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Best Ways to Earn Passive Income in 2023



Best Ways to Earn Passive Income in 2023

The best ways to earn passive income aren’t only the purview of the wealthy. With a modicum of startup time and capital, anyone can create a passive income stream. Whether you have a full-time job or are a retiree seeking extra cash, passive income ideas are available to increase your cash flow. Passive income isn’t literally money without effort, but more akin to money with less effort. Some passive income strategies, like owning dividend-paying stocks or bonds require less work than owning rental real estate. This guide covers how to get started, how much passive income you can earn, the required effort, and various passive income investments. 

How to Start Earning Passive Income

There are scores of ways to start earning passive income. Before you begin, you’ll need to figure out how much effort and money you want to expend. Then choose a passive income idea that fits your capital, skills, and interests.

Step 1: Choose passive income streams. Spend time determining if you want to delve into investing for passive income or if you want to run a side gig that throws off some cash. Either way, it typically takes some time to build up a decent cash flow. 

Step 2: Choose the platform that fits your needs. If you’re seeking passive investment income, there are many financial brokerage firms, apps, and banks that will suffice. Selling online products or starting an affiliate website begins with creating a website or social media platform. The required effort is greater in the beginning and diminishes as time passes.

Step 3: Set your expectations. Earning passive income from investing involves predicting your return, based upon the investment amount. A $5,000 investment in a dividend fund that pays a 6% yield will provide $300 per year, while successful affiliate websites might earn $1,000 per month or more. 

Compare Top Investment Platforms

 Platform  Type  Account Minimum Fees
Merrill Edge Online Broker $0 $0.00 per stock trade. Options trades $0 per leg plus $0.65 per contract
TD Ameritrade  Online Broker $0 $0.00 for equities/ETFs.$0.65 per contract for options.Futures $2.25 per contract
E*TRADE Online Broker $0 No commission for stock/ETF trades. Options are $0.50-$0.65 per contract, depending on trading volume.
Betterment Robo-Advisor $0, %10 to start investing 0.25% (annual) for investing plan or $4/month fee for balances under 20K, 0.40% (annual) for the premium plan
Wealthfront Robo-Advisor $500 for investment accounts, $1 for cash accounts, $0 for financial planning 0.25% for most accounts, no trading commission or fees for withdrawals, minimums, or transfers. 0.42%–0.46% for 529 plans
Empower Robo-Advisor $100,00 0.49% to 0.89%

Best Passive Income Investments

The best passive income investments involve balancing your human capital, financial capital, time, and skills. 

Investing in financial markets spans banking and financial products like stocks and bonds. Buying banking products like certificates of deposit and high-yield cash accounts is less risky, with lower upside potential than investing in financial market assets. 

Passive investing in dividend-paying stocks or interest-paying bonds provides cash flow, but requires a larger investment to realize meaningful monthly income. Crowdfunding investment apps also enable the public to buy shares in farmland, large and small real estate projects, wine, art, and more to receive ongoing cash flow. 

There are a range of risk levels when investing in financial assets. The lowest-risk cash flow-producing assets are money market funds, high yield savings accounts and bank certificates of deposit. Investing in dividend-paying stocks or stock funds carries the risk that the dividend will be cut and also that the principal value of the investment might fall. Interest-paying bonds and bond funds will vary in price as well, but the interest payment is rarely cut. Individual bonds, held until maturity will return the par or full value of the investment. But bonds sold before maturity and bond funds might be sold for less than your original payment amount. 

Crowdfunding apps that invest in real estate, farmland, startups, art, wine, and more carry additional risks. Many require long lockup periods before you can withdraw your money. Others are not as closely regulated as traditional financial assets. With newer platforms, there is a greater chance of asset defaults and business closures. 

Dividend Stocks

Buying dividend-paying stocks is a path to owning a portion of a publicly traded company. Many stocks pay a portion of their earnings to shareholders in the form of cash dividend payments. Dividends are usually paid quarterly.  You have the option to reinvest the cash payment in additional shares of stock or you can take the cash dividend payment. Long term investors who build up a portfolio of dividend-paying stocks or funds have one of the best ways to earn passive income. 

Investing in dividend-paying stocks is a passive income idea with both cash flow and capital growth potential. 

Dividend Exchange Traded Funds

A dividend exchange traded fund (ETF) is an investment vehicle that owns many dividend-paying stocks. You can buy one investment, such as the SPDR S&P Global Dividend ETF (WDIV), and receive access to a portfolio of dividend-paying companies. The WDIV ETF owns global companies which frequently pay higher dividends than U.S. firms. Many of the dividend ETFs screen for companies with a history of increasing dividends as well. 

The dividend ETF is another passive income investment which provides regular cash payments along with an added bonus of capital appreciation potential. Consider management fees when choosing a dividend exchange traded fund, as higher fund fees can detract from returns. 

Best Online Brokers For ETFs

 Company  Account Minimum  Fees
 Fidelity $0  $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0 plus $0.65/contract for options trade.
Interactive Brokers  $0  $0.00 commissions for equities/ETFs available on IBKR’s TWS Light, or low costs scaled by volume for active traders that want access to advanced functionality such as order routing. $0.65 per contract for options on TWS Light; that is also the base rate for TWS Pro users, with scaled rates based on volume. $0.85 per contract for futures.
Charles Schwab $0   $0 for stock/ETF trades, $0.65 per contract for options.


Bonds are back in favor as interest rates inch upwards. Unlike stocks, bond investments are loans that you make to a company or government entity. In exchange for the loan, you receive regular coupon interest payments. Bonds are among the best ways to earn passive income because if you buy a new issue bond at par, usually  $1,000, and hold it until maturity, you’ll receive regular cash interest payments and a return of principal at the bond’s maturity. Bonds with lower credit ratings typically provide higher interest payments and greater cash flow, while government bonds and highly rated corporate bonds will offer lower interest payments. 

Bond values can rise and fall, so you might receive more or less than your initial price, should you sell before maturity. The bond’s credit rating suggests the bond’s likelihood of default, with lower-rated bonds carrying a higher risk of default. Investors can also invest in diversified bond mutual or exchange traded funds to build passive income without lifting a finger.

Sample bond types:

  • Government
  • Government agency, such as mortgage-backed bonds
  • Corporate
  • High yield (sometimes called junk bonds)
  • Tax-exempt

Certificates of Deposit

Certificates of deposit (CDs) are banking products that you can buy at most financial institutions. You invest a specific amount of money, typically $100 or more, and commit to leaving the money invested for a period of time. CDs typically pay a pre-specified interest rate and are usually issued for terms from three months up to five years or more. 

There are a variety of CD types, including fixed rate and floating variable interest rate. Investors seeking regular cash flow and a stable principal value can create a CD ladder and buy CDs at regular intervals. As one CD comes due, you reinvest the proceeds in a new certificate of deposit. This is a good strategy for increasing cash flow when you expect interest rates to increase. 

High Yield Savings Accounts

A bank high yield savings account pays higher interest payments than a typical savings account. The required minimum balance can be greater than that of a savings account.

If you’re wondering how to make passive income, a high yield savings account is a good choice.  For passive income from money that you need for near-term expenses and emergencies, a high yield savings account is a sound choice and keeps your funds liquid. 

The process to open a high yield savings account is similar to opening a traditional bank account. Simply click on the “open an account” button on your preferred bank’s website and answer several personal questions, such as:

  • Type of account (single or joint)
  • Address
  • Social Security number
  • Prior addresses to verify your identity
  • Current and possibly past employer
  • Debts

Money Market Accounts

A money market mutual fund is an investment vehicle that owns short term commercial debt. This investment is distinct from a money market bank account, which is similar to a high yield bank savings account. Like a typical mutual fund, money from many investors is pooled to invest in short term debt and cash-equivalent instruments. The allure of these accounts is that the share value is pegged at one dollar and yields are among the highest of the high yield cash equivalent group. 

You’ll need to invest in a money market fund within your investment brokerage account. These investments are liquid and the money can be withdrawn within a few days. The interest from money market funds can be withdrawn for cash flow, or reinvested to grow for the future. 

Compare Providers

Provider Best For Key Benefit
Prime Alliance Bank Best Overall Competitive interest rate for any balance
Patelco Credit Union Best for Small Balances Higher APY for smaller balances
Axos Bank Best for Debit Users Full debit card access with no monthly fees
Ally Bank Best for Ultimate Flexibility Access your funds online, through ATM, debit, or Zelle
Synchrony Bank Best IRA Options Rollover an existing IRA to an IRA money market account

Alternative Passive Income Ideas

You’ll find a laundry list of alternatives to stock, bond, and cash passive income ideas. Some of these choices are more passive than others. Real estate investing is frequently touted as a response to the question, “What is the best way to earn passive income?” But real estate investing takes many forms, some more passive than others. Owning and managing real property is passive, until a pipe breaks or the renter doesn’t pay their rent. Then it is a lot of work. With real property investing you’ll also need a chunk of capital to begin. Real estate crowdfunding apps or investing in real estate investment trusts (REITs) are more passive. Once you purchase the securities, you wait for the cash flow.

Another popular way to earn passive income online is by creating an affiliate website, but this involves more work than meets the eye. An Airbnb rental is only semi-passive if you hire a team to manage the property. Cash-back credit cards and shopping sites might be considered a passive income idea, yet you’re spending in order to receive the cash. That’s not a net-positive endeavor. 

Other alternatives to passive income involve digital property sales, like e-books, courses, apps and other online goods. For all of these passive income ideas, there is a hefty startup time commitment and some upfront cash as well. You’re also less certain of receiving a return on your investment if the sales miss expectations. Evaluate these alternatives to passive income to learn whether there’s a strategy for you. 

REIT Investing

A real estate investment trust or REIT is an investment vehicle that owns a pool of commercial real estate. There are REITs that provide broad diversification across the real estate landscape. Or you can buy niche REITs that own senior housing, student housing, warehouses, commercial property, mortgages, shopping malls, data centers or many other varieties of property. The benefit of REITs for cash flow is that they are required by law to pay out 90% of their taxable income to shareholders.

Peer-to-Peer Lending

Debt investing is popular, with many platforms that enable everyday investors to be the bank and lend money to others. Apps like Groundfloor provide investors the opportunity to lend to real estate buyers. Other platforms match up borrowers with lenders for a variety of cash needs. 

These peer-to-peer lending apps offer higher interest payments than other traditional stock, bond, or cash vehicles. But they are riskier as the loan payment defaults can eat into your returns. To minimize that risk, you can choose to invest in higher quality loans and diversify by owning many loans. 

Affiliate Marketing

Affiliate marketers sell products and services on their website or social media accounts and receive a commission from the brand for the sale. Affiliate marketers frequently write reviews to draw visitors to their website. The setup for affiliate marketing is not passive and involves creating a website or social media platform, developing contracts with companies who pay affiliates, and writing content to draw visitors to the website. 

The passive aspect of affiliate marketing is that once the content is written and a website develops a stream of visitors, your work is diminished. That’s only partially true, as you’ll need to write new content and update old content in order to maintain and increase website traffic. Additionally, it can take months or more to begin to generale cash flow. We place affiliate marketing on the higher-effort step of the passive income ideas ladder. 

Best Alternative Investing Platforms

Platform Focus Minimum Investment 
Fundrise Real Estate Investments $10
Masterworks Art Investments $10,000
Yieldstreet Asset Variety $2,500
iTrustCapital Gold and Cryptocurrency $1,000

Factors to Consider When Choosing Passive Income Streams


All passive income ideas require startup capital. To develop a meaningful passive income stream from financial assets like cash-equivalents, stocks, and bonds, you’ll need a decent account balance. With $100,000, an investment paying a 5% dividend or interest payment provides $5,000 per year cash flow. 

Although affiliate marketing requires a small cash outlay to potentially obtain cash flow, you’ll pay more with your human capital or time. 


All investments carry a degree of risk. Certificates of deposit and high yield cash investments don’t risk the principal value of your investment, but could lose purchasing power over time due to inflation. Investing in higher risk dividend paying financial assets involves the potential to lose principal and also decreased cash flow, should dividends be cut. Crowdfunding passive income investments are less regulated and can tie up your money for longer periods with added risks of defaults and platform failures. 


With the exception of tax-exempt municipal bonds from your state of residence, all income is taxed by the government. After-tax income is what really matters, so understand how your investment is taxed, and your specific marginal tax bracket. Dividends and interest payments may have their own tax rates..

Key Differences Between Stocks and Alternative Investments

  Stocks Alternatives
Liquidity Extremely liquid; can trade throughout the day. Many have lock-up periods which tie up your money for periods from several months to several years
Fees Fee-free trading with most brokerages; most ETFs and mutual funds charge less than a 1.0% expense ratio  Fee structures range from simple to quite complex; a few platforms provide low-fee alternative investments, while others have complex fee structures including performance-based add-on fees 
Minimum investment  Fractional stock and ETF shares can be bought on multiple investment platforms for as little as $10  Platforms are available for both accredited and non-accredited investors; minimum investment amounts range from a low of $10  to four to five figures. 
Correlation  Stocks exhibit distinct correlations among specific sectors and geographic regions. Lower correlations between assets lead to more price stability within your investments. Alternatives will also have correlations within themselves and won’t always move in lockstep. The correlation between stocks and alternatives will depend upon the time period and specific alternative investment vehicle.


What’s the Difference Between Active Income and Passive Income?

There is a fine line between active and passive income. Clearly, going to work every day in exchange for a regular paycheck is active income. Task work such as food delivery, rideshare driving, freelance jobs, consulting, and contract work are also ways to create active income. With active income, you get paid for working. Passive income ideas span a range of jobs. 

Receiving income in exchange for zero effort is unlikely, unless you count receiving an inheritance or winning the lottery. Writing a book and then receiving royalties is a great example of passive income, yet with the passage of time, book royalties will decline. In contrast, if you buy a dividend-paying stock fund, once you select the investment, you will receive ongoing dividend payments without much additional effort. Some passive income ideas are liquid, like buying dividend-paying investments, while others are less liquid, like long term real estate syndications. Some passive income jobs require minor ongoing work in exchange for cash flow, while others are less passive and involve greater ongoing effort. Passive income strategies range from those with a small startup effort, like investing in dividend-paying stock or money market mutual funds, to more labor-intensive ones, such as managing rental properties or creating an affiliate marketing review website.

How Can You Make Passive Income With Little to No Money?

By creating digital products like courses, apps, e-books, and more and selling them, you can create passive income with minimal cash. Books can be sold on Amazon, while you can sell other products through your social media accounts or an online store.

If you have a job with a 401(k) or other retirement account, you can contribute part of your paycheck to that account and invest in financial assets. At retirement you’ll have enough money to create a passive income stream.

Can You Live Off of Passive Income?

Yes, you can live off of passive income. It’s easiest to live off of passive income if you live in a low cost-of-living area. To live off of financial investment and cash-equivalent income, you’ll need a larger amount of money. To earn $30,000 per year, you’ll need $600,000 invested at 5% per year. 

To live off of digital product or service sales, you’ll need to earn several thousand dollars per month. The same goes for affiliate marketing. 

Older individuals who have built up a large amount of investable assets are most likely to be able to live off of passive income. The exceptions are those folks who’ve made a lot of money young in life, live simply, and invest for income and capital growth.

How Do You Pick the Right Passive Income Idea?

To pick the right passive income idea, assess your available time, risk tolerance level, and available capital. Also, explore your skill sets to determine which passive income ideas are a good fit for you. The easiest way to start investing for future passive income is to start small and automate your investing.

Who Should Consider Passive Income Streams?

Everyone should consider investing for the future. When you are older you’ll have the opportunity to create a passive income stream. Younger individuals with ambition and the ability to motivate themselves are wise to consider creating passive income streams. Employment is uncertain and creating multiple streams of income is a sound financial plan. 

Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our
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  1. “Investor Bulletin: REITs.” 

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John Thornhills Ambassador Program Review: Unleashing Digital Prosperity



In the realm of online marketing, the pursuit of high-ticket commissions has become a focal point for many aspiring entrepreneurs. Among the various programs available, the John Thornhills Ambassador Program stands out as a proven system that offers a pathway to substantial earnings. This comprehensive review will delve into the core components, benefits, and earning potential of Thornhill’s program. By the end, you will have a clear understanding of how this program can empower you to achieve digital prosperity.

Understanding the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

Designed by the seasoned digital product expert himself, John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program presents a unique opportunity to generate significant commissions. This high-end affiliate marketing initiative revolves around promoting Thornhill’s flagship programs, providing participants with the chance to earn up to $3,493 per high-ticket sale. Notably, the program also offers a 50% profit share from the sales generated by referrals, creating a two-pronged income source.

John Thornhills Ambassador Program Affiliate (credit: PR)
John Thornhills Ambassador Program Affiliate (credit: PR)

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Core Components of the Program

To fully comprehend the Ambassador Program, let’s dissect its three core components:

  1. High-Ticket Webinar Funnel: As an Ambassador, you gain access to a personalized high-ticket webinar funnel, allowing you to effectively promote Thornhill’s flagship programs.

  2. 50/50 Profit Share: Any sales generated by your referrals entitle you to a 50% profit share, further augmenting your income potential.

  3. Email List Building: Building and leveraging your email list, which you solely own, is a fundamental skill that you will acquire through this program. This skill will result in consistent monthly revenue.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Benefits of the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

The Ambassador Program offers several distinct advantages that set it apart from other online marketing programs:

  1. Earning Potential: With the Ambassador Program, your earning potential is substantial. Not only do you receive significant commissions from high-ticket sales, but you also benefit from the sales generated by your referrals, creating a dual revenue stream.

  2. Second-Tier Profits: The program provides an opportunity to earn second-tier profits through the success of your recruited ambassadors. This mutually beneficial arrangement enhances your overall income potential.

  3. Email List Building: Effective email list building is a critical aspect of online business. The Ambassador Program equips you with the skills to build and monetize your list effectively, ensuring consistent monthly revenue.

  4. Fast-Mover Bonuses: As a testament to Thornhill’s confidence in his program, he offers Fast-Mover Bonuses to those who take swift action. These bonuses typically include additional resources and tools that can jumpstart your affiliate marketing efforts.

  5. The Guarantee: Thornhill’s commitment to the success of his program is evident through his guarantee. If you don’t earn at least $2,000 within your first 60 days, he pledges to work with you until you do.

Success Stories

Numerous success stories from beginners to seasoned marketers exemplify the program’s effectiveness. These stories serve as a testament to the potential that the Ambassador Program unlocks, showcasing the real opportunities it offers. The program has empowered individuals to achieve their financial goals and build thriving online businesses.

Joining the John Thornhills Ambassador Program

Joining the Ambassador Program is a straightforward process. Once you sign up, you gain access to all essential resources, including the high-ticket webinar funnel, promotional materials, and comprehensive training modules. This all-inclusive package provides you with everything you need to start earning high-ticket commissions.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

A Deeper Look into The Ambassador Program

To truly maximize the benefits of the Ambassador Program, it is important to delve into its various aspects:

The Training

The program’s comprehensive training serves as the cornerstone of your success. It guides you through every step, from setting up your webinar funnel to driving traffic to your site, ensuring that you have the knowledge and tools necessary for success.

The Commission Model

The Ambassador Program employs a unique two-tiered commission model that allows you to earn from both your sales and the sales made by your recruited affiliates. This model enhances your income potential and provides additional revenue streams.

The Benefits of High-Ticket Commissions

Focusing on high-ticket items has the power to transform your income potential. Selling high-ticket items translates to higher commissions per sale, potentially catapulting your income to new heights.

 John Thornhills Ambassador Program Commission (credit: PR)
John Thornhills Ambassador Program Commission (credit: PR)

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Making the Most of The Ambassador Program

To truly capitalize on the Ambassador Program, you must take action and implement what you learn. While Thornhill provides the tools, resources, and knowledge, it is your commitment to applying them that will drive your success. The program offers several strategies to help you make the most of your journey:

Networking and Collaborations

The Ambassador Program is not solely about selling; it also emphasizes building valuable relationships. Networking with fellow ambassadors can lead to collaborations, idea sharing, and more commission opportunities. By fostering connections and engaging with the community, you open doors to new possibilities.

Continual Learning

In the ever-evolving digital marketing landscape, continuous learning is essential. The Ambassador Program provides consistent support and updates, ensuring that you stay ahead of the curve. By staying informed about industry trends and implementing new strategies, you can maintain a competitive edge.

The Power of Thornhill’s Proven Funnels

Leveraging Thornhill’s proven funnels is a game-changer. When you join the Ambassador Program, you gain access to his tried-and-tested strategies that have generated millions in sales. By utilizing these proven funnels, you eliminate the guesswork from your marketing efforts and increase your chances of success.

Click here and start earning your commissions without doing any selling >

Top 10 John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program FAQs:

1. What is the John Thornhill Ambassador Program?

The John Thornhill Ambassador Program is a program designed to help individuals build a profitable online business leveraging John Thornhill’s affiliate marketing resources and strategies.

2. Who is John Thornhill?

John Thornhill is an entrepreneur and online marketer known for his expertise in affiliate marketing and digital product creation. He has built a successful online empire and aims to empower others through his programs and courses.

3. What are the benefits of joining the program?

The program offers several benefits, including:

  • Access to John Thornhill’s proven affiliate marketing strategies and resources.
  • Done-for-you marketing materials and sales funnels.
  • Community support and mentorship from experienced online entrepreneurs.
  • Free training and resources on various online marketing topics.
  • Lifetime commissions on sales generated through your affiliate link.

4. Do I need any prior experience to join?

No, the program is designed for individuals of all experience levels, even those with no prior knowledge of online marketing.

5. How much time do I need to commit to the program?

The amount of time you need to commit will depend on your individual goals and desired level of success. However, the program recommends dedicating at least 10-15 hours per week to achieve significant results.

6. What are the payment options available?

The John Thornhill Ambassador Program offers three main payment options:

  • One-Time Payment: Pay the full program fee upfront through a secure online payment system for immediate access to the program’s resources. This option offers significant savings compared to monthly plans.
  • Flexible Payment Plans: Spread the cost over several months with convenient monthly installments. The program offers various plans with different durations and pricing. Choose the one that best fits your budget and financial situation.
  • Financing Options: Partner with third-party financing providers to extend your payment term and manage your cash flow. This option allows you to access the program and start generating income while making manageable monthly payments.

7. Is there a guarantee?

There is no money-back guarantee offered by the program. However, they offer a 30-day refund policy in case you are not satisfied with the program content.

8. What makes this program different from others?

The program emphasizes John Thornhill’s proven affiliate marketing strategies and provides access to his done-for-you marketing materials, which are designed to save participants time and effort. Additionally, the program offers personalized mentorship and support from experienced online entrepreneurs.

9. Who should consider joining this program?

This program is ideal for individuals who:

  • Want to learn proven affiliate marketing strategies from a successful entrepreneur.
  • Are looking for a step-by-step system to build a profitable online business.
  • Appreciate done-for-you marketing materials and resources.
  • Desire community support and mentorship.
  • Aim to earn lifetime commissions through affiliate marketing.

10. Where can I learn more about the program?

You can learn more about the John Thornhill Ambassador Program by visiting their website. They also offer free training sessions and webinars that provide further details about the program and its benefits.


In conclusion, John Thornhill’s Ambassador Program offers a comprehensive and proven model for earning high commissions online. With its focus on high-ticket products, a two-tiered commission structure, and proven funnels, it presents a compelling opportunity for anyone seeking substantial online income. Success in the program requires dedication, hard work, and a willingness to apply what you learn. By leveraging the training, support, and mentorship provided, you can embark on a journey towards achieving digital prosperity.

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Revolutionising affiliate marketing in the era of influencers, ET BrandEquity



Revolutionising affiliate marketing in the era of influencers, ET BrandEquity

Affiliate marketing spends in India are estimated to be Rs 2500 crore in FY 2023, constituting eight percent of the overall digital marketing spend, according to the State of Digital Marketing in India report. Despite the popularity of affiliate marketing, the model presents its own challenges, such as onboarding and managing affiliates, high commission fees, and vulnerability to fraudulent and malicious practices.

During a discussion at DigiPlus Fest 2023, marketers explored the evolving landscape of affiliate marketing and strategies to optimise return on investment (RoI). The session featured Nishant Jaiswal, VP – marketing, Zupee; Sachin Vashishtha, chief marketing officer, Paisabazaar, and was chaired by Saumya Jain,

Essentially, affiliate marketing involves incentivizing affiliates with a commission or payout to drive a business action, such as a click or purchase. The practice began with blogs, websites, and email but has since expanded to include social media and e-commerce platforms.

Vashishtha observed that while affiliate marketing was one of the most profitable and RoI-positive ways for online businesses to grow, it didn’t take long for bad actors to leverage it for fraud. Affiliates with malicious intent began generating traffic for brands using any means necessary to earn a commission.

The practice started losing its appeal until the explosion of the creator economy and the rise of influencers. Additionally, improvements in technology and the emergence of attribution models like multi-touch attribution or view-through attribution started bringing transparency into the affiliate marketing model.

Jaiswal remarked that affiliate marketing in India is still nascent compared to global platforms, where many end publishers are not directly accessible to advertisers. He said, “With technology, many fraud-related concerns like click hijacking, app install hijacking, and click spam can be controlled by your mobile measurement partner (MMP) or attribution partner.”

However, despite technological advancements, brands still run the risk of being visible in an unsafe environment due to the way affiliate marketing models are structured. While advertisers primarily engage with larger affiliate networks, campaigns might be outsourced to smaller publishers, networks, and individuals, making it challenging to map where conversions are coming from. Additionally, smaller publishers or creators may create clickbait content or reach out to irrelevant audiences simply to drive traffic or act with malicious intent, harming the brand’s reputation.

Vashishtha stated, “You can go back to the affiliate network and ban the publisher, but it is still very difficult to work with the ecosystem the way it is now. We prefer to work with large publishers or content creators directly.”

By working directly with publishers or creators, brands can see how content gets created and deployed to generate conversions. Jaiswal suggested that brands could share a high volume of assets with affiliates directly to test their effectiveness and ensure that the brand positioning and messaging remain consistent.

While it is not entirely avoidable to discourage malicious activity, Jaiswal opined that assigning realistic key performance indicators (KPIs) while designing the campaign can automatically rule out any fraud from the equation. He said, “Marketers could leverage a combination of hard KPIs and soft KPIs, where soft KPIs can be click-to-conversion rate, sign-up-to-purchase rate, and hard KPIs could be cost-to-purchase or cost-to-sign-up.”

Affiliate marketing has its fair share of challenges; however, the ecosystem is continuously evolving. With new technologies like AI, affiliate marketing initiatives will become sharper and more targeted.

  • Published On Dec 9, 2023 at 05:03 PM IST

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First, AI came for Sports Illustrated. Soon, it will want to give you sports betting advice



First, AI came for Sports Illustrated. Soon, it will want to give you sports betting advice

Open this photo in gallery:

Real Sports Bar and Grill in Toronto on Nov. 24, 2016.Glenn Lowson/The Globe and Mail

When Sports Illustrated was outed last week for its alleged use of generative AI to create online articles – and, even worse, for topping them with fake bylines and AI author headshots – readers of the legendary glossy were appalled and disappointed at how the mighty had fallen.

But there was one element of the story that largely got lost amid the outrage, and it hints at an even darker prospect of what lies ahead for sports media and fans.

The SI pieces in question were product reviews: Inoffensive rankings of say, seven brands of volleyballs, which included links to Amazon that a reader could click on if they suddenly felt the urge to take up the sport. So, not only was the editorial copy generated by fake people, it was actually fake editorial copy. It was real advertising.

The practice of peppering editorial content with commercial links – known in the business as affiliate marketing – is a mainstay of Internet advertising, from movie reviews that direct readers to online ticketing sites, to podcasters and TikTok influencers giving out discount codes for listeners or viewers to buy merch from specific retailers.

But affiliate marketing has exploded in recent years in one notorious segment of the industry – sports betting, and its gush of ad dollars that are falling on a desperate media sector like rain on a parched prairie.

Affiliate sites that funnel new customers to online gambling operators are raking in the cash because of a quirk in that segment of the business – and they’re doing it on the backs of those new bettors.

In the spring of 2021, the Canadian sports media startup Playmaker Capital went public on the TSX Venture Exchange and quickly began scooping up digital properties with large followings that the company believed could be converted to bettors. When I interviewed Playmaker’s CEO, Jordan Gnat, shortly after shares began trading, he said he wanted to be in “the fan monetization business.”

There were tens of millions to monetize. The company began by buying soccer-focused sites in Latin America such as Bolavip, which targeted fans in Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Peru, Ecuador, Central America and the United States, then expanded into the English-language North American market with the newsletter publisher and aggregator Yardbarker. Here in Canada it bought The Nation Network, which operates the hockey fantasy site, Daily Faceoff, and the Quebec-based La Poche Bleue.

But last month, Playmaker went from the hunter to the hunted when Better Collective, an affiliate-marketing giant based in Denmark that Gnat had cited to me as an inspiration for his company, gobbled it up for about $260-million.

The flurry of activity is partly because affiliate marketers who funnel customers to sportsbooks are an entirely different beast. They’re not just making one-time commissions, as they would if they were helping to sell concert tickets or tennis racquets or fly traps. Instead, they get a percentage of the sportsbook’s net revenue made from any new bettor.

“Net revenue” is another term for “total lifetime losses by a new bettor.”

Forget the pennies that digital ads are infamous for bringing in. If a site converts a reader or listener or viewer into a regular gambler – that is, a regular loser – the payday can be hundreds of dollars or more.

Here’s where it might occur to you that the incentives for a site to give you good betting advice might clash with that same site’s incentive to get you to sign up with a sports book and then lose a lot of money.

You would not be wrong.

In the social-media industry, there’s a saying that if you’re not paying for the product, you are the product. In the world of affiliate marketing, you are the product – the one that’s being sold to the sportsbooks. But boy, are you paying for it.

An academic paper published in January, 2020, in International Gambling Studies titled Affiliate Marketing of Sports Betting – A Cause for Concern? points out that many sites aren’t transparent about their duelling allegiances. It also notes that “people assign greater levels of trust to expert advice during decision-making tasks involving financial risk. This may be a particular concern for those who are just beginning to gamble upon sport, as they may be more inclined to rely on expert advice on bet choice due to their lack of experience.” Newbies may be especially susceptible, given that affiliates position themselves as being on the side of the bettor, when in fact they’re being paid by the sportsbook.

Which brings us full circle back to where we started. Generative AI is notoriously bad at a lot of things, including getting facts straight. But it’s very good at sounding confident, even as it bluffs its way through life.

And it’s about to use its charms to lull you into thinking you can beat the house.

Last May, Lloyd Danzig, the managing partner at the New York-based venture-capital company Sharp Alpha Advisors, noted in a piece for Sports Business Journal that publishers doing affiliate marketing for sportsbooks, “will soon leverage generative AI to instantly create thousands of SEO-optimized articles that discuss the current day’s calendar of games, betting trends, stories to follow, and sportsbook promotions. Pregame previews, postgame summaries, and highlight reels can be created on command without the use of specialized software or manual oversight. Articles, sportsbook reviews, and odds comparison pieces can be generated for any audience, with a fraction of the effort required from human writers.”

Think we’re already swamped with sports betting content? You haven’t seen anything yet.

Après ChatGPT, le déluge.

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