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Thursday, February 09, 2006

Paying to Write...Articles & Content controversy...

Articles & Content, a relatively new site that purchases content, recently made some adjustments to their policies. Claiming that they have been flooded with sub-standard work and that many projects "claimed" by authors were not completed in a timely fashion, they have opted to charge a membership fee for writers.

Those who operate Articles & Content were almost immediately (not surprisingly) contacted by at least a few writers who rejected their new scheme as a matter of principle and who expressed their indignation at being required to pay for the privilege of accessing the A&C projects.

In the few responses from A&C I have seen, they have been almost dismissive of writers' concerns and have tended to respond to complaints in something less than a wholly professional manner.

The Articles & Content mess does not come as a big surprise to me. I did join the site at one point (while still free), but never once claimed a project. The assignments available often did not interest me and I have been sufficiently inundated with work that I didn't "need" to use A&C.

The site itself and the correspondence I received from the administrators led me to believe that those at the top of A&C had probably bitten off a little more than they could chew. Site design was not really on par with what you would expect, editorial direction was minimal, and the emails I received from the admins failed to impress me.

I was amazed to see mass mailings from A&C lambasting poor writing from some producers go out to all users. I was even more amazed to learn that a payout problem was afoot because of problems with a Paypal account (if I remember correctly it had something to do with one of the admin's mother's and another site???).

I can remember thinking that if these people were too underfunded to immediately cut checks for members and to Fed Ex them as necessary, were unable to fix their Paypal issue right away, couldn't immediately establish and fund a new account that could then be used to obtain an additional Paypal account, wouldn't immediately seek out and implement a new online payment system, or do something else to get their authors paid without delay, trouble loomed ahead.

I am sure A&C received a lot of lousy material they couldn't use. I am sure they had countless authors blow deadlines. I can understand their desire to weed out the poor performers. However, implementation of a subscription fee was a horrific way to go about effectuating those goals.

The folks at A&C apparently did not understand the writing population all that well. Many writers will get incredibly upset that people are paying low rates to others in markets in which they have no personal interest! If you tell a room full of writers you produced anything original without charge (unless for charity, etc.) you may emerge from that room tarred and feathered. The idea of paying for the opportunity to write is so out of step with prevailing attitudes among writers that proposing such a thing should have been unthinkable.

I am sure some folks will pay A&C their dough. It may make things run smoother for them. However, what A&C is not fully appreciating is the number of potential high-quality writers they have completely turned off who will now never work with them. Even if their fee maneuver helps them to right a lilting ship in the short run, it will have long term consequences in terms of talent acquisition that will be devastating.

For those of you who have worked with A&C, imagine if the first time you encountered the site was today and they required you to pay them money to get access. Based on what you see from that site, would you even consider dropping a dime? I know I wouldn't.

If you are going to run an article brokerage, you need to be adequately staffed, funded and organized to handle the kind of problems A&C professes to have encountered. You need to recognize that a percentage of projects will turn out to be absolute crap. You must understand that many will fail to come close to meeting deadlines. You have to factor those considerations into operating the venture.

If Articles & Content was surprised at the number of horribly written pieces they received and the number of writers who couldn't produce on time, it merely illustrates a lack of preparedness to successfully enter the field.

If their solution is to ask for writers to pay a subscription fee to participate, it illustrates a lack of understanding of writers.

If you have been involved with A&C and have had a great experience, maybe that little charge is worthwhile. Personally, I have seen far too many warning signs to ever go down that road--especially with so much work available for writers without using the service.