Amazon is eliminating a program that rewards websites with a commission based on the number of products people buy when directed to the e-commerce portal.
Amazon Associates make money when visitors to their websites click links to Amazon products and then purchase them. It’s a revenue model used by sites like Wirecutter, Gizmodo, and sometimes GeekWire. Amazon is preserving the affiliate program but it’s axing a commission structure known as the Variable Standard Fee, which allows third-party sites to earn a higher percent of the sale based on the number of products sold per month.
Associates could previously earn up to 8.5 percent if Amazon sold more than 3,131 products from their affiliate links. Those could be products in any category. Under the new system, the percentage of the commission is based on the category of product sold.
For affiliates that earn revenue on large volumes of sales on items like books, physical video games, and non-Amazon devices, it means a fairly significant cut in commission. Those that push traffic for digital video games, luxury beauty, and Amazon Coins, on the other hand, stand to retain a higher percentage of sales.
Prior to the changes, Amazon had both fixed rate and variable rate commission structures. The company says the shift to just a fixed rate model is a reaction to “feedback from associates that the advertising fee structure could be made clearer, especially with respect to understanding which products are in fixed-fee categories and which products are in tiered-fee categories.”
The changes could bruise sites that are heavily reliant on affiliate revenue. As Nieman Labs notes, it’s another example of the powerful influence Amazon wields in the e-commerce world and the dangers of building a business around the company’s conditional infrastructure.
GeekWire has contacted Amazon and will update this story if we hear back.