I have just launched a reviews and ratings site of items most people use. I haven't done any publicity because I want to get a few things right.
Objective Non-commercial goal is to create a modern equivalent of an old model where people had to meet in person to share reviews or read printed newsletters, pay dues, form committees, etc.
This is not a sneaky way to make money, but it may look that way.
Approach I will allow a reviewer to place one affiliate link which shows at the end of the review with some boilerplate mentioning that it is an affiliate link. If the writer doesn't add such a link, a different boilerplate message says that the author elected not to provide an affiliate link. (More than one person told me to add such boilerplate instead of sneaking in an aff link.)
I have asked for no dupe content where the review exists elsewhere on the web.
I have a 468x60 AdSense block on each review. No other advertising apart from the author's aff link, at least for now.
There is another link that must go to the manufacturer's URL, not an affiliate site. I haven't said that this can't an affiliate link that goes to the manufacturer, since some vendors run their own aff programs.
I think I am differentiating by making these "real people" reviews and not professional journalist reviews or affiliate marketer fake/dubious reviews.
Preparation I have seeded 5-6 reviews to kick it off. I suppose I need 30-40 to make it look lived-in.
Affiliate links may be a turn off to readers.
Potential reviewers might not feel there is enough incentive from a possible aff commission.
Previously published reviewers won't be bothered rewriting the review.
A reviewer might think that their content should only appear on their own websites.
What flaws do you see in the model so far and how can I package it better before trying to publicise it?
What kinds of places should I try to publicise it (without spending advertising dollars)?
That's one of those things that's hard to predict, IMO. I'd worry about affiliate marketers posting low-quality reviews (dupes, inaccurate, invented, stolen) just to get the exposure. Of course, it's traffic and ranking dependent. If the site is busy or earns some strong Google rankings, the link exposure will be attractive. If not, those motivated by affiliate income won't bother with it.
The real question is whether you can build a community of reviewers, with or without an aff link. If you can get quality activity going, it will feed on itself.