One of the oldest affiliate programs on the web is closing its doors on short notice, and it isn’t even the bad economy’s fault. They’re actually blaming some otherwise well-intentioned regulation from the Department of Education, and while I think their interpretation is broader than it needs to be, I can understand the desire to play it safe:
Dear Publisher, Thank you for promoting the Fastweb affiliate campaign within the CJ network. We truly appreciate the new business that you have driven us as a valued affiliate partner. Unfortunately, like many other participants in the education lead generation industry, Monster Worldwide, Inc. (managing entity of the Fastweb offer) is in the process of reviewing its business in light of the U.S. Department of Education regulations that will become effective on July 1, 2011.
Monster is taking steps to ensure that the lead generation services it provides to its education clients fully reflect recent guidance from the Department of Education. At the same time, it is apparent that all participants in the education lead generation business will be faced with a degree of uncertainty regarding the interpretation and enforcement of the new regulations, even as we quickly approach the July 1 effective date. Due to this near-term uncertainty, Monster has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend its relationships with third-party affiliates that provide traffic related to Monster?s generation of education leads. However, Monster is in ongoing discussions with its education clients regarding contractual implications of the new regulations, and is also reviewing its compliance capabilities with respect to third-party affiliates.
Accordingly, Monster anticipates that it may contact affiliates in the near future to revisit working together again. The Fastweb offer within CJ will be expired until further notice at 8:00 PM EST 06/30/11. We apologize for the short notice regarding this expiration, and we truly appreciate your affiliate efforts on our campaign. You will be notified by CJ if/when we are able to relaunch this campaign. Let us know if you have any questions. You can click on the link below to accept the new terms.
While it is a horrible inconvenience for me and anyone else who is promoting their campaign, there are also some important reminders about the nature of the web business and how quickly things can change. In fact, this email was sent out at about 5:30 PM on June 30th in order to announce a program cancellation that went in to effect at 8 PM on June 30th. Yeah – a whole two and a half hours of advanced notice!
Of course, it isn’t Fastweb’s fault that they had to make a huge decision under pressure. The federal regulations involved seem designed to stop colleges from treating student admissions as a commission-driven sales job, but it is theoretically possible that some judge will eventually interpret this to include third party financial aid information.
Unfortunately, the students are the biggest losers here. Fastweb provides a completely free service that helps college students find money for college – and even though the referral payout was only 80 cents, I felt pretty good about spreading the word. So I’ll probably continue to recommend it from my financial aid website, but it is quite unlikely that I’ll be able to afford the same kind of intensity of promotion that I’ve had in the past.
In the mean time, the private for-profit colleges that pay out $18 a lead continue to pay affiliates for leading students in to second-rate schools with massive tuition. See, the shady companies are getting paid too much to care about some silly regulations – but the honest ones would rather play it extra safe.
Just remember, things can change in an instant and if you’ve got a website built around a particular campaign it could be obsolete overnight. For me, I prefer a lot of diversification but that has its own limits in terms of regularity of posting, promotion, and building up a centralized source of search engine authority. Luckily, my site will continue on without this particular advertiser, and I’ll still be able to get good information to college-bound students, but I just imagine this will reduce my ability to spend more time on that particular project.
Oh well, it was time to get a few new wesbsites started anyway!