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Publishers and Commerce 2021

Content Publishers Drive Evolution in the Affiliate Channel

About This Report
Here’s how publishers are developing and expanding their ecommerce monetization strategies, and how brands and retailers can partner with them to drive purchases in the affiliate channel.
Table of Contents

Executive Summary

As consumers increasingly use media content to discover and research products and brands online, publishers are forging an increasingly meaningful place in the customer journey. Publishers are instituting ecommerce strategies that now position them as retailer and brand partners capable of driving conversions. And marketers are recognizing publisher partnerships as valuable ways to shorten the funnel.

How are publishers monetizing through ecommerce?

Mostly through affiliate commerce partnerships with brands and merchants. But new use cases and content strategies are emerging, including those offered by social commerce and affiliate-driven online marketplaces.

What drove affiliate marketing revenue growth in 2020?

Thanks to the pandemic, 2020 was a massive year for revenue growth in the affiliate marketing channel. Driving this growth were the surge in consumer ecommerce spending, rising numbers of online shoppers, and heightened marketer demand for outcome-based performance.

How is affiliate evolving as a performance marketing channel?

The affiliate channel is still primarily used as a performance marketing channel, largely dependent on last-click attribution and commission-based payment models. But some affiliate network platforms are becoming more technically sophisticated, offering multitouch attribution tools that allow marketers to reward publisher touchpoints throughout the funnel. Likewise, even though most deals are still paid on a cost-per-action (CPA) basis, publishers are also attracting more flat-fee and hybrid-structured deals.

WHAT’S IN THIS REPORT? This report investigates how publishers are growing ecommerce monetization through the affiliate channel, and how their appearance in the channel is helping to propel evolution in affiliate marketing, as commerce and content continue to converge.

KEY STAT: In a May 2020 Gartner survey, 65% of business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing executives worldwide expected to spend more on affiliate, or partner, channel marketing in 2021.

Here’s what’s in the full report


Exportable files for easy reading, analysis and sharing.


Reliable data in simple displays for presentations and quick decision making.

27expert perspectives

Insights from industry and company leaders.

    Table of Contents

    1. Executive Summary
    2. Publisher Ecommerce Monetization
    3. Affiliate Commerce and Content Publishers
    4. How the Affiliate Channel Is Growing
    1. How Publishers Are Expanding Affiliate Commerce
    2. How Marketers and Commerce Content Publishers Are Working Together
    3. Key Takeaways
    4. Insider Intelligence Interviews
    1. Read Next
    2. Sources
    3. Media Gallery

    Charts in This Report

    Interviewed for This Report

    Nilla Ali
    Senior Vice President, Commerce
    Interviewed February 26, 2021
    Camilla Cho
    Vox Media
    Senior Vice President, Ecommerce
    Interviewed March 5, 2021
    Ceres Cueva
    Rakuten Advertising
    Vice President, Publisher Partnerships
    Moksha Fitzgibbons
    Interviewed March 2, 2021
    Ben Gafni
    Vice President, Business Development
    Interviewed March 18, 2021
    Matt Gilbert
    Interviewed March 3, 2021
    Jackie Goldstein
    New York Post
    Vice President, Commerce
    Interviewed March 13, 2021
    William Hamer-Jones
    Vice President, Partnerships
    Interviewed March 16, 2021
    Leilani Han
    Head of Business Development and Partnerships
    Interviewed March 11, 2021
    Sarah Henry
    Senior Director, Content and Influencer Marketing
    Interviewed March 22, 2021
    Brian Hovis
    Senior Partner and Head of Performance Marketing
    Interviewed March 17, 2021
    Jeffrey Imberman
    Head of Sales and Brand Partnerships
    Interviewed March 12, 2021
    Mike Jacobs
    Vice President, Performance Marketing
    Interviewed March 18, 2021
    Walter Knapp
    Interviewed February 25, 2021
    Jason Lepore
    General Manager
    Interviewed March 4, 2021
    Aaron Levant
    Interviewed March 3, 2021
    Brian Lovett
    Director, Product, Commerce
    Interviewed February 25, 2021
    Kelly Merkel
    CJ Affiliate
    Vice President, Publisher Development
    Interviewed March 17, 2021
    Scott Messer
    Leaf Group
    Senior Vice President, Media
    Interviewed February 19, 2021
    Evan Moore
    Vice President, Commerce Partnerships
    Interviewed March 18, 2021
    Lauren Newman
    Senior Vice President, Revenue, US
    Interviewed March 10, 2021
    Mike Peralta
    Future plc
    Chief Revenue Officer
    Interviewed February 25, 2021
    Nicole Ron
    CJ Affiliate
    Vice President, Global Marketing, Product Marketing, Creative and Business Systems
    Interviewed March 17, 2021
    Bryce Widelitz
    CNN Underscored
    Senior Director, Business Development
    Interviewed March 3, 2021
    Karolin Wilkens
    Assistant Manager, Partnership Marketing
    Interviewed March 23, 2021
    David A. Yovanno
    Interviewed March 1, 2021
    Kate Spies
    Senior Vice President and General Manager
    Interviewed March 10, 2021


    Audrey Schomer


    Ross Benes
    Senior Analyst
    Bianca Carasus
    Jasmine Enberg
    Senior Analyst
    Nicole Perrin
    Principal Analyst
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