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Here is an example...
I run an automotive website and have some links for car insurance companies (affiliate programs) they pay anywhere from $4-$9 per LEAD (valid, quote request form filled out)
Then I look at their ppc advertising on google/yahoo and they are paying $5-$9 PER CLICK! Who knows how many clicks they need to get one valid quote.
I also recently spoke with an affiliate manager for a insurance quoting service and when I asked why other companies are paying so much per click and so little per lead she had no answer for me.
I had the same problem with auto financing, was only getting paid $50 per Sale and finally made a deal with a small lender and they are paying a flat monthly fee that is five times as much as I was earning with an affiliate program!
Am I missing somehting?
You will find that - given that you are publishing quality pages - CPC creatives will almost certainly out-perform CPM creatives every time.
Sometimes CPA creatives will and sometimes they won't.
It depends on how qualified the traffic is that you are sending through.
Sure there are some (many) bad programs, but they're just cutting their own throats. Over time every affiliate with decent traffic will take their business elsewhere.
Bad programs will always lose good affiliates in the long run.
On a side note, you can always try promoting digital products such as guides, ebooks and software. These usually have 30-60% commissions, often times even higher... can't get much better than that.