How Roger Ebert Makes Money On Twitter

An interesting read about how popular movie critic Roger Ebert uses Amazon to generate a second income stream on Twitter.

The untrained eye might not notice that shortened “amzn” link as a signal that Ebert stands to take a 7 percent cut on purchases his followers make after clicking into, but his commercial Tweets have grown common enough that regular followers are surely getting the message.

Ebert says he devotes an average of four of his 25 to 30 daily Tweets to recommendations for merchandise available for sale at He does that as an Amazon affiliate, an arrangement that more and more publishers (including Poynter) have made with the online retailer in recent years.

I’d noticed Roger Ebert (@ebertchicago) doing this (on Facebook too) and was curious as to how receptive his followers were to these Amazon plugs which, while clearly documented, are still affiliate links.

The secret is how smoothly he does it – the way his ads are written and feel (to the reader) is very similar to all of his other tweets. It’s his voice. Plus he’s completely transparent. So much so, that his ads get a lot of retweets.

The size of Ebert’s audience (approaching 350,000 Twitter followers as of Thursday morning) is not the only element that sets him apart from other journalists. A commercial message that makes sense for a critic raises a whole other set of questions for a journalist whose focus is fact as opposed to opinion.

When asked about his Amazon deals by Christopher Heine of ClickZ, Ebert published his answers on his Sun-Times blog: “Have I made a fortune from Amazon? No. Have I made some? Yes. Am I happy to have it? You bet. Have I been amused? Yes. It’s kind of like fishing.”

Ebert also invited users to have their say about his Amazon ads, and more than 100 did so.

A few raised objections, but most told him, in effect, “no big deal,” or thanked him for the valuable tips he provides about good buys in videos, books, clothing and, among other things, coconut milk.

“Glad to have the tips, Roger! Keep ’em coming,” wrote DannyNM.

Another reader wasn’t so sure at first. “I was disconcerted the first few times I followed one of Robert Ebert’s links to Amazon,” wrote Joann DiNova, “but have since welcomed them with interest. It’s rather like having a worldly, knowledgeable, interesting uncle who is sharing unusual or hard-to-find or little-known things I know I’m likely to appreciate. And his interests always tell me more about him that I’m happy to learn.”

Ebert goes on to talk about why he would never utilise a sponsored tweets network – and he’s right, as they’re massive turn-offs for a lot of users. There’s a lot for us all to learn from here – about etiquette, transparency and doing things right.

(Source: Poynter.)