drop Shipping"

    Why would he say that when I don't see that happening at all. Might it be because they're working together, co-sponsored a party at the last Summit and the posts are basically one long sale with content wrapped around it? Or am I just off on that.

    And no affiliate marketing is not dead or dying.

    Things are changing. Well yeah, things always do. I just see it as more opportunity. That's great.

    Finding and hitting niches. Yes, as always.

  3. Wayne Porter says:

    I think drop shipping is very viable. I have no financial interests in Jeff's post. I think affiliate marketing as we know it is POORLY DEFINED. Thus why no one can even agree on what is affiliate marketing.

    I don't mind just find and hit the niches. CONTROL the inventory using JIT operations. That is an evolutionary leap


  4. "I think drop shipping is very viable."

    First off that's not affiliate marketing and I only say that because I don't think successful affiliates want to get into drop shopping. Feel free to start a poll on that, it'll back that up.

    And I know this is an online revenue blog, so yes it is another way to make money online, so is selling stuff on ebay. And I know that's what you're getting at if I'm correct?

    Well, there's good and bad with that. If you have many sources and one doesn't work out, you could still be in good shape. But many, as Jeff pointed out in another blog of his, have gone out of business. So if you're the type that relies on one and it goes out of business, you're screwed.

    And what do you mean about affiliate marketing being poorly defined? It's just commission based selling basically.

  5. Wayne Porter says:

    If you drop ship and recruit your own affiliates- doesn't that make it affiliate marketing?

    Yes Revenews is about Revenue…not just affiliate marketing…whatever or however we define it.

  6. Not sure, guess it depends how you look at it. But as far as drop shipping, I don't see it as a step or "what's next", it's just an option. Another option in making money online, one that's been around for awhile now.

  7. Wayne Porter says:

    Agreed Jonathan. It has been around for some time. It is a possible step for some. I think WOrld Wide Brands (used to blog here) have setup a pretty good drop shipping opportunity filter (e.g. they are not shucksters).

    I personally don't want to drop ship either, as I said I used to ship books via ebay back in the late 90's- I loved it, but it was hard, hard work.

    However I am keenly interested in production on demand. e.g. art, software, information, etc.

  8. Wayne Porter says:

    Back to that Point of View thing…I like to think of it as a form of risk diversification by controlling the relationship with the customer.

  9. Wayne…
    We don’t disagree at all. If we disagreed you’d argue against my logic which extends beyond a single word 🙂

    Let the pile-on ensue of everyone taking your words “affiliate marketing is not dead” and putting them into my mouth via your disagreement which is agreement. Viva la blogging! 🙂

  10. jgoode says:

    I'm relatively new to the affiliate space so my view of this "shift" is limited. However, no matter how we look at it, money making online, from my view, is shifting all around. It's moving back into the personal touch realm of thinking. Personalization and personal interests for consumers as well as retailers/merchants/etc. – move away from blind automation and mass appeal and back to personal contact with customers – offering the best for a few instead of a heap for the masses. Get to know our customers and clients on a more real knowledge level, not just through stats and assumptions.

    I think this is why the niche works well. not just because its a tiny focused area to specialize in, but because its such a detailed facet, we can personally approach, relate to, love and share about. The key being… be apart of the interest that drives the niche and share the interest.

    The more I read about internet economics and new media, the more it's apparent to me that product availability on a personal "one just for me" on-demand level is the way to to look ahead. How we approach that in the affiliate space… is an interesting challenge but I think a challenge worth tackling.

    –love what you do and eventually what you do will love you back. 😉

  11. Wayne Porter says:

    Let’s make that some sort of axiom Jen. You touched upon it well…how about:

    “Get back to knowing your customers and clients as people, rather than seeing them only as consumers that are quantified through statistics and assumptions.”


  12. Jimmy says:

    Part of the problem of affiliate marketing is that it suffers from a bad case of low self esteem.

  13. Wayne Porter says:

    Nods at Jimmy. Why? IMHO Deal structure. Affiliates assume more risk because of the inherent nature of CPA,CPS models as opposed to CPC or CPM. This is why I am a big fan of blended deals or CPS with slotting fees. This is why I think we need a professional organization. This is why we need media kits and more formal instruction.

    It doesn't mean affiliate marketing can't be the grassroots effort it is, it simply means one can make more money for their efforts if they know how to play the ball game.


  14. Nick Ernst says:

    IMO, affiliate marketting suffers because it leads to a state where everyone is selling the same thing. At that point people no longer come to you because you have a better product or a product they can't find elsewhere. Unless you have something to attract them, and then interest them in said product, you probably won't be selling any of it.

    In other words…why would I come to you to buy something I sell myself, or can buy from someone I know?

  15. jgoode says:

    Nick, I feel the same way. what the solution is, I'm not sure.. I think the unique, creative aspect of creating a successful business is missing in many cases.

  16. Wayne Porter says:

    Nick and Jen,

    The solution lies in what is the differentiator?

    Again right now Etsy is a prime example of a destination where everyone is not selling the same thing…will someone please call them up and pitch them on revenue sharing? (Before say Google buys them.)

    Nick having promoted your products using a system in the Second Life environment do you believe you “learned” things from me? (As your affiliate?) Of course there is a real relationship there too, but content creators can work with “marketers”. That is ok.


  17. Jimmy… hitting nail firmly on head. While the “affiliate marketing” industry is constantly under assault from the outside in it does itself no favors by taking it self less-than-seriously. As I’ve said in the past affiliate programs are perceived as “the junior leagues” of Web marketing based partially on how others view it but, as you point out, also on how it views itself. It’s like anything else in life — want to be successful? Then you must REEK of confidence and pride even when you’re being attacked, demeaned or questioned. Never let them see you sweat.

    As I’ve said before, yes, I have investments here and there in companies, ideas, etc. Drop shipping is one of them. I’m glad to hear your opinion on it 🙂 and welcome your explaining why it’s not part of your future. For the record, Wayne, what you point out is exactly (partially actually) why drop-shipping has not taken off. It’s been, thus far, too difficult.