How to Use Affiliate Marketing to Turn Video Streams into Cash Streams

Filmmaking is a labor of love, but it’s also hard work. Perhaps it’s time for your videos to work for you. If you own compelling content that draws an enthusiastic audience, you just might have what it takes to turn your content into cash through affiliate marketing.

Affiliate marketing, sometimes called affiliate links, is a partnership between a content owner and an online retail business like Amazon, iTunes, Target or eBay. The content owner earns a commission each time a visitor buys a retail product after clicking on a link or an embedded ad.

It’s hard to get accurate numbers for affiliate marketing paychecks — the proprietary data stays private. For most filmmakers, affiliate links might generate enough cash for an occasional pizza, but a handful will earn some serious cash — it all depends on the drawing power of the content.

The Basics

Unlike YouTube ads that can be embedded directly into the video content, affiliate marketing ads get placed on webpages and blogs, or else in the description or annotations attached to your video. Let’s dig deeper by exploring some online advertising terminology.

An impression is a single ad shown to a viewer. The click-through rate is the number of clicks on ads divided by the number of impressions, stated as a percentage. For example, if an ad reaps 100 clicks after 1000 impressions, the click-through rate would be 100/1000 = 0.1, or 10%. A comparison of click-through rates of different ads offers a window into their effectiveness.

Another metric of online advertising is eCPM, which literally means “effective cost per mille” — mille is Latin for thousand. If a content owner transforms 1000 impressions into $5 of earnings, they earn $5.00 per eCPM. Amazon claims that hundreds of their affiliates earn more than $5.00 per eCPM.

Conversion is the number of items shipped divided by the number of clicks on ads, expressed as a percentage. For example, if an ad generates 200 clicks and those referrals result in 10 shipped items, the conversion rate is 10/200 = 0.05, or 5%.

King of the Jungle

Amazon offers a robust affiliate marketing program with a wide variety of ad types. One powerful variation is the recommendation ad in which Amazon automatically recommends the best matched products based on your content. This generates ads that are highly relevant to visitors and might even result in an, “I’ve been looking all over for that gizmo, thank you!” response.

Amazon offers a robust affiliate marketing program with a wide variety of ad types.

Another ad variant gives you the power to specify the exact Amazon products you want to promote. Or, you can embed a simple text link on your site that takes visitors to the Amazon page or product category of your choosing.

Amazon commission rates vary from 1% – 10% of the purchase price of an item depending on the category of the product. For example, game downloads earn 10%, while purchases of electronic equipment garners 4%. So, if a visitor purchases a digital camera for $500, the associate earns a cool $20, through the 4% commission. Not bad.

I set up an Amazon Associates account for, a recipe site I own that generates a modest 1200 visitors a week. After a quick approval process, I embedded HTML code generated by Amazon into pages in a matter of minutes. The banner ad I chose offered products that speak directly to the demographics of my recipe site visitors. Don’t know how to work with HTML? No problem. Amazon’s Publisher Studio is a tool that easily inserts ads into WordPress, Blogger and other content management systems.

Other Programs

In eBay’s Partner Network, approved affiliates receive a percentage of revenue eBay earns from the purchase of qualifying products. For example, in the United States, you’ll earn 55% for electronics, 60% for collectables and 65% for home and garden. Remember, this is a percentage of revenue eBay receives, not the price of the sold item.

Apple makes it easy for your website visitors to buy music, TV shows, movies, apps, books and more from the iTunes store. You’ll earn a 7% commission on any item sold.

Target offers an affiliate program limited to apparel (5%); home and outdoor living (5%); baby gear and furniture (3%); and health and beauty (1%). Missing are products like electronics, sporting goods, music and books. Commission rates increase with sales volume — more sales in any category produces a higher commission, up to 8%.

It’s unlikely that you’ll purchase a vacation home with affiliate marketing earnings, but maybe it could help pay for that new gadget you want. Go out there, create some compelling content and give it a try

Sidebar: Affiliate Marketing Case Study: Radio Paradise

Launched in 2000, Radio led the emerging online radio movement by playing eclectic music selected by humans, not computers. This listener-supported service shuns traditional radio commercials, yet embraces the visually tasteful use of affiliate marketing.

Owners Bill and Rebecca Goldsmith implemented simple text links to iTunes and Amazon on their front page. Links elsewhere allow listeners to purchase the music that’s playing. The Goldsmiths love the fact that the unassuming links don’t look like advertising, unlike Google Ads that typically scream commercialism.

Bill Goldsmith offers his view on the advantages of affiliate marketing, “Once an affiliate program has been set up, it begins a flow of income that requires little to no subsequent investment of time or energy.” Affiliate links generate about 10% of Radio Paradise’s income. They receive about 130,000 unique visitors per week — their content has what it takes to attract a loyal audience willing to click on affiliate links.

David G. Welton teaches in the Radio/TV/Film Department at Butte College in northern California.

David Welton
David Welton
David G. Welton is a teacher in the Radio/TV/Film Department at Butte College in Northern California. He also runs a vintage recipe website called Nana's Recipes that celebrates his mom’s cooking legacy.

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