It is possible to establish a reverse affiliates program where an e-commerce site links to some of the better specialized sites to use their content and recommendations as an enhancement and objective third-party advice for customers. For example, an online bookstore could have a list of "top-10 sites that review and recommend books in the field of X," where X can be anything from major best-selling areas like mystery novels to narrow fields like usability. Because these recommendations come from an independent source, they will often be more trusted. For sure, they will usually be better and more well-argued than anything the vendor can provide.
Amazon's "readers-who-bought-this-book-also-bought" feature could be supplemented with a "these-are-the-main-sites-that-recommended-this-book" feature. Count the incoming referrals from affiliate sites and link back to those that generate the most sales. This can be done automatically: a simple way to add value-added content to every product page.
Hint to Barnes and Noble: this would be a cheap way for you to both make your affiliates program more attractive (enticing sites to switch to your side) and to get value-added recommendation content. Of course, this idea works for other industries as well.
Invention Disclosure Notes
Date of conception for this idea: August 17, 1999.
Date of first public disclosure of this idea: August 18, 1999 (this sidebar was not included with the original column in July 1999: it was not posted until August 18, 1999).
Note added February 2002: This invention is in the public domain. No patent applications were filed during the patentable period which lasted until August 17, 2000. Unfortunately, even though the invention is available for any website to use for free, I have still not seen anybody implement it.