Google is working on launching an affiliate program for Google Play similar to the one Apple runs for its own digital content stores, a source briefed on the matter has told 9to5Google.
The affiliate program, which is said to still be in its early stages of development and could get called off or change significantly between now and its time of launch, is said to be powered by Performance Horizon Group, the same company which in 2013 began supporting Apple’s affiliate program.
Our source, who requested to remain anonymous, said the program will initially cover only content sold through Play Movies and Music but eventually expand to include apps and even hardware, presumably those devices sold through the Google Store…
When we reached out to Performance Horizon Group inquiring about the existence of any soon-to-launch Play Store affiliate program with Google, the company responded by thanking us for reaching out regarding “the Google Play affiliate program,” and CC’d “Google Play’s affiliate team” to provide additional information on the matter. The email address — specifically firstname.lastname@example.org — was labeled “Play Affiliates Support” in Gmail. A quick Google search of the address turns up nothing on public web pages.
Affiliate programs provide content creators with a way to monetize their work beyond traditional methods like display ads and subscriptions, by allowing them to link to product sales pages and earn a commission each time someone purchases the product using their unique link. Google previously ran its own affiliate service called Google Affiliate Network, but shuttered it in 2013 to focus on other products that “will have the biggest impact for our advertisers and publishers.” Google Affiliate Network was originally owned by Performics and acquired by DoubleClick in 2004, which itself was acquired by Google and became the basis of the company’s massive online ad business. The service never included a way to earn commission from Google’s digital stores, however.
It’s worth noting that Google Play was actually known as Android Market for the first five years of its existence, until it was rebranded as Play in 2013 — also the same year that Affiliate Network closed. It’s totally possible that around the time of Play’s rebranding the company was contemplating launching an affiliate program for the digital store, but shelved those ideas with the death of Affiliate Network. That would explain away the related email address provided by Performance Horizon. However, based on the circumstances under which our source heard about the program, we’re confident in believing that something newer has been brewing as of late.
A simple Google search returns a lot of pleas to Google in the form of blog posts imploring it to launch an affiliate program for Google Play, going back as far as 2012. The digital store trails Apple’s App Store in revenue by approximately 70% — Play’s ostensibly low free-to-paid conversion numbers being a potential reason why we haven’t seen an affiliate program hasn’t flown above me — but with its overall downloads roughly the same amount higher than Apple’s.
Google denied to comment for this story. Performance Horizon did not respond to follow-up emails.
Seth Weintraub contributed to this report.