Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Paid Writers, Or Paid Posts For SEO?

This post from CNN Money, Firms that actually pay bloggers (a bit) focuses mainly on Associated Content, one of Google's babies.
One of the more intriguing approaches to this model is Associated Content, a site backed by Google's (GOOG, Fortune 500) North American advertising chief Tim Armstrong and hatched by his former college roommate, Luke Beatty. What sets three-year-old Associated apart is that in addition to promising to share revenues with its contributor community, it gives writers an up-front payment based on a nifty Google-like algorithm to assess the potential popularity of submission.

Once an article is run through Associated's "yield management system," the company then sends the writer a one-time up-front fee that typically ranges from $4 to $20.00 (although most of the payments are closer to the low end). Additionally, Associated pays contributors $1.50 for every 1,000 page views their article, which usually run in the 600-word-count range, generates.
To many this will seem less than the amounts garnered via advertising revenues, donations, affiliate sales, &/or direct product sales; but at least they are paying ~ even if the math is as complicated as Google's own algorithm.
Indeed, among the attributes Associated's software analyzes are popular key words that entice search engines, and whether the author already has a track record within the system. If the system deems an article unsuitable for print, a content editor will send it back with some thought on how it can be made ready for distribution. This happens with about 30% of submissions, Reiss said, noting that nothing is "spiked" in the traditional media sense, but rather held until the system says it is ready.
If this sounds like articles are edited, that's not exactly true... It's more about SEO than the craft of writing:
In a sense, Associated automates the front-end story-generation process in publishing the same way that Google, Yahoo and other online giants have attempted to automate the back-end process of advertising online. Traditionally, publications spend a lot of effort vetting potential contributions and setting editorial budgets to attract the appropriate level of talent to write for them.

Reiss is quick to caution, however, that Associated's business is geared toward giving casual bloggers or first-time writers a way to get paid and have their work more widely read - but it's not (yet) seen as a replacement for mainstream media. Being a big-name writer already gets you no points, nor does Associated's computer give marks for good writing.
I also found this intriguing...
One of Associated's rivals told me that the rub against them is that they are filling the Internet with sub-par material that is geared toward gaming search engines - a claim that Reiss rejects.
Who was that unnamed rival, anyway? Inquiring minds want to know...

As a Google baby, it should be no surprise to read the following:
As far as [Ashley] Sinatra is concerned, Associated's system does have its quirks and perks. She has written on everything from the benefits of raw pet food to makeup tips and advice for aspiring writers, all for "basically minimum wage". But, she says, her most widely-read article was one she submitted last May -about celebrities baring their breasts in public. Apparently Associated did not offer her an advance payment for that piece, but it was her most lucrative work to date, yielding around $30. "They usually don't pay up front for celebrity things but those get the most page views," Sinatra, 18, told me over the phone. "It's weird, their system: You can write an article about something really boring but somebody will want it."
Once again, even though Google knows sex sells, they won't properly acknowledge it up front.

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