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North Carolina Close to Enacting Affiliate Taxes; Amazon First to Pull the Plug

It appears that North Carolina is about to follow New York’s lead and implement a tax collection scheme that will see Amazon.com shut down its Associates affiliate program in the state. Today, all Amazon Associates in NC received this gloomy email from the online retailer:

We regret to inform you that the North Carolina state legislature (the General Assembly) appears ready to enact an unconstitutional tax collection scheme that would leave Amazon.com little choice but to end its relationships with North Carolina-based Associates. You are receiving this e-mail because our records indicate that you are an Amazon Associate and resident of North Carolina.

Please note that this is not an immediate termination notice and you are still a valued participant in the Associates Program. All referral fees earned on qualified traffic will continue to be paid as planned.

Amazon’s Affiliate Program Ends PPC Arbitrage

Maybe I’m not the best qualified to make assumptions about why Amazon Associates–the online retailers affiliate program–just pulled the plug on allowing affiliates to send referrals via paid search, but that doesn’t stop me from making an educated guess.

PPC Arbitrage.

I suspect that Amazon finally realized that it could do its own keyword bidding and cut out the middle-man–those bidding pennies on long-tail keywords and making dollars in affiliate commissions. Here’s the email that Amazon just sent out to its affiliates:

Dear Amazon Associate:

We’re writing to let you know about a change to the Amazon Associates Program. After careful review of how we are investing our advertising resources, we have made the decision to no longer pay referral fees to Associates who send users to www.amazon.com, www.amazon.ca, or www.endless.com through keyword bidding and other paid search on Google, Yahoo, MSN, and other search engines, and their extended search networks. If you’re not sure if this change affects you, please visit this page for FAQs.

Amazon Provides Economic Light in Dark Days

Amazon had a great fourth quarter as reported today in the WSJ. Sales were up 18% and profits rose 9%.amazon Those numbers are pretty strong when things are going well but in today’s economy these are outrageous results.

Here’s a few more numbers to drool over. Earnings of $225 million for the quarter ended Dec 31st. This is compared to earnings of $207 million for the same period a year earlier. What’s that you ask a company that’s experiencing growth year over year in this environment? Yup, that’s right. Oh and the $6.7 billion (with a “b”) revenue number for the quarter is very impressive indeed.

Register Now for Affiliate Summit West 2009

Whether you’re a merchant with an affiliate program, or an affiliate marketer, you won’t want to miss Affiliate Summit West. The event takes place Jan 11-13 at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas and is your chance to learn from expert speakers and network with fellow marketers.

Group rates are available, as are sponsorship packages, but you’d better register early–paying on site will cost you an extra $500!

I’m moderating and speaking on the panel "Managing Your Brand"–providing advice for both merchants and affiliates–and, if you can stay an extra day, I still have some space for my Online Reputation Management Workshop.

I hope to see you there!

Google Image Search + LIFE’s Photo Archive

iconic wwii life photoYou guys remember LIFE magazine, right? Known as a scion of glossy photojournalism, Life was published in one form or another until last year (with a few gaps, of course). And like any publication, Life had a good amount of material that it was never able to use. But now Life’s parent company, Time, has found the perfect use for its photo archives—digitizing them with Google Image Search.

Google announces today the LIFE collection in Google Image Search. Google will be digitizing all 10 million of the archived photos, drawings and etchings over the next few months, with 20% of the collection already available.

Merchants Ban Affiliates Based on New York Tax

Affiliate marketers in New York have reason to follow politics – and it’s not the presidential race. Instead it’s a new law (pdf of law) that has retailers collect taxes for sales through affiliate marketers based in New York. The law applies to all online transactions for companies that have no physical presence in New York. It starts June 1, 2008.

The bad idea started with Governor Spitzer, and was recently signed into law by New York’s new governor David Paterson. They figured it would be an easy way for them to collect more taxes. Affiliates make money by referring people to products and services online. They get a commission when someone makes a purchase.

Google to Sell Off SEM Division of DoubleClick

When Google decided to buy DoubleClick, it sent some shock through the search marketing industry. DoubleClick has owned Performics, the third largest affiliate network, since 2004. Performics not only provided affiliate marketing services, but also search-engine marketing (SEM) and search-engine optimization (SEO) services.

Suddenly it looked like agencies would be competing against Google – a serious conflict of interest. Agencies were suddenly worried that Google would give away the services that they sold to clients. And Performics may get unfair advantages, such as insight into Google’s algorithms (more details from InfoWorld).

Clients of SEM and SEO companies likely wouldn’t like the conflict of interest either. Clients want to save money, Google wants those same clients to spend it on more advertising.