Posted Wednesday, September 01, 2004

The New iMac is Cool, But How About that iTunes Affiliate Program?

I'm glad to see that the G5 iMac is here -- or will be soon. I'll avoid the temptation to weigh in on it because I haven't seen one in the plastic yet. I will say that I'll miss the articulated display of the previous iMac. My wife uses a G4 iMac, and she constantly swivels the display around depending on where she's sitting or standing in her office.

So much for resisting the temptation to weigh in. Whatever. I hope Apple sells a boatload of new iMacs, and I hope that everyone on that boat buys my iLife book and instructional DVD.

Another development took place in the Mac world today, and in its own way, it's as significant and exciting as the new iMac. Apple has launched an affiliate program for the iTunes Music Store. It's now possible for anyone who has a Web site to make money by sending customers to the iTunes Music Store.

I've been an affiliate for years. When you, dear readers, buy one of my books by clicking on a link on this site (like this link for my iLife book or this one for my eBay seller's guide), I get a little commission, a kickback, from Amazon. It doesn't cost you anything extra, but I get a little something.

And I mean "little." I'm not getting rich from my affiliate links, but they do help put biscuits in my dog's maw.

Now that Apple has introduced an affiliate program for the iTunes Music Store, I -- and millions of other people with Web sites large and small -- can earn a little something extra something when they send eager music buyers to the iTunes store. If I tell you that I've been digging the music of German electronic group De-Phazz and you buy a few of their tunes, you've just helped pay for a Milk Bone for Sophie.

For the vast majority of Web publishers who participate in affiliate programs, revenues are indeed in the "contribute to my Milk Bone fund" range. But for the likes of Amazon -- and now, Apple -- affiliate programs are a powerful viral marketing vehicle. It's simple: when you provide financial incentive for millions of sites to link to you, you increase the chance that they will.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but no competing online music site provides an affiliate program. Not Real, not Napster, not Sony, not Microsoft.

And that's the real point to this rambling post: by offering a little kickback to everyone with a Web site, Apple has guaranteed that the Web will be filled with millions of links to songs, artists, and albums that it's selling. You'll soon see iTunes affiliate links littering everything from blogs to major entertainment sites. In a world where competing services threaten to erode Apple's significant lead, that means something.

The new iMac? Sweet. The new iTunes affiliate program? Brilliant.