I’ve been pondering the Adsense decision to get into the referral business this morning since hearing the news. There are a number of questions and directions that my mind has taken with it. Bear with me as I think out loud for a few minutes:
Who is left to Refer? – My initial reaction to the announcement was that it’s a nice idea – but who would I refer? It’s probably the blogging circles that I hang around in – but I’m scratching my head to think of too many online publishers who are not already with Adsense. Some of them are inactive of course – but most seem involved already. Over the past few years Adsense has saturated the contextual advertising market brilliantly – to the point where a referral program at this point kind of seems somewhat pointless.
Response to Competition – Is this move more about a response to competition than anything else? YPN is rumored to be coming out of beta in the coming month or two and many believe that they’ll have a referral program of their own. Chitika’s referrer program has caused some real buzz (check out the latest graph for the word chitika at blogpulse) – While Adsense might not recruit too many more publishers at this stage – their competition stands a lot to gain from such programs (as do those who promote them). Is this an attempt at diffusing some of the attention of these new programs?
Sign of Things to Come? – As I pondered this morning and read over the Adsense policies around the referral program I found myself wondering if this might actually be something a little bigger than just a referral program for Adsense. Check out some of the wording in their reference to the referral program (emphases mine):
• ‘With our new referrals feature, you can increase your revenue while increasing your users’ awareness of useful products and services.’
• ‘A single referral button per product may be placed on a page….’
• ‘You can begin referring users immediately – just visit the Referrals tab within your account, choose the product and the referral button you like best, and add the associated snippet of code to your site.’
What I notice (or perhaps I’m reading too much into it) is that their wording could apply to the current two options for referrals that they give (ie the Adsense one and the Firefox/Toolbar one) or it could equally be worded that way for additional referral programs to be added.
Could Adsense be preparing to roll out other referral programs in in doing so be entering new territory – ie that of affiliate marketing?
How difficult would it be for Adsense to extend their referral program not only to their own two products but to those of other companies. When we log into the Referrals page in Adsense will we one day see more tabs besides the Adsense and Firefox ones? Perhaps there will be an iTunes one or a bookstore one….the options are limitless. In a sense this would see them competing with affiliate programs like Commission Junction or Linkshare who act as middle men between publishers and companies – paying out commissions for a variety of conversion results.
Could what we’re seeing being rolled out right now be the first round of many referral products by Adsense?