To those on the outside, affiliate marketing can seem like a black box. It’s inner workings are mysterious to most marketers and in many companies it’s not treated with the same seriousness as other channels. Some marketers, only familiar with the bad reputation acquired by some industry players in the 2000s, deride it as a source of spam and little more.
The concept of affiliate marketing on the Internet was conceived of, put into practice and patented by William J. Tobin, the founder of PC Flowers & Gifts. Launched on the Prodigy Network in 1989, PC Flowers & Gifts remained on the service until 1996. By 1993, PC Flowers & Gifts generated sales in excess of $6 million per year on the Prodigy service. In 1998, PC Flowers and Gifts developed the business model of paying a commission on sales to the Prodigy Network.