Yahoo! Buys Associated Content: Some Initial Thoughts

http://www.freelancewritinggigs.com/2010/05/yahoo-buys-associated-content-some-initial-thoughts/

You probably heard Yahoo! is to purchase Associated Content for $100 million. I feel it’s a smart move seeing as how AOL Seed and Demand Studios are topping the searches with their content.  I’m not one to complain about content sites because I think quick web content articles and how to’s can be useful as long as they’re well written and factually correct. Also, I believe content sites are creating jobs, helping to improve the economy, and helping writers to earn money during a time when competition for gigs is fierce.

However…

It’s no secret I’m not a fan of Associated Content. The reason for this doesn’t have as much to do with the pay (though $3 per article sucks) or the writers as it does A.C.’s acceptance policy. I applied to A.C. several times throughout the years just to see if they changed their policy of accepting writers without viewing writing samples or experience. Each time, I was accepted without question.  No one asked to see prior work or where I’ve been published. They congratulated me and sent me on my merry way.

I understand that Associated Content wants to give writers of all levels of experience a voice, but there’s a problem; they hobbyists aren’t writing slice of life essays or posting pie recipes. They’re writing serious articles. There’s nothing wrong with this, but because Associated Content’s editors haven’t always been known for diligently checking for quality and factually correct writing, there are some clunkers in there. I’m all for everyone having opportunities and choices, but I’m also against poor content. This isn’t to say everyone who writes for A.C. is a poor writer, but let’s be honest, not all web writers are good, either.

As I mentioned on the FWJ Facebook Group this morning, if Yahoo! wants to compete with AOL Seed and Demand Studios, they’re going to have to make some changes at Associated Content.

1. Be More Diligent About Hiring Quality Writers and Policing Content

I firmly believe the key to quality content on the web is a stricter acceptance policy. You can pay a poor writer $500 and he’ll still be a poor writer. However, if you appoint a few gate keepers to enforce a stricter acceptance policy the folks who bitch about “low quality” content writers won’t have a leg to stand on. Also, if writers are held to higher standards, content sites such as Associated Content won’t be the butt of a bunch freelance writing jokes and barbs.

The new Associated Content should:

  • Request writing samples to ensure writers can write.
  • Hire more editors to offer guidance to newer writers and tweak content.
  • Create better guidelines for writers.

2. Raise Rates

Though I believe a stricter hiring policy is essential in order to provide good content, I also feel that we offer more incentive to quality writers when we pay them well. I won’t argue rates right now as that’s not what this discussion is about. However, A.C. pays many writers below $10 per article which is hardly motivation to research and proofread. Higher pay will motivate existing writers and attract higher priced writers who originally felt A.C. was beneath them.

If Yahoo! wants to create quality content and not to want to be labeled a cheap “content mill, they’re going to have to raise the rates for Associated Content and ensure the ends justify the means for writers to spend the time writing articles that don’t suck.

Do a Massive Cleanup

Yahoo! has the opportunity to build something really big here. However, in order to be taken seriously by their peers, writers, journalists and those who read content, they’re going to want to make some changes and clean up those clunkers. It will be a massive undertaking, having to go through all those years of content, but it will be well worth the effort. Again, I’m not saying everyone who writes for Associated Content can’t write, but let’s be realistic. There’s some pretty bad stuff out there. Yahoo! should hire some editors to patrol the site, edit the stuff that’s salvageable and toss the writing that doesn’t make the cut. Yes, there are going to be writers who aren’t happy with this, but it’s for the greater good. Besides, I think it’s only a few bad apples spoiling a bunch of truly terrific writers.

A Good Investment

Now, I’m not operating under the impression that Yahoo! cares more about quality content than earning money. Make no mistake, every content site is in this for the money. However, if they’re going to keep up and be considered a positive site for both readers and writers, they’ll need to revamp the current model.  Money is the motive for everything. Those who understand you have to spend money to make money, and those caring about producing the best writing they can, will win the search engine wars in the long run.

Yahoo! has the opportunity to leverage their name and pull in some hefty sponsors. Let’s hope they invest those dollars where it will do the most good – in the quality of the content and in the Associated Content writers.

Comments

  1. Hey Deb,

    I agree with you – associated content needs to be cleaned up and regulated in a big way if it wants to be taken seriously as a how-to resource site.

    The problem I’ve always had with AC is that it tops search results and looks legit, but as you pointed out has little fact-checking, editing, or validation. While I have no problem with a content sharing site (like hubpages, which I am also not a huge fan of), I do have a problem with a content sharing site masquerading as a resource site. Sure, Demand Studios has some junky, unhelpful content, but at least it is vetted to a certain degree.

    I hope this marks the beginning of a new era for AC, and a chance for it to live up to the reputation it has projected (perhaps disingenuously) for the past few years.

  2. Not to get into the “what’s a fair rate” argument, but having Yahoo as the parent company does create a pretty big disparity between a company with $6.5 billion a year revenue at one end and writers paid $3 a pop at the other.

  3. I completely agree that Associated Content desperately needs to be cleaned up and regulated, but don’t think Yahoo is the company to do it. Yahoo seems to buy apps and then completely forget about them.

    Flickr and Delicious used to be much bigger, than Yahoo bought them and they kind of stopped innovating and growing.

    That’s what happens with most of their acquisitions: http://www.crunchbase.com/company/yahoo
    .-= Leslie A. Joy´s last blog ..To Be Productive and Fix Your Habits, You Must First Realize What’s Blocking You =-.

  4. Unless changed made by Yahoo! (if any happen that is) change AC’s policy about non-US writers, I don’t think I’ll pay much attention to what’s in store for the site. If Yahoo! plays it right though, AC could really become a serious competitor for Demand Studio and other sites…
    .-= Jane Rutherford´s last blog ..Wednesday Update: The Writing Adventure continues =-.

  5. I know this is slightly off topic, but how is it that AOL Seed is doing so well? Has anybody here had any success with them? We tried them at the beginning of the year, but they were so unorganized, and they ask you to write articles with no promise of pay. At first they seemed like an exciting new alternative, but we got disillusioned fast (that’s not the royal We; my husband and I have a writing business together). We wrote some really good articles for them and never saw a cent.

    • Kathy,

      From what I understand, Seed is doing better than in the beginning. I just started with them a few weeks ago, and have had everything I’ve submitted published. Plus, they are directly assigning articles to me since I answered an open call for parenting writers. Payment has been almost immediate (I get direct deposit into my bank account.) You might want to keep an eye out for the open calls and see about getting direct assignments instead of competing. Sorry to hear about your bad experience!
      .-= Linsey´s last blog ..Sunday Side Up =-.

  6. I’m interested to see what happens with AC as I’m one of their featured travel contributors. There are a lot of fluff pieces, badly written pieces, and SEO overloaded junk floating around there, but I write under my own name so that I’m motivated to produce pieces I’m happy with. Although the pay is low ($10 per article x 3 travel articles per month), I use AC as a place to promote my blog and other published work. Since my work there shows up in searches before stuff on my blog, I’ve actually gained a lot of readers through my AC articles and even some private consulting and writing jobs. I’ve also ‘met’ a lot of interesting people on AC and gotten a ton of leads from other writers.

    I hope Yahoo changes the layout, as that has been getting progressively worse over the years with more and more intrusive ads.

  7. I do agree with you about AC. Oddly enough I write for them. I will admit that not all my work is great. Especially when I was pregnant, I become very tired just to sit and slacked. But I will say that when it comes for when they review an article, they can get very picky about grammar. Pay through this site isn’t great with initial payments of some articles. But that same intial pay does go towards your PPV performance. For instance, I was paid $2.22 for a review of a movie that hasn’t come out in theatres yet. I wish I had had more than that but still, after 1500 views I get that same amount, $2.22. Other than that it depends on your clout level. I’m at 8 going on nine an recieving a $1.60 per 1500 views. Not much money. The highiest I think that they go is $2. Personally they should pay more for performance. Otherwise, just to make money, you have to write A LOT of articles and then get more followers. Which can take up a good chunk of your time. They do offer some interesting tips though. I’d like to have more interactions with the staff. I don’t just want to know what kind of work they are looking more. That and to answer questions themselves. FAQ’s arem’t always helpful for me. As far as their layout is concerned, some of it isn’t bad. When they are testing new stuff it is the only time they ask for your opinion. What has me upset lately is that the chart used to track your view daily is getting slow. I don’t care fo not knowing how many people have viewed my work for three days. Heather I think I am one of your fans. I go by Victoria. I’ve been writing that Dumb and Funny Laws of the states series just to make people laugh. Course I need to get back onit since my computer crashed.

  8. No one with real experience, who is a good writer, is going to waste their time writing for $3. Simle as that.

  9. I am anxious to see how this whole thing goes. I think right now, it could go either way for the writers. It would be nice to see the site cleaned up and some pay increases, but you never know. I do wonder exactly what Yahoo is going to do with the site. I wonder if they even have a solid plan yet?

  10. I also write for AC. Since I only had minimal print writing experience and no web writing experience, I decided to try AC. It’s been a great learning experience for me. I’ve used the site as a way to “showcase” my writing. Like Heather, I use my own name, so I am very particular about grammar and spelling. AC has given me the confidence to expand my horizons and try for other writing gigs. In fact, I landed a temporary writing gig that was posted on this site. When I submitted my resume, I included the link to my profile page on AC. My prospective editor viewed my page and said I was more than qualified to write content for them. The gig turned out very well and I now have something else to add to my writing resume. Many people use AC as a stepping stone.

    It will be interesting to see what Yahoo does with AC. It would be nice if they started to pay more.

    AC was a great place for me to get my feet wet. The fellow writers there are very friendly and supportive.

  11. We have been writing for Associated Content (AC) for almost a year and yes that true that getting paid $3 – $4 was hardly any motivation to reserach and proof read. However we have realised that the only way to increase your earnings is to collaborate with other writers. As a result we have several writers working for us which results in more profit and faster submission rates. You can find more information in our new book A Smart Way to Make Money on AC from yahoo at the following website.
    http://www.associatedcontentfromyahoo.com/
    Check it out and if you like what you read buy the book and you will uncover all the secrets to earn more than you can imagine using AC from yahoo.
    Visible Solid´s last blog post ..Associated Content from Yahoo and why it will pay you to submit content

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