In what seems to be becoming a trend, WooThemes CEO sent out an email to its affiliates announcing the scheduled shut down of the WooThemes affiliate program.
I’m in the unfortunate position to let you know that we will be closing our referral program on Friday, 8 February 2013. In the last couple of months, the costs to maintain the referral program have exceeded the benefit of keeping it around. We have also experienced so much fraud & abuse on the referral program, which means it is currently losing money for us.
The reasons that Adii mentions are high costs of running the program and fraud. This makes me wonder, does the WordPress industry need a better affiliate platform?
The affiliate marketing business is a very strong industry for other types of companies, such as Amazon, NewEgg.com, and plenty of other companies. So what makes the WordPress premium themes industry so special that it would have more fraud or pain in running the program?
WooThemes is not alone in closing their affiliate program, 8BIT closed theirs last month, The Theme Foundry closed theirs early last year (but for a different kind of “fraud”), and Headway Themes closed their affiliate program shortly after The Theme Foundry did.
So this begs the question, are we seeing a trend of companies closing their affiliate programs?
UPDATE: I caught up with Carl Hancock, co-founder of Rocket Genius and popular contact form plugin Gravity Forms, and he had this to say about their affiliate program:
We’re fairly happy with our affiliate program so far. We haven’t encountered rampant fraud. I’m not sure why the problems the theme developers have encountered have not impacted as as much as it has them. There is fraud here and there but overall it’s worked well.
So it’s possible that the WordPress plugin industry may have a different experience with fraud than the WordPress theme industry. As note above, we have seen other large theme companies shut down their affiliate program, but not all because of fraud.