This post started out from great observations from Chris Penn of the Financial Aid Podcast. Chris wrote about understanding unfamiliar Canadian Brands on his recent drive to Podcamp Toronto, by looking where the brand was located and what its neighbors were in the mall/signage department. ie. If you don’t know what a Tim Horton’s is, the fact that it’s next door to a McDonald’s and Burger King probably means it’s some sort of food joint.

I think this exact same thing is true in new media. While everyone has a chance to be their own individual brand, our affiliated marketing is also important. And I say this as someone who has NO advertising on any blog or podcast as of this point in time. I do promote author’s books through an Amazon link, but that’s it. I do mention businesses and connections I think are useful to my audience, but this is a public service, not a financially motivated thing for me personally.

So here’s the thing. If you look at yourself and your claimed new media space from blogs to podcasts, video to twitter, as a Brand, then where you position yourself, where you spend time on the web, and who links to you is simply affiliated marketing in business terms. (If you want to know more about personal brand, follow the link to CC Chapman’s great posts and podcasts on this subject).

But here’s the key- Every time we comment, every time we blog or podcast, we are saying something abut ourselves, who we affiliate with and where we want to be in this world.

And this is not meaning to say that we should develop friendships based solely on crass self-serving motives relating to building our own personal brand. But let’s also face it- your friends, colleagues and trusted insiders are your best brand marketers- because they like and identify with you. The people you like and associate with says something about you and your values, what you find interesting and compelling. Hell, I’ve found more interesting information, compelling podcasts, blog posts that have changed the way I view the world through this “affiliate marketing” than I would have ever found on my own. By following links, making links, and starting to think in hyperlinks, the web has become a real three dimensional space of information and media as never before.

I have a to-do list a mile long, that involves updating my blogroll on different sites, doing better on my hyperlinks, and getting better about the connecting part of my new media experience. I sometimes get bogged down in the day to day, and have not yet become fluent in this new language. But every time I add a new skill, or start to understand that linking is not really about my own “google juice” but about connections and affiliate marketing, the web becomes a more useful tool for me and everyone who stops by.

I think it’s all about taking on the responsibility for being an internet electrician, connecting wires and pathways to new information for people that come to my corner of the web, giving them the light switches and buttons to push and say- “Wow- that was something cool I never would have found on my own.”

For example, I will give a look and try different blogs and websites my trusted resources recoomend, like Chris Penn, CC Chapman, Chris Brogan, Julien Smith, and Mark Blevis, just to name a few. It’s online, but it’s just the same as if my neighbor points me in the direction of a good sale or local resource I might not know about. It’s friendsourcing and community building. And all of this requires openness, trust and sharing.

This applies equally well to affiliating my podcast project, the LD Podcast, with its natural community. This means participating and communication on great sites like Maya’s Mom, Schwab Learning, and LD Online. This means answering emails and blogposts on my site, and on my posts over at GNM Parents. It means providing resources and links on my site to things I find interesting and useful, so my visitors have a new portal for resources. This also means starting, contributing to, and maintaining conversations. This means building a community, person by person, link by link. And every conversation, every contribution, every link goes towards the goal of building your brand through affiliation and placement.

Yes, it’s placing myself next to other like brands, just like the natural affiliations of book stores and coffee shops. You know my podcast is about education and learning disabilities by where you find it, and by what I discuss. You would expect to find podcasts about education on education sites, just like you expect to find Peanut Butter and Jelly in the same aisle in the grocery store.

While I like being able to think about new media in business terms and with business language, I find it is just another code to express the same feelings and sentiments I use in other parts of my life. The online world is not separate, but an augmentation of the natural world. It’s a communication tool, a community tool, a way to connect with others you might never trip over otherwise. And it’s why I believe that, deep down, the only difference between old and new media is the willingness and ability to create an conversation and community.

In the end, communication is all about language and how you choose to express yourself and your values to those who care. You can call it branding, affiliated marketing, link love, google juice, or Fred, for that matter, but in more unversal terms, it’s about friends and trust and community.