George Christensen gave a few hints about his post-politics career when he announced his shock retirement last month.
In a Facebook video the Queensland LNP MP said he would continue to campaign on his favourite issues as a “stronger, more unfiltered voice outside of Parliament”.
His actions were telling, too. He doubled-down on promoting his Nation First newsletter and his Telegram chat channel — all ways of building a digital audience he can reach, mobilise and monetise.
And although it seems Christensen is keen on becoming a political influencer, the question remains how the 42-year-old can turn that influence into income.
The Australian reported that Christensen is seeking to be disendorsed by the LNP which would make him eligible for a $105,600 resettlement allowance. And now a sudden pivot towards book recommendations shows how he’s trying to make money from his engaged online fanbase.
George’s book club
Less than a week before his announcement, Christensen took a break from his normal newsletter content to promote a list of “must reads”.
“I wanted to give you my top 10 reading list on today’s issues so you can track down copies for yourself and become more informed than probably most journalists and many members of parliament and senators are!” he wrote.
The books ranged from the Australian conservative Kevin Donnelly’s latest anti-leftist screed Cancel Culture and the Left’s Long March to Jordan Peterson’s new book Beyond Order: 12 More Rules for Life. Each article linked to an Amazon listing.
What Christensen didn’t mention was that he will be taking a cut of the books’ sales.
Amazon offers an affiliate marketing program called Amazon Associates. According to the company, the program helps “content creators, publishers and bloggers monetise their traffic”. It does this by giving the associate a portion of any sale that comes from someone’s recommendation. Those in the program will get 4.5% of the price of the physical book bought through their links.
Amazon tracks who recommends a sale by including a tracking code in URLs that their associates promote. The company’s FAQ says links created as part of the program will have “&tag=(store/tracking ID)” in the URL.
Each of the links included in Christensen’s newsletter includes “&tag=georgechriste-22” in the URL.
Christensen’s next newsletter went back to its normal content, but this time included another five books to buy (all from Amazon). He has also posted 10 Amazon book listings on Facebook since the start of April and sent four Amazon links to his Telegram channel.
In doing this, he appears to have broken the rules of the Amazon Associate program. According to the operating agreement, associates must disclose that they are taking a cut from sales.
“You must clearly and prominently state the following, or any substantially similar statement previously allowed under this agreement, on your site or any other location where Amazon may authorise your display or other use of program content: ‘As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases’,” the operating agreement reads.
Christensen did add the disclosure in his second email, but it wasn’t there in the first list of books sent to newsletter subscribers.
Christensen has also added the disclosure in his Facebook page “about” section and his Telegram chat information section, but it’s unclear when.
Amazon said breaching the agreement may lead to the termination of an individual’s participation in the program.
While it is not against the rules for a federal politician to promote his or her business interests, it is certainly unusual that a sitting MP would use their official communication channels to supplement their income.
Christensen’s recent and enthusiastic participation in Amazon’s Associate program shows his willingness to turn the audience and profile accumulated through his participation in political life into a way to make money.
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