SAN FRANCISCO: Despite lingering concerns among publishers that their affiliate marketing revenue expectations have not been met, nearly nine-in-ten (86%) expect to maintain or increase their spend in the future, a new survey has found.

Based on responses from some 500 publishers as well as 100 merchants that currently use affiliate marketing, content platform VigLink also revealed that 91% of merchants plan to increase or keep their affiliate marketing budgets the same.

VigLink, which is backed by Google Ventures among others, sought to check the pulse of this relatively new market at a time when ad blocking is on the rise and traditional banner ads are on the decline.

Its survey revealed that the top two revenue generators for most publishers in 2015-16 were Google AdSense and affiliate marketing, placing these native formats ahead of display – although this applied more for smaller publishers with fewer unique monthly views.

Large publishers with over 100,000+ unique monthly views still made the majority of their revenue from display advertising, followed by Google AdSense and then affiliated marketing, the survey found.

But a third (34%) of publishers with fewer than 5,000 unique monthly views ranked affiliate marketing as their number one way of generating revenue.

And despite 64% of publishers reporting that their affiliate marketing revenue expectations were not met, VigLink found that 77% of them said the revenue generated from the format increased or remained consistent from 2015 to 2016.

By contrast, nearly three-quarters (73%) of merchants – or around twice the number of publishers – reported that revenue generated from using affiliate marketing programs met their expectations.

"One reason publishers' expectations of affiliate revenue is not being met could be due, in part, to declining page views. Time spent online has shifted from publishers' sites to social media," the report noted.

"Google AMP, Facebook Instant Articles, and Snapchat Discover are all channels that were once sources of traffic back to publishers' sites and are now one-stop reading portals for consumers."

However, the report continued: "The declining page views is a key reason revenue expectations aren't being met [in] affiliate marketing, but publishers still plan to use it in the future."

Data sourced from VigLink; additional content by WARC staff