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UK publishers see 229% sales boom from affiliate marketing

Sales made through affiliate advertising by the UK’s biggest national media houses increased by 229% as a result of the pandemic according to data from global affiliate network Awin, which tracks 16 of the UK’s biggest national media houses on its network.

The team looked at affiliate commission, sales, order value and clicks on the media sites from March to September in 2020, and compared the statistics with the same time period in 2019.

The findings showed a stark increase across the board, with the number of sales made via affiliate links up 229% during the period in 2020. The order value also increased significantly, up 184%.

Looking at commission only, this increased by 42.6% between 2019 and 2020, while the difference between Q1 and Q2 saw an even more significant 74% growth.

Throughout 2020, media sites have struggled with brands pulling advertising as a result of the pandemic, not wanting to be associated with negative news; an IAB survey in April 2020 found that 88% of news publishers experienced ad buyers cancelling campaigns, while a further 17% said they had been affected adversely by advertising blacklists.

Published in May, the New York Times said that its digital ad revenue had declined 7.9% in Q1, with the expectation of it falling by more than 50% in Q2. Closer to home, the Daily Mail group experienced a decrease in digital advertising of 17% in April 2020, 1 month before Awin noticed an upwards trend in affiliate advertising across UK news sites.

One such particular benefactor of the growth in affiliate advertising during the pandemic was the Stylist Group. Hannah Corg, Business Development Director on the commerce side, said:

“Having initially moved away from affiliates in 2019 due to a change to our business strategy, in March 2020 (after lockdown had begun) Stylist’s digital transformation had begun, pivoting 100% of our editorial and commercial resource to focus on digital audience growth and revenue generation. Due to this acceleration in digital and in an effort to onboard agile and advantageous revenue streams, we recognised the opportunity to reconnect with affiliates. In the first few months of reconnecting to the program, we saw instant results including steady MoM growth in affiliate revenues.”

Commenting on the findings, James Bentley, UK Strategy Director at, said: “In the midst of everything else, 2020 saw the landscape of digital advertising change, with brands not wanting adverts appearing alongside negative news. Bucking this trend, affiliate partnerships proved a resounding success for large media houses, with advertiser sales, basket revenues and traffic all moving in the right direction.”