Here’s a brief look at what I consider the main Pros and Cons of Associated Content after about three years of AC interaction:
Freedom – Whether you’re a veteran content producer or a newbie to Associated Content, you probably know (and love) that AC lets you write about any topic you choose. This is one of the greatest benefits of Associated Content — the freedom to submit content about whatever you want and have it published for anyone to read.
Income – Another obvious benefit is that you can earn money for these pieces of content. Granted, the money probably won’t land you a new home, but if you write regularly for AC and/or write popular content, you can earn a healthy amount of extra cash for yourself, which never hurts. AC’s payment system is such that you can potentially earn payment up front for your article, then earn performance payments for every 1,000 page views you receive. While the upfront payment likely won’t buy you more than a meal at a fast food restaurant, over the course of time your article could earn you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars based on how often it is viewed.
Opportunities – AC’s Calls for Content program can provide guaranteed payment (albeit small) for a particular article topic. There are also frequent contests and opportunities for writers to gain prominence on the site or win extra cash. Content Producers can also use AC to network with other writers or promote their blog or website by linking to them in articles. And there are ample promotional tools if a CP wants to promote their content to a wider audience.
Inclusiveness – In many ways, AC is welcoming to the amateur and professional alike. Professional writers can publish content here and earn extra cash. Amateurs who may not be able to land a gig at a publication can still write for AC and earn money in the process. And some amateur content producers have used their writing at AC to land them professional writing gigs elsewhere.
Erratic Payment Decisions – What AC will, and won’t, pay you for often seems hit or miss. Obviously the AC staff can only make an educated guess about how well a piece of content will do, but some of their decisions have left me scratching my head: I’ve received upfront payment for content that has performed pretty poorly in terms of page views, and I’ve had payment denied for content that has been among my most popular, sometimes earning tens of thousands of page views in a month. I know as a CP, predicting which content will perform well is often a difficult proposition, and I’m often surprised by the outcome. But it would be nice if the staff doling out the cash had a better grasp of how well a piece of content was likely to perform.
Quality – When I first started writing for AC, the quality of some of the pieces I read by other CPs was downright embarrassing. Besides being poorly written, the pieces were loaded with spelling and grammar mistakes that would have been caught by a good proofreading job. Because AC does not have editors to edit content, what a writer turns in is what gets published. And in the beginning, what writers turned in was often pretty bad. Over time, AC has put more of a stress on quality, error-free content. And it has given writers greater incentive to write quality content with its performance payment program based on page views.
So now, more often than not, the poor quality is not in terms of glaring errors, but poor writing and keyword-overloaded content. I don’t know how many professional writers there are who also publish on AC, but being one myself, I am often surprised and frankly appalled by the content that gets highlighted by AC. This is the same content that I read, shake my head at, and then scroll down to see 50 comments at the bottom from other CPs saying “great article!” and “awesome job!”
In the world of an actual publication, where talent is expected and required, an article like that never would have made it down the pipeline. But here, at AC, it is often promoted and praised simply because it strings together so many keyword phrases and CPs want to make friends.
One article I read that made the front page of AC was about Jason Varitek divorcing his wife, Karen. I can’t tell you how many times the article repeated the phrase “Jason Varitek and Karen Varitek.” It was mind-numbing repetition obviously aimed at keyword density and not enjoyable reading. The article itself provided little valuable information, but instead took the bit of information it had, repeated it in different ways using the same keyword phrases, and then offered the writer’s somewhat irrelevant take on the situation. Lo and behold, at the end of the article were dozens of comments complimenting the piece.
So in some ways AC is like an upside down world for writers. What is valued at the typical professional publication can seem unimportant here, as keyword phrases and making friends with other CPs often takes precendence over good writing.
There are probably more Pros and Cons to the AC experience, but that’s my list for now: You’ll get freedom to write about what you want and the opportunity to earn some extra cash while doing it. But don’t be surprised if you read some of the latest highlighted piece and begin to question AC’s values.