Graph representing income growth over time

I am not really a writer!

I am a retired guy who would like to have fun and generate side income educating  visitors about subjects where I have developed expertise. I built my first website in 1998 and in 2005 I affiliated with the Google AdSense system. That worked really well for many years.  I loved it because the income was totally passive. As long as I wrote interesting content that would rank in the search engines visitors would find my writing and some would click on the ads. At the end of the month Google would wire me the money. 

All good things end

For a lot of reasons, AdSense doesn't work as well as it used to. The "easy" money resulted in millions of "Made For AdSense" websites with sketchy content that made for a bad user experience. Since Google hates that they tweaked their ranking algorithm and simple informational sites lost much of their power to create income.  

Advertisers have also gotten much smarter about ad targeting. They lock their campaigns down so  their budget is only spent on sites that meet their traffic & demographic profile. That means small sites with limited traffic like mine get the dregs. Ebay listings for example that are poorly targeted bulk purchases by  Ebay on behalf of sellers. They don't pay well and they are usually VERY poorly targeted for my visitors. 

Writers need an income if they want to keep writing.

I, like most writers, hate aggressive, in your face sales efforts. I  find the advice to spend 80% of my time marketing my work and 20% actually writing it repugnant. That's why passive AdSense income was so wonderful. 

Does it have to  be that way?

I hope not. 99% of the internet marketing offers which flood my mailbox want to teach me how to market with power. I am told I should hide the player controls on my videos so visitors have to wqtch them to the end.  I should have an abandoned cart system to retarget people who didn't complete a sale. One video player I have seen even lets me stop a video from playing after a length of time of my choosing. The video will not start again until the viewer has given me an email address.  This is not how I expect to be treated when I visit a new site, and I will not inflict it on my visitors either. 

However, I do need an income!

The promised land of income for writers is to have your own product to sell. That could be a book, a course, or something else which people want to buy. However, I don't have a product to sell. That leaves some kind of affiliate program that has the potential to replace AdSense. It also needs to be products & a business I can feel good about.

Amazon Affiliate program

I think the Amazon Affiliate program might make a good replacement. Amazon is already a trusted seller so people have no issues buying from them. Their affiliate commissions are on the low side and their cookie only lasts 24 hours. However, they have some nice tools to make adding Amazon affiliate links to my sites easy. That means I can start testing their program with minimal time and effort.