The basic model for affiliate links is fairly straightforward.
Inside or near an article, a link allows a reader to buy a related product. An article about the best new digital cameras, for instance, might contain a link — perhaps with an image — to buy a specific Casio camera mentioned in the story.
If a reader clicks that link and makes the purchase, the publisher of the story gets a commission. Otherwise, the publisher gets nothing.
New York City-based startup Narrativ is now updating that model, by turning affiliate links into programmatically bidded ads. CEO Shirley Chen told me that her company is “the first to apply programmatic bidding to in-content product links.”
When the page is loaded, the links to product sales on that page are made available for programmatic bidding through Narrativ’s own real-time exchange. The real-time auction can also be conducted when the link is clicked, depending on the publisher’s choice.
The product, such as a Casio camera, might be sold through multiple online retailers, each of which can bid to have any click on the link directed to their store.