As many of you may be aware, for the past few years we’ve used a service called Skimlinks to deal with external links posted in our forums. Skimlinks works by attaching a small piece of affiliate code to your outbound link, which means that we’re able to make a small amount of money from any shopping you do when you get there. A typical example might be an outbound link to a product on Amazon or eBay, where we’d be paid a small percentage on any transaction you make in the hours after clicking the link. We don’t use this on any editorial links, only those posted in the forums.
Recently Amazon, alongside eBay, changed their terms and conditions and no longer pay publishers such as us for visits delivered in this way. While the revenues aren’t huge, many publishers are annoyed by this change, and it is being perceived as a bully boy tactic by Amazon. Many small publishers and blogs rely on incremental revenues such as this to cover their costs, and whilst we’re not in that category, we have sympathy for their position and this is one of the ways we monetise our forum traffic.
Skimlinks has worked to create a way for us to be able to continue to monetise these outbound links, and we’re deploying it today. We think that it does nothing to detract from the browsing experience, and in fact might be said to offer some improvement.
From today you’ll continue to see the link in a post, but after it you’ll see alternative places where you can buy the same product (including Amazon UK with our affiliate code attached). These are short text links (no more than three per link) which don’t impact the user experience in any way – no nasty hover over behaviour, no images, no animation. You can click on them if you wish, or you can simply click on the link posted by the user.
Here’s how a link will look from now on:
The widget which Skimlinks uses to put these links in relies on the page being cached. In layman's terms that means that if you’re the first person to look at a post you might not see these additional links, but they’ll appear shortly after that.
Other big enthusiast forums (notably AVForums) have already made this change and it was uncontroversial for their users. We hope that you’ll feel the same way about whathifi.com doing it, but in the spirit of openness we felt it was important to be very clear about why this change has been made.