I don’t type this story lightly, about a company I idolized for years. Used for every trip for almost a decade, recommended countless times – and they just screwed perhaps one of the hardest-hit groups in the pandemic with such ruthlessness, that has completely changed my perspective of them.
I was always going to write this post on Airbnb…. As a travel marketer of 10+ years, I had watched them and was in awe of the marketing, and the ploy they were pulling off, but I write this now in a completely different tone.
I thought they were genius — who doesn’t. They’ve done some smart things…
But I felt one of their smartest moves in the wake of coronavirus was that they opened an affiliate/associates program when other travel companies were all closing theirs (which got publishers to recommend Airbnb and if readers made a purchase, the publisher/blogger made a little money).
This meant that hundreds, possibly even thousands of the hard-hit travel publishers were stuck at home not traveling and started writing content, rerouting their new and old post traffic to Airbnb in order to make some extra money.
They had started making a decent amount, it looked like Airbnb was a program that could help, and when travel returns would make publishers some really great returns. But these publishers make their money from SEO, which means they write a piece on content and wait till Google trusts it enough to rank it high, and then the real money could be made. This generally takes years to happen.
I can not tell you how much time and money goes into this. Tens of thousands of dollars monthly. This was an incredible investment for some at quite a dire time.
Publishers and bloggers changed posts about hotels, guesthouses, where to stay, and all those lovely accommodations straight to Airbnb. All that traffic that used to go to the competitors has now been funneled straight to Airbnb.com.
It was working great, bloggers/publishers were happy, they were making money during Covid, although fractions of what they were getting pre-Covid, Airbnb were getting publishers to write reviews, recommendations, glowing articles – resulting in tons and tons of press. To put that into perspective, in 2020 October websites published 4x more content about Airbnb than in 2019.
Let that sink in; 4 times more articles about Airbnb were published in October 2020 than October 2020. In peak COVID.
And then you got dickface Brian Chesky here gloating that “What the pandemic showed is that we can take marketing down to zero and still have 95% of the same traffic as the year before”. Yeah sure because you had half the blogging nation and anyone with any capital pouring money into Airbnb posts and sending you traffic.
And then… Airbnb canceled it all… not a reduction of the payments, not a decrease of the window for the payment to count, not a change to the %, no notification about this change, barley month to allow people to prepare for it. Not even an email from Airbnb about anything… I’ve emailed them twice about it. Radio silence.
They simply changed/added a dropdown. Some still haven’t got an email about the cancellation.
Wow…………. You filthy fuckwits.
In this industry (affiliate marketing), we are used to Amazon cutting affiliate commissions, and there is a lot of negativity about that. But the key is that they didn’t cancel everything with little to no warning.
But to close/cancel an affiliate program with such little warning, with no thought of the people you support. New levels.
Many publishers are still waiting for notification from Airbnb. Once that happens we’ll have more clarity but the way it’s been handled has many huge publishers upset and disgruntled. Not to mention without a huge source of their monthly income in a difficult time.
It will be interesting to see what all these pissed-off publishers do. I know they are trying to find many alternatives, VRBO being one of them. So although Airbnb have decided that publishers are not important, perhaps they should have thought about that before the travel blog nation wrote about their Airbnbs and now want to swop all their links to the closest competitor.