This is Part 2 of a two-part series. In Part 1, we explain the ins and outs of Yahoo Contributor Network, including how to get started, submitting content, and payment and publication terms. Read Part 1, "Exploring Yahoo Contributor Network". If you are a YCN user, please share your experiences by leaving a comment!
Yahoo contributor Network (YCN) recently joined the content farm pool with its acquisition of Associated Content. Now, anyone and everyone can publish content on the Web and get paid for it. Whether these content farms turn out to be good for the Web as a whole is debatable. But the allure of earnings and exposure to Yahoo's audience is enough to warrant an investigation.
In Website Magazine's February, 2011 issue, we covered the basics of YCN - how to publish, payment terms, publication rights, etc. To research that article, I signed up for YCN, and wrote and submitted several pieces of content. To keep it fair and close to the experience any new YCN contributor might have, I only used my personal Twitter account (@TheMikePhillips) a newly-established Reddit account (TheMikePhillips), my Facebook page and a few random forums. I did not use any Website Magazine resources or professional contacts.
What follows are the titles of each piece of content and their related levels of success, listed in order of publication date (statistics are current as of 1/3/2011). After that, I decide if it was all worth the effort.
5 Ways to Get More Online Dates
Total Views: 116
Up-front Pay: $2.87
Performance Earnings: $0.17
Online dating is a hot topic and one with plenty of people offering advice and tips for success. Perhaps too many. Although the article was accurate, detailed and original (and good enough for YCN to pay for it up-front), the competition is just too fierce. This was the first piece I wrote for YCN and one of the poorest performers. The only saving grace here was the up-front payment of $2.87.
2010’s Biggest Fantasy Football Busts
Total Views: 1,905
Up-front Pay: None
Performance Earnings: $2.86
Fantasy football is an active, opinionated and Internet-savvy community – and a subject I know quite well. The topic is searched often and accounts for millions of page views on a daily basis. Although a saturated market, content-wise, the community surrounding fantasy football is always hungry for new information and poised for an opportunity to express opinions. This piece took off quickly, getting 70% of its page views within the first two days of publication. In hindsight, I should have chosen "Display Only" for publication rights. That way, I could have edited this piece as the fantasy football season came to a close and statistics changed. That would have kept this article relevant for a longer period of time. Based on what I know now - and without an upfront payment anyway - earnings would not likely have been negatively impacted. Now, the article is dated and not likely to make much of an impact later in the year.
How to Start a Twitter Business Account
Total Views: 28
Up-front Pay: None
Performance Earnings: $0.04
This was perhaps the most shocking and disappointing of all of the YCN articles I published. I already knew that Twitter business advice was a saturated topic. But I know the topic extremely well (as was the case with the respectable-performing fantasy football article) and I thought it was still a worthy topic. A measly 28 views and $0.04 later, I learned another lesson. This was far and away the biggest waste of my time in the whole lot.
Fantasy Football’s Biggest Breakout Players of 2010
Total Views: 1,031
Up-front Pay: None
Performance Earnings: $1.55
To seize on the success of the first fantasy football article, I wrote a second one with a slightly different approach but a similar concept. This, too, had some success but not as much as the first one. The key phrase “breakout players” is searched far less and is slightly less controversial than “busts.” Therefore, traffic numbers were lower, even though the article was promoted in the same venues and in the same manner as the first. I also chose Non-Exclusive to test if the payouts would be any different. So far, there is absolutely no difference.
A Local's Guide to the Chicago Hot Dog
Total Views: 138
Up-front Pay: $2.00
Performance Earnings: $0.21
This piece was taken from the YCN Assignment Desk - where contributors can pick up assignments for a pre-determined fee. And because this was something Yahoo asked for, I was very surprised by its poor performance. It's true that many pieces have been written on the Chicago-style hot dog. But I thought my Chicago connections and Yahoo's desire for the content would result in more views than just 138.
Lincoln Square January Concerts Not to Miss
Total Views: 1
Up-front Pay: $10.00
Performance Earnings: none
This is another piece from the Assignment Desk, only instead of picking it out myself, it was emailed to me with these words, “The Yahoo! Contributor Network, on behalf of Yahoo! Local, has targeted you (or a group of contributors) with a specific assignment from our Assignment Desk - it is for a site other than Associated Content from Yahoo!.”. Surely, Yahoo wants this content and will promote it with equal fervor ... right? Not exactly. As of this writing, the piece has one view. Granted, I have not promoted this content on my own, at all. I wanted to see what Yahoo would do with this local content. As we're already in January, it's not looking good.
The most rewarding part of this piece, however, is that it was the easiest to write and took the least amount of time. It involved my neighborhood and music - both of which I know intimately. So, after 20 minutes of writing and quick research, I was $10 richer. It appears Yahoo is willing to pay for local content, even if they have little interest in using it.
Five Fun, Fast and Free iPhone Apps
Total Views: 52
Up-front Pay: $2.24
Performance Earnings: $0.08
Finally, I wrote about one of the hottest topics online over the last year or so - apps. Would the third time be the charm for an overdone topic? No. Fearing this, I submitted this piece for an upfront payment, and got it. But it's not over yet. This article has a relatively long shelf life, so I'm hoping with some promotion (and a few inbound links)it might provide long-term performance earnings.
Final YCN Test Results
Articles published: 7
Total Views: 3,271
Total Payments: $17.11
I found Yahoo Contributor Network easy to use and somewhat entertaining, but mostly disappointing - particularly in the revenue department. Admittedly, some of the content I published is better than others. But that's representative of the medium. YCN is very much a numbers game - the more you produce the better chance you have of success. And when producing quantity, quality can suffer. (That's part of the negativity associated with content farms, in general.)
But there are a few ways that YCN can be an asset to your Web endeavors. In every case, content has the potential to be picked up and distributed across any or all of Yahoo's content channels, according to Yahoo. Should that happen, YCN could turn out to be a channel with massive reach and exposure to audiences far beyond your current sphere of influence. After our experiment, here are three ways I found that YCN can be particularly useful.
Promotion/Brand Awareness: Once your account with YCN has been established, articles can be published immediately on any topic of your choosing. While explicitly self-promotional articles will draw negative attention from YCN, content that is relevant to your industry (news, announcements, reviews, etc.) can and will be published. This can provide good opportunities to establish your brand as a resource and industry leader. YCN even allows links to your websites or online portfolios, within reason.
Local businesses can absolutely benefit from YCN. Yahoo has made no secret of its desire to become involved in the local content market and local content assignments abound. Local businesses can take advantage of these assignments to help establish their presence among the local community and, at the very least, build searchable content. Every published article includes a link to the author's profile page, which can include links to websites, online profiles and more - in essence, creating new touch points for your business.
Portfolio Enhancement: Freelance writers, industry experts and just about anyone else can use YCN to build up their portfolio online. One advantage Yahoo has over your own blog is a big name and a big audience. The potential is there to become established with a sizable audience through a seemingly non-biased publisher. It will likely take considerable effort to get recognition through the network (be sure to network with other YCN contributors) but, over the long term, YCN could help establish your name, brand or website with wide-ranging audiences and even lend some outside credibility to your career.
Income: Although the above examples might indicate otherwise, YCN can provide some outside income. Keep in mind that these examples took place over a very short time period and used limited resources. If you have a large network and the ability to drive traffic (Yahoo appears to help very little in this regard), money can be made. Know that it will take time to earn and that earnings will likely fall short of your expectations. As such, I recommend lobbying for up-front payments whenever possible. And the local assignments provide the best opportunity for quick cash. Remember that common SEO best practices are essential, including descriptive headlines, researched keywords and link building.
Overall, I recommend using YCN to augment your online efforts. Unless you have a lot of time on your hands or idle employees, most of your time is better spent on your core business and your own blog, building your brand. I can only assume that rings true with the Web's other content farms.
Read Part 1, where we explain the ins and outs of YCN, including how to get started, submitting content, and payment and publication terms: "Exploring Yahoo Contributor Network".