Hi there! I would like your opinion on something.
For several years now, I've had an Amazon Associates account, which lets me earn a small commission off of purchases I refer to Amazon. I rarely use it. For the past several months, all I've done with it is keep a persistent ad in this blog's righthand column to the book 1001 Video Games You Must Play Before You Die, which is awesome and which you should totally buy. No problem there.
One of the quirks of the Associates program is that if I refer somebody to the site, I earn money on any purchase they make during that session, even if it's not the specific item that I linked. Recently, somebody bought a pricey television set via my affiliate link, which single-handedly resulted in my first payout in the three years I've had the account. That was exciting.
This week, you may have noticed that I posted Amazon links to both of the games I reviewed. The logic is simple: I put a lot of time and effort into writing about games, and I'd like to be compensated for it as much as I can. I think this is reasonable.
My concern is that if I stand to profit off of the sales of a video game, then I appear to have an incentive to praise the game, in hopes that I will convince you to buy it. It doesn't even matter if this is true or not. As they say in journalism, the appearance of a conflict is just as bad as the conflict itself. This has been my chief criticism of Game Informer over the years. As a subsidiary of Gamestop, they clearly have an incentive for you to buy more games. Whether or not that accounts for their surfeit of 9+ scores, I don't know, but it sure makes sense to me.
If I don't have the credibility with readers to know that I'm being honest, then I have nothing. No amount of money is worth losing that. On the other hand, I think it's reasonable to treat this blog as a commercial enterprise, same as anywhere else. It's not uncommon to see, for example, links to buy tickets alongside a movie review. Nobody thinks Roger Ebert is fluffing a movie so you'll click his Fandango link.
What do you think? Do these Amazon links constitute a conflict, or an appearance of one? Is there a better way to include affiliate links that maintains a wall between advertising and editorial?
And can I interest you in a Sony BRAVIA XBR Series KDL-52XBR9 52-Inch 1080p 240 Hz LCD HDTV, Black?