January 17, 2009

Scoble Starts His FriendFeed/Twitter Monetization Strategy

Uber-blogger Robert Scoble came under criticism in late December when TechCrunch's Michael Arrington said he had neglected his blog, in factor of spending time on FriendFeed and Twitter. Arrington said It’s Time For A Friendfeed Intervention, saying he was contributing to the popularity of those services but getting nothing for himself, adding, "How much of that value does Robert receive? Zilch." Well, thanks to a tip from one of Robert's Twitter friends, it looks like he is trying to capitalize on his popularity on these new services, through embedded Amazon affiliate links.

Whether it is a one-time experiment or a sign of things to come, tonight Robert sent a note to his now 25,000 FriendFeed followers, and nearly 50,000 followers on Twitter, saying: Want a news tip? Amazon Kindle is sold out. Hint here:, and adding on FriendFeed:
"I just bought a version 1.0 machine. It's sold out. Will they make more? I doubt it. So, why are they still accepting orders? I just bought one and will let you know what shows up. I'm hearing that new version comes in next few months."
After that introduction, he gave a personalized affiliate link, which would give him a percentage of the sales made during the session of any of his followers. (See the FriendFeed thread here)

Note the Scobleizer tag in the destination URL...

As simple as that sounds, the power of Amazon affiliate links on the Web can often be underestimated. John Gruber of Daring Fireball made nearly $6,000 in just over a week by encouraging his blog visitors to buy Mac OS X 10.5 from his affiliate link instead of directly from Apple.

Scoble is caught "red handed" without disclosure...

Robert probably won't make $6,000 from this experiment tonight. Assuming he also gets 7.5% referrals from Amazon, It would take $80,000 worth of orders to get him a similar return - meaning 223 of his more than 50,000 followers would have to buy the $359 Amazon Kindle for him to reach that mark. But if he continued to drop Amazon links into his FriendFeed and Twitter stream, it could be some good spending money over time.

Of note, when Gruber asked for users to visit his affiliate page, he was very clear about what he would get from such a purchase. Tonight, I noticed and asked Robert myself if this was his "FriendFeed revenue strategy". His answer? "You caught me red handed!" I don't mind him trying out the idea, and think it's an interesting approach, but I would have preferred disclosure.
Update: As anticipated, this topic is being discussed on FriendFeed on my feed as well as that of Robert, who says I missed some important points. Also see: Free Rides Can't Last Forever from Dennis McDonald and Network World's Paul McNamara: Blogger Catches Scobleizer With His Hand in Amazon's Kindle Jar.