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.
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.