NovaXyon Affiliate Marketing How Associate Platform Howl Fell Hundreds of thousands In the back of on Bills

How Associate Platform Howl Fell Hundreds of thousands In the back of on Bills


The affiliate network Howl, one of several technology platforms powering the $16 billion affiliate marketing industry, has struggled for years to consistently pay its publishing partners, racking up millions of dollars in delinquent payments and bottlenecking a key source of publisher revenue, according to interviews with executives at four commerce media operations.

These overdue payments have stretched back up to eight months and range in amounts between $20,000 and $900,000, according to invoices, emails and accounting documents shared with Adweek. 

The executives who spoke with Adweek requested anonymity to discuss sensitive financial matters. The publishers they represent include some of the most prominent global commerce media operations. At least three other affected publishers declined to speak on the record.

The overdue payments, dating back to at least 2019, have been particularly painful for publishers this year, as the media industry grapples with severe declines in traffic and revenue. They also threaten to erode trust in the affiliate marketing space, which has worked to repair its former reputation as a haven for bad actors.

“The [affiliate] industry has cleaned up so much, and many of the bad actors have fallen by the wayside or been exposed,” said one executive. “These kinds of things give the industry a bad name and keep it underfunded.”

Howl chief executive Li Haslett Chen acknowledged the overdue payments, adding that they impacted a small fraction of its business.

“We acknowledge that we have had some delays in payments to publishers in the past,” Chen said. “We’ve addressed this, and Howl’s payments to its publishers are currently up-to-date.

“In early 2024, Howl will be migrating our publisher partners to an updated, direct payment system with payment transparency at the brand level. We deeply value our relationships with our publishers, brands and creators, and will continue to focus on providing them with great service.”

Delayed payments with little explanation

While the amounts and dates vary, publishers working with Howl all shared a common experience: Months would pass without payment, during which time Howl would fail to communicate or sufficiently explain the delay, according to the executives.

One publisher, in November 2020, had missing payments that stretched back to September 2019 and nearly reached a seven-figure total, according to documents reviewed by Adweek.

In a separate instance, a payment more than seven months late grew to a total of more than $250,000. In another, a payment five months overdue reached a high six-figure amount. 

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