The idea of the Affiliate Improv! session was to choose one idea from the audience for an affiliate marketing brainstorming session among five expert panelists: Daniel Clark, Andrew Bennett, Mike Buechele, Jen Goode and Wade Tonkin.
As fate would have it, my topic of surfing got chosen to be featured. I’ve always wanted to start a niche surfing site but still haven’t gotten around to it—partly because Surfline seems to offer everything you’d ever want in a surfing website.
Well, almost everything. I feel the problem with Surfline is that they’re exclusively focused on the dreamy, sexy, professional surfer lifestyle that is—let’s face it—reserved for the most lucky and elite.
I’m more interested in a surfing site that caters to the average, everyday surfer like me or the local guys I surf with here in Hawaii.
So what did the experts say?
Have an Ultra-Creative Content Strategy
We agreed that the site should get people participating in an online surf community that makes them feel important (Surfline definitely does not do this — I feel like such a kook when I watch their videos!).
The best way to do this would be to turn over the content—and the voice—of the site over to the surfers themselves. This could include podcast interviews with everyday surfers sharing their stories and knowledge, or perhaps user-submitted photos, videos and articles. Whatever makes them feel important.
One way to get higher quality content would be to incentivize “the ask.” In other words, I could offer to pay surfer-contributors for their content if it meets my editorial criteria.
Under this model, which I like, I serve more as site editor than a one-man content production show. Whew.
This would actually free up my time to focus on selecting content that actually wows people. Too often user–submitted media lacks editorial review, and you end up sifting through a lot of junk.
Go Where the Surfers Are
Online, that is. [Aside: for those kind souls who suggested I give away all the best surf spots or use geo-tagging to let surfers check-in from their best spots—thanks but no thanks. Giving away a surf spot is a huge surfer no-no. Plus I'd get my ass kicked!]
The panelists reminded me that I need to get my content out into as many relevant distribution channels as possible. This would include setting up accounts on YouTube for video, iTunes for podcasts, Facebook for…Facebook and mobile,which could be very important.
How to Make Money From It All
Of course, the golden question: how to monetize a site like this?
It’s actually not that hard, and there are many ways to do it. Here are some of the suggestions:
- YouTube videos could contain sponsored and affiliate links
- Find related affiliate products to sell, or better yet…
- Take it one step further and pioneer affiliate relationships with local merchants like surf schools or surf shops
- Create a membership site
- Drop ship products
- Distribute products with my site’s logo on it
- Offer coupons
- …and so on!
Some Parting Thoughts
I’m very grateful to the awesome panelists who spent a hour of their day with me and the other Affiliate Summit West attendees. I couldn’t have asked for a better session.
The stuff I learned was incredibly helpful and injected a very necessary business element into my editorial mindset. I’m usually so focused on the creating the right content angle for a site that I often lose touch with the steps you need to actually make it a reality!
I also want to thank all the fellow attendees that came up to me in the following days to tell me that the Affiliate Improv! session really inspired them to try out their own niche site ideas.
Photo by The Daily Ornellas.