The Affiliate Site That Wasn’t

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A missed opportunity to capitalize on affiliate 30 years in the making.

Written by Brook Schaaf

Sometime around 2008 I stumbled across an entirely new philosophy bordering on the realm of religion.

No, not the Paleo movement. (For those who know me, that came the following year.) This was a practice of packing everything, no matter how long the trip, into one bag, as championed by

If you’re a frequent traveler you might well heed this exhortation to travel lightly: embrace a soft-sided bag, no wheels, and multi-use clothing. I certainly did, going so far as to buy the bag co-designed by site owner and operator Doug Dyment. I used it for years and even bought the same bag for my wife when we went to Africa for our month-long honeymoon. On another trip overseas I planned so carefully that I figured out how to get by with foot powder instead of socks.

Years later, my religious fervor for this philosophy had quieted somewhat. Travel with a couple of chaotic kiddos brought the site to mind and I was eager to see what updated advice it might offer and how the site had improved in our new age of commerce content.

To my surprise, I found almost the exact same site I remembered fifteen years prior — the same navigation, the same images, the same content, the same notification: “For close to three decades, I have managed to keep free of charge; I sell no products, accept no sponsorships, and do all of the work myself.” On most pages it seemed only the copyright had been updated from 1994 to 2023.

I emailed Dyment to ask if he had ever had second thoughts on his position. His polite reply echoed his website: “This is a non-commercial Web site. I have no sponsors. I have no travel industry relationships.”

This left me shaking my head at what feels like an outdated attitude of keeping sites with commercially relevant content “non-commercial,” especially when the site’s disclosure notifies users of advertising, including a handful of affiliate links.

Creating content like this can provide a real service to users interested in the content. Resisting the complementary avenues of monetization, however, raises questions about the relevance and sustainability of such an approach.

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