Getting your money’s worth?

Today, everyone, I’m going to have a go at generating content – and getting paid for it.

In a way, it’s like a commercial Wikipedia; experts write articles according to their areas of interest, which can then be picked up by journals or websites – who then pay the struggling artist for the privilege.

Let’s take an example. Helium is a grand institution in this area that’s been around for more than four years now. Helium describes itself as a ‘knowledge co-operative’, where they champion the ideas of sharing expert knowledge and believe that ‘readers want a choice of viewpoint – not just one opinion on any subject’ (neatly sidestepping any issues of bias). One merely joins (for free, thank goodness), uploads an article on any subject under the sun, from TV reviews to guides to woodland birds to the success of the Egyptian protests, and you’re away.

How you get money for these sparkling efforts is slightly more complicated. According to Helium ‘the best writing rises to the top’. Writers can either earn upfront payments through the site’s Marketplace, can win various ‘writing competitions’ or can undertake freelancing work on behalf of publications that are linked to the site – though this last one is often expertise or geo-specific (such as doctors-only for medical fact-checking, only people working in Pittsburgh etc).

The upfront payment method is by far the most confusing. Writers put their articles up for consideration for these payments on the Marketplace – the best one gets selected. This is done through editor grading, the ratings from other members of the sites and ‘some staff input’. The payments range from anything from $0 to $15 – the $0 is just a way of securing the article for a particular publication.

And then the knotty issue of the rights. If your article is accepted for anything above $0, Helium gains exclusive rights to it. Apparently this is the best way – “With Helium holding exclusive rights to your article, it should not be published anywhere else on the web, so anyone who reads your article will be reading it from one source. This gives your article a much higher SEO value and should increase your potential ad revenue share.” So you’ve been published, but just in one place.

But it isn’t all fun and games. It’s difficult to find the places to upload – I’ve been trying to offer up my own genius for some time, but I’ve been told that the status of this is ‘pending’. It’s hard to contribute directly to the communities you want to target; Arts and Humanities is safe in its ivory tower. The money isn’t yet rolling in.

So far I’m a little bit wary, but I’m willing to give it a go. It’s worth noting that Helium isn’t the only option out there – AOL launched a similar service called Owl last year, which uses a content management system called Seed to crowdsource from their many websites. It should be noticed it’s now keeping a very, very low profile. Or there’s Hubpages where you create ‘Hubs’, or topics of discussion, that people can then respond to. They’re all slightly different – Hubpages, for example, makes a great deal of the fact that they’re a ‘community’ as well as a place of business.

Worry not, your2pencers – I’ll report back.


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