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What to Know About Mass Media Partners in Affiliate Marketing

Partnerships with mass media publishers rank high on the prioritization list for brands wanting new customer acquisition and revenue growth. These type of partners have become one of the most sought-after opportunities for brands because they have the power to reach consumers at every stage of the marketing funnel and bridge the gap from discovery to purchase.

In fact, within our clients’ affiliate programs*, revenue from partnerships with mass media publishers has increased 31% 2020 YTD compared to the same time period in 2019.

But what and who are mass media partners? And how do brands work with them in their affiliate programs?

Those answers are precisely what this blog post is intended to help you discover.


What are Mass Media Publishers?

Mass media partners are notable online and offline publications and media companies.

The content they produce covers a wide range of industries, including: Forbes, Business Insider, CNN, Newsweek Vox Media, Wirecutter, Newsweek, NBC Universal. In addition, there are also  numerous specialist mass media publishers that focus on core verticals such as Travel (CN Traveler by Conde Nast, and Travel and Leisure by Meredith) and Finance (Investopedia by Dotdash).


What Do Mass Media Publishers Do for Brands?

Mass media publishers produce quality content and deliver it to their highly engaged, well-established audiences.

Within their content, which could be an article related to a brand’s product or service, they include affiliate links. When a reader clicks on the link, it directs them to the brand’s site. If the consumer purchases a product or service, fills out a form, or engages in some other conversion that the brand desired, the mass media partner is compensated.

Mass media partners can be incredibly effective at promoting select collections, products, categories, new releases, unboxings and more. Their considerable reach and the trust they’ve developed with their audience allows them to offer a variety of solutions to brands via multiple commercial and editorial configurations.


How Do Brands Partner With and Compensate Mass Media Publishers Within their Affiliate Programs?

Partnership strategies and compensation structures with mass media publishers differ from brand to brand. However, a few common compensation options include:


Commission Increases and Tiers

Offering seasonal or temporary commission increases can be an effective way to motivate mass media partners, keep your brand top-of-mind, secure content placements and keep coverage more consistent, especially when you need additional support across time-sensitive, buzzworthy events.

Tiered commissions are also appreciated by this type of partner and can be a smart strategy for encouraging continued coverage for your brand. As an example, a brand’s base commission rate might be 15% on sales of $500 or less. As an added incentive, the brand might offer a tiered commission option of 20% on every dollar above $500 in a rolling 30 day period.


Organic Coverage

Good relationships with editorial teams are an important component to an effective partnership with mass media publishers. Organic content strategies may include:

  • Exclusive codes: Providing the mass media publisher with a unique code/offer that their editorial team then uses within their content to promote to their readership.
  • Early access: Offering an “early access” promotion just for the mass media publishers’ readers.
  • Sneak peeks: Giving the mass media publisher’s editorial team the ability to see or experience your product/service before it’s officially released to the public.
  • Product gifting: Sending the mass media publisher’s editorial team a free product in exchange for a review of it.


Flat Fee

Flat fee compensation packages are quite common in mass media partnerships and are likely to include:

  • Single Article Deals: paying for one specific article within a publication.
  • Multi-Article Deals: negotiating multiple deals with the partner over a given timeframe.
  • Content Syndication: distribution including other platforms like MSN, Apple and Google.
  • Newsletters: accessing subscribers and readers of the mass media publisher who are engaged with their content.
  • Gift Guides: content round ups featuring grouped buying options for select niches.
  • Social Boosting: increasing the amount of people that see your content.


Hybrid (Performance Plus)
  • Paying the mass media publisher a lower upfront flat fee and a higher commission amount after an agreed-upon performance conversion has been realized (cost per action).


How Can Brands Maximize their Affiliate Partnership with Mass Media Publishers?

Partnerships with mass media publishers work differently than other types of affiliate partnerships. This is because there are unique processes and structures within a mass media publishers’ organization that shape every relationship, and guide and direct how they do business.

Here are three elements that are essential for ensuring a high-value partnership with mass media publishers:


Understand the Players

Establishing the right relationship with the various contacts within a mass media publishers’ organization is key. These include:

  • Day-to-day contact(s) – most of whom are not decision makers
  • Senior contacts – individuals on the business side for strategic initiatives
  • Editors – individuals who ensure the content is valuable, relevant, quick to absorb and easy to share

Not only do the functions of each of these contacts differ, they also each have their own objectives, budgets, responsibilities and varying levels of understanding about the affiliate model.

Depending on where they sit within the mass media organization, performing specific affiliate program-related tasks (e.g. pulling affiliate links, reviewing content, understanding review cycles and brand guidelines, etc.)  requires substantial education, consistent communication and guidance across the departments.


Substantial Lead Time

Lead time is vital when partnering with mass media publishers as there are distinct and independent set-ups required for these types of partnerships to be successful.

There needs to be enough time to discuss editorial calendars, topic participation, upcoming launches, seasonal and promotional calendars and ensure there isn’t overlap with internal PR efforts exists. In addition, content category fatigue is a real issue and can impact timelines to post or cause temporary removal from the editorial calendar.

What’s more is that a mass media partner and the brand they are writing about in their content may not be fully aligned on Federal Trade Commission (FTC) disclaimers. For example, mass media publishers have a tendency to add the required FTC disclaimers (e.g. “This article contains affiliate links) to the bottom of the article instead of directly above or in eye line, the latter of which is required by the FTC. To ensure proper compliance, there needs to be enough time between when the content is completed and when it’s published so that these details can be reviewed.


Managing Expectations

Mass media publishers are editorially driven. This means that their publication’s content is created and overseen by trained editorial teams who understand the subject, have a way with words and possess a critical eye for what makes a story compelling. It is their job to ensure the content feels authoritative and trustworthy, adheres to the publication’s tone of voice and speaks to their target audiences.

As such, while some mass media partners will agree to brand guidelines and review cycles, others will not be influenced by or publish content that requires review. It is not uncommon for brands – or those managing their affiliate program – to hear “the editor gets the final say.” In some cases, this could also mean that the editor has declined to publish the content altogether.

To help prevent frustrations and unmet expectations, these parameters should be communicated, clarified and accepted by both parties before moving forward with a partnership.

When managed well, partnerships with mass media publishers can be one of the most efficient and cost-effective affiliate partnerships, especially in terms of driving new revenue, new customers, high-value leads and incremental sales.


To learn more about how to best partner with mass media publishers in your affiliate program, reach out to our team.


*although this data isn’t representative of our entire client portfolio, it does represent a diverse subset of clients who partner with mass media publishers within their affiliate programs.