Monday, December 19, 2011

Skyword gets $6 million investment

I just heard that Skyword, a company that produces content for brand-name companies, including Pampers, Bounty (paper towels), and Gather, announced today that Cox Media Group had invested 6 million dollars to "expand the Skyword platform to address new markets, and grow Skyword’s sales, marketing and client services functions." (That's from the company's press release.)

My take is this: The content site industry has two types of sites: (1) ad-supported open-platform sites, where companies create structured spaces where anyone can write articles about anything, and (2) broker sites, where companies bring together publishers and pre-screened writers and make money by taking a percentage of the writers' fees.

The open platforms are in trouble.  Google has been blasting at them for almost a year. Many have already shut down, and the others are struggling. The open-platform revenue-share model, in my opinion, is fading away.

Open-platform sites that encourage creativity and authenticity, and that set the bar high, with a genuine commitment to excellence, might be able to thrive, but most of the sites I've seen do the opposite -- setting "good enough" as the standard and applying assembly-line techniques to writing, turning articles into manufactured, predictable products -- inexpensive, but not really satisfying to a web-surfing public that can turn elsewhere at the click of a mouse.

The broker sites, though, seem to be doing well.  I haven't heard of any going out of business recently.  New broker sites are popping up, and some old ones are expanding. Textbroker, for example, recently opened a site for UK writers, adding that to its existing U.S., German, and French sites. And now, today, we hear that Skyword, another broker site, is going to expand.

I think for writers who want to work for content sites, the broker sites now provide the best opportunities.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Suite101 kicked out of Google News - and admits to gaming the system

Photo by BeeThalin

Many content sites have been kicked out of Google News, but usually they pretend to be shocked and/or they accuse Google of picking on them without cause.  This is the first time, that I know of, that someone at one of the sites has admitted that they didn't really care about the news they were producing.
"We began indexing articles in Google News in April 2010 as a purely SEO-driven initiative: the goals at the time were less to give reporters a platform or audiences a publication as to nab greater search traffic. With an English-language market well equipped with serious news organizations, to even think about competing you really have to mean it. As a group, we never really did."  -- Michael Kedda, Editor-in-chief, Suite 101, in a memo posted internally in Suite 101 for the site's authors 
That's quite an admission.  Full memo after the jump:

"We have received confirmation from Google that our news articles are no longer being included in the Google news index. While we don't know exactly why, and do know for some writers this is a shame, we're taking it in stride. Slightly bad timing if anything.
"We began indexing articles in Google News in April 2010 as a purely SEO-driven initiative: the goals at the time were less to give reporters a platform or audiences a publication as to nab greater search traffic. With an English-language market well equipped with serious news organizations, to even think about competing you really have to mean it. As a group, we never really did.
"Looking forward, we know that news journalism, as a form we respect, does not factor into our plans for future—at least not as something we produce ourselves. It's an easy, calm decision, unfortunately just slightly tainted by the apparent snub.
"Just as well. Time to focus.
"You will note that the submission guidelines have been amended to remove the section on news. We will also be removing the "newsworthy" check box from the article draft page.
"You are still welcome to publish articles on timely events, however we will not designate those articles as "news" in the articles' URLs.


(via the AC, um Yahoo Voice, forums)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Et tu, WiseGeek?

WiseGeek -- the third content site to make a major announcement in the past two days -- announced it will stop publishing new content in January.  (Hat tip to Rena, again, and to the Demand Studios General Discussion Forum.)

I'll post more information when I have it.

I wonder why all these announcements from all of these sites are coming at the same time.  And on top of that, today is the one-year anniversary -- to the day -- that Helium abruptly announced it was scrapping its upfront payment system and substituting the first of its new, confusing systems that paid increasingly lower and lower rates.

Is there something significant about the first two days of December?  Are December 1 and 2 like the Ides of March for writers -- dates that hold a special significance and danger?   Beware, writers, of the onesies and twosies of the twelfth month?

Is it that the time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is a good time for a news dump -- a time when people are paying less attention to the news -- a time similar to Friday evenings, the traditional time for politicians to make announcements they hope no one will hear?

Does it have something to do with the companies needing to get things done before the end of the fiscal year -- but not wanting to make a move RIGHT before Christmas, lest they be too easily painted as Scrooges?

It's a puzzle.

Bright Hub is going to stop paying revenue share

Starting December 15, Bright Hub will no longer pay revenue share on its articles.  (Hat tip, again, to Rena for the info).

I hate to say "I told you so" (okay, I lied -- I love to say "I told you so"), but people who write for revenue share, thinking it will fund their retirement, need to think again.   Check your contracts.  Most of the content-ste companies can stop paying revenue share at any time, for any reason -- and still keep your articles.  Or the companies may continue to pay, but secretly tinker with their secret formulas so that you will get a smaller percentage of the total income -- without ever knowing what happened. Then where will all your hard work have gotten you?

Excerpts from the memo the company sent to its contributors are after the jump:

... Like many companies we are facing the reality of a changed economy, while simultaneously working to increase visitors in a post-Panda world. This combination of market forces has required us to make some hard decisions about our business model moving forward, including the elimination of some internal staff positions as well as our ‘Shared Success’ writer program.
Therefore, our current writer and editor roles have ended, effective immediately, and your last payment for revenue-sharing will be on December 15. Any updates or editing of previously created content will be handled by internal staff. And, if we should ever need to delete one of your articles, we will return the article and copyright to you via email, utilizing our current article notification system.
Does this mean we are closing our virtual doors? No.
Bright Hub will continue to focus on our core content areas of Business, Technology and Education, and will be contracting on an ad hoc basis with a small group of writers and editors, who will work closely with our in-house editorial team. Fees for both writing assignments and editing work will be based on the length and depth of content coverage needed....
If you would like to be considered for future contract work, please send a note to . This is also the email you should direct any questions or concerns to about the changes we have outlined here...
We understand that for many of you, the time will have come to part ways....

Thursday, December 1, 2011

"Associated Content" is now "Yahoo! Voices"

The "Associated Content" name and domain are gone, may they rest in peace.  All AC content was moved to the domain, except for our profile pages, which are still at

In case you haven't seen it, there's an official introductory memo that seems to explain everything.

I just glanced at it, and haven't really looked around the new site beyond the front page, which does look nice.

I probably won't be following much of the cheering or gnashing of teeth (whichever it may be) going on in the forums. I'm only peripherally involved in AC -- oops, Yahoo Voices -- now, and as long as I get my "metro beat" assignments, I'll be happy.  I'm also using AC -- oops, I did it again -- it's going to take me a while to get used to this -- I'm also using Yahoo Voices as a place to park my rants about TV and other things that don't have much commercial value (and don't fit into any of my existing blogs) but that I want to inflict on the world anyway.

The biggest change that I can see is that all articles will now be a single page.  That means less revenue share, and it also means that some existing articles will take a lot of scrolling to get through.  Going forward, I guess the basic strategy for writing for Yahoo Voices (ha -- I got it right that time) for people who want to maximize their revenue share is to break articles down and submit several short ones instead of a single long one.  This won't affect articles previously published on Yahoo ("regular" Yahoo), though, as those were always only a single page.

Maybe in the end it will work out for the best.  Without the content-farming stigma of the "Associated Content," name, maybe our articles will be seen in a more favorable light.  Not that anyone (least of all Google) would be fooled by a name change, but it could be a part of a new start.

Textbroker is opening a new site for UK English

Textbroker opened a new site today -- -- for writing assignments in British, Canadian, and Australian English. Payment is in euros. (Hat tip to Rena for the info.)  You can find out more in the press release.

Editing to add: The new site is open only to writers outside the U.S. because of tax issues.