Commission Junction Finds New Channel in bCentral

Affiliate marketing firm Commission Junction will have a new, large distributor in Microsoft Corp.’s bCentral site.

bCentral, which provides services — like Web design, e-mail newsletter services, list management — to small online businesses, will add affiliate marketing to its roster of tools through the agreement.

According to bCentral, the deal — of which terms were not disclosed – is aimed at creating a one-stop shop for small-business tools and services.

“We strongly value our relationship with bCentral customers and entered this new relationship in the interest of providing an improved affiliate marketing service,” said Marcus Schmidt, who is the lead product manager for bCentral at Microsoft.

“Commission Junction’s technology will allow online advertisers to acquire more customers and online publishers to secure more revenue from their audience, so we’re excited to extend Commission Junction’s service via the bCentral small-business service.”

While the agreement isn’t overly remarkable in and of itself, Microsoft’s positioning of the agreement, and its bCentral site, as a Web-based service comes as part of the Redmond, Wash.-based software giant’s .NET strategy, which aims ultimately to deliver software products as subscription-based services, rather than through standalone, boxed packages.

Accordingly, bCentral recently saw a major redesign that saw the site incorporating new features like an e-commerce plug-in for FrontPage that is available only to bCentral subscribers. At the time, bCentral vice president Satya Nadella called the redesign “one step toward Microsoft’s software-as-service vision.”

Similarly, in June, Microsoft pulled the plug on its free ListBot e-mail newsletter creation service in a bid to encourage users to trade up to its subscription-based List Builder service, through bCentral.

Now, Commission Junction has joined the action. As a result, bCentral’s 1.6 million users will be able to sign up to the Santa Barbara, Calif.-based firm’s pay-for-performance affiliate advertising program. In addition to being promoted to current bCentral subscribers, the site’s new affiliate marketing service will be promoted in the site’s marketing.

“Microsoft bCentral clients will now be able to participate in the most cost-effective and measurable method of advertising online,” said CJ’s chief executive and co-founder, Lex Sisney. “Pay-for-performance advertising allows bCentral clients to convert traffic into customers. Advertisers only pay when a publisher sends them a new customer or sale. Publishers earn the most money possible from ads on their site. And both sides can gauge the success of their program and their partners’ program because of the performance metrics we provide.”

Commission Junction has seen some major changes of its own lately. In June, the company launched a series of initiatives to bring in more revenue and cut costs by focusing only on the highest-margin marketers. For one, Commission Junction began charging a higher commission for its services, and discontinued pay-per-click pricing as a payout option.

CJ also unveiled a program that displays stats for advertisers’ payouts and affiliates’ lead generations — in a bid to encourage lower-paying, higher-cost marketers to increase their commissions, or be shut out as affiliates migrated to higher-revenue marketers.

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