15 Oct 2008 Fotolia Updates Affiliate Program but Sees No Need to Tell Affiliates

Liar Stock Photo by SaluhaAt some time last month Fotolia changed their affiliate program to no longer pay affiliate revenue for new referred photographers. I say “at some time” because nobody knows the actual date this changed occurred.

Why Doesn’t Anybody Know?

  • Fotolia made no announcement to their affiliates or members by email
  • Nor did they write a blog post about the change
  • Nor did they start a forum topic about the change
  • Nor did they officially respond to the forum topic created by concerned affiliates
  • Subsequent forum threads asking for clarification have been deleted

Understandably, affiliates hearing the news from external forums and support responses weren’t impressed. Adding to the confusion, Fotolia didn’t update the details of their affiliate program on their website – both the public pages and affiliate member section – until October 9.

But Wait, it Gets Better!

Not only did Fotolia update their affiliate program and not tell their affiliates, they also deactivated a large portion of existing referrals which weren’t due to expire for 3 – 5 years. 20% of my referred photographers were deactivated from the affiliate program, four at exactly 09-25-2008 12:00:00am and the rest at 10-01-2008 12:00:00am. The simultaneous expiry time and the fact it was exactly midnight – as you can see in the partial screenshot below – implies it was an automated database update. A disproportionate quantity were my more lucrative referrals, so my affiliate revenue is down more than 50% on last month. Other Fotolia affiliates report losing a larger portion of their referrals.

Expired Affiliates at Fotolia

So how did Fotolia explain this sudden deactivation of referrals? They say a bug in their system had assigned members as referrals incorrectly. These referrals had now be removed, but generously, Fotolia said it “will not require you to pay back the money you incorrectly earned”.

Doubts About the Explanation

Fotolia explained that they were able to tell which members had been incorrectly assigned as referrals by viewing the registration dates. Referrals with a registration date prior to that of the referring affiliate obviously couldn’t have actually referred that member and so were removed.

I registered at Fotolia in May 2006. I started using the affiliate codes when I started this blog in March 2007. The registration date of my first affiliate is March 22, 2007. All my referred members have a registration date almost a year after my own, so I can’t understand how Fotolia can claim my referrals registered before me.

Additionally I went through my list of referrals and only the third one I checked is also a referred photographer at Shutterstock. If that photographer is my affiliate at Shutterstock, what is the possibility that their assignment to me at Fotolia was the result of a bug? I provided evidence of this case to Fotolia last week but am yet to get a response.

Finally, my affiliate earnings at Fotolia prior to this ‘bug’ being uncovered were proportional to the terms of their affiliate program and their sales performance. They were much less than the generous affiliate program at Shutterstock and only slightly less that the affiliate program at Dreamstime.

Communication and Trust

Few affiliates have any issue with the fact that Fotolia changed their affiliate program. Their reputation alone attracts contributors, so there’s no need to buy them with an affiliate program. This is a business decision that is easily understood. What has upset contributors and affiliates (at least those that are aware of the change) is the absence of planning and management.

When most other microstock agencies make changes to their programs it’s planned, coordinated and communication is managed responsibly. That is, members are notified in advance and the relevant website information is updated at the time of the change.

However, in this instance, there was no notice that the change was coming and no formal communication at the time of the change. It also took Fotolia 14 days to update the relevant parts of their website. And now,   20 days after the first sign of the change (since my first batch of affiliates were deactivated) there has still been no formal communication to affiliates about either the change to the program or the deactivated affiliates.

Is it better to just wait until it all goes away or make an embarassing announcement about a change that happened 20 days earlier?

  • tyler
    Posted at 11:23h, 15 October Reply

    Glad you wrote about this.
    I too find it very surprising and a little disheartening that fotolia hasen’t seen the need to inform their members of the update. We had a contract with Fotolia that they felt they could update without notiftying us. 🙁

    Their Pricing Conditions page still says (indirectly) that they pay for affiliate photographers??!!

    The reward percentage depends on the type of affiliate transaction (sale or purchase) and is displayed under the “my profile” section of the member home page.

  • Jacque Vaughan
    Posted at 12:40h, 15 October Reply

    No surprise to me; Fotolia has always had their little surprises….remember V2, then the subscription program, then the shift in the search engine….It never ends, but they really did me a favor. I was lazy and exclusive with them….I’m now enjoying all the micro sites!!

    Love the Diaries,



  • Greg
    Posted at 12:52h, 15 October Reply

    I’ve never been impressed with Fotolia’s PR staff. Mat Heyward belittles contributers in the forums.

  • John
    Posted at 15:01h, 15 October Reply

    I am not surprised reading this.
    Last week they cancelled some 6 sales. They said it was due to a false credit card but it is impossible.
    Those images were sold a lot of months ago.

    They are playing with us, Im sure.

  • Allen
    Posted at 15:07h, 15 October Reply

    Almost makes me glad I don’t have any refferals! Although I sure would like to get a couple sometime. Guess Fotolia wont be very good to me on that regard.


  • Charlesknox
    Posted at 17:18h, 15 October Reply

    Not very professional on their part if you ask me

    Thanks for letting us know lee.


  • Bruce Robbins
    Posted at 17:37h, 15 October Reply

    This doesn’t affect me as I don’t have any affiliates but it seems to me that Fotolia is the weirdo of microstock not just for this but also for the competely arbitrary way they look at submissions. If Fotolia was an animal it would be a three-toed sloth.

  • Brandon
    Posted at 22:12h, 15 October Reply

    Thanks for getting the word out. My trust in Fotolia is getting less with each passing day.

  • Mary
    Posted at 22:52h, 15 October Reply

    “Last week they cancelled some 6 sales. They said it was due to a false credit card but it is impossible.
    Those images were sold a lot of months ago.”

    John, this happened to me several months ago. After I inquired twice about why my sales were disappearing, they also told me that my loss in sales was due to a false credit card. So I yanked all of my images off of their site. I’ve recently uploaded some more to see if things have improved. Sorry to see that they are still giving you the same poor excuse they gave me.

  • nona
    Posted at 03:13h, 16 October Reply

    Hi Lee,
    I’ve enjoyed reading your posts ,my sales on fotolia took a nosedive a few months ago from which they never recovered, and I’m not surprised at the way they handed their “referral cancellation” process, their relationship with their contributors needs a lot of improvement.

  • Dmitry
    Posted at 04:30h, 16 October Reply

    Shame on Fotolia!
    I’ve stopped uploading there a couple of months ago… and probably never resume… I hope I am not the only author they would lose because of their falsehood.

  • Perrush
    Posted at 19:31h, 16 October Reply

    Only thing I wonder is why your referrals last 5 years while mine only last one single year. My first referral goes back to 2006, last one signed up yesterday. Every single one expires within a year.

    Guess there will be a reason for. :o)


  • pdtnc
    Posted at 13:32h, 20 October Reply

    Its just rude frankly!

    Thought I’d try another support ticket:

    can I get an update on this situation please, I feel strongly about this situation and the total lack of an official publicised response doesn’t fill me with confidence that in the way things are being run, why is this information not forthcoming from Fotolia?

    I truly feel that a lot of my Red-Marked expired affiliates are marked as such in error, I have always promoted Fotolia through my blogs and websites. http://pdtnc.wordpress.com/ will be the main referral url.
    My account is still registering new affiliates, on a regular basis, that have clicked my referral links I would suggest that this is proof that you have expired many of my affiliates prematurely.

    I shall wait for a response, though my last ticket is still in an ‘opened’ state since 2008-10-02 😐

Post A Comment