5 Signs a Writing Revenue Site is Dying

I've seen so many writing sites go by the wayside since Panda. Suite101 and Mahalo are basically now defunct, and only left up to gather the small amounts of ad revenue they may garner from what is already there. Suite101 is actually asking people to write for free. Demand Media has stopped advertising for writers, and I don't know of anyone who has been accepted there. Examiner is still alive, if barely. It keeps writers for awhile, until they find out they can't make any money, then they are gone. Hubpages keeps trying to reinvent itself, but it just isn't working anymore. Helium has gone through yet another upgrade, which doesn't really change the fact that it is not a good place for earning residual income.

To be sure you don't get caught unawares, these are the signs I have seen that precede every site closure or downfall. Be aware and you won't lose too much when they are gone.
  1. Things Become Secretive. You'll hear a lot of double-talk and "noise signifying nothing" from staff during the last days. They will either flat-out lie, twist the truth, or just not answer questions at all. This is the time to get out, not when the walls collapse around you. This is the first sign that the end is near.
  2. You Suddenly Are Making Less Money. Case in point: Yahoo Contributor Network has started cutting out well-paying positions for writers, such as Featured Contributors, and is cutting pay for beat writers, not to mention that it doesn't count page views from mobile devices. Upfront payments have gone for $9 to $15 dollars to a measly $1 to $3.
  3. Long-time Writers Start Moving On. Most smart writers see the writing on the wall way before a site collapses. If there is a forum, you will see long-time writers talking about private clients and other sites that pay more. You will see the less prepared start asking for referrals to better paying sites. This is the desperation phase, where all those who have put all their eggs into that basket start to panic. New forums and groups will spring up on social sites to "keep us in contact, just in case."
  4. Excuses, Promises and Lies. This is the endgame. To keep things going just a little longer and keeping all their little rats from jumping ship, the site staff will start making excuses, such as saying things were just as bad last year, when you know they weren't. They will promise things will get better and that big things are in the works. They will sometimes flat-out lie to you to keep you on board until the very last days, by creating new "opportunities" that are smoke screens to keep you happy and feeling like you are special before they drop the ax on you. They will start blaming things on corporate, search engines, their clients or anyone to garner your support and sympathy. DON'T FALL FOR THIS! This is the point where you need to GET OUT FAST! Start deleting or copying your work on the site in preparation for #5.
  5. The Final Days. Jobs will start to disappear, but they will gloss it over. Pay will be cut, and time limits will be put on projects. Some sites will suddenly (sometimes in the middle of the night) change the TOU to rob you of your rights, shut down the ability to remove your content and steal your work. Mahalo did this and triggered a class-action suit. Examiner did it and locked out their writers unless they agreed to the new TOU. I still have content on Examiner that I cannot remove, so they may as well have all the rights to it. This is all perfectly legal, but don't let it come to this. When the excuses and lies start, if you still have the ability to access and remove your work, do it THEN. You should have been writing offsite anyway, so you will have copies of your work that can be rewritten for other sites or your own blog.
How Do I Protect Myself and My Content?
What you should be doing from day 1 on a writing site is writing offline and saving to your computer to protect your copyright. Using Mahalo as an example, they changed the TOU, locked writers out of the site, and took the writers' names off their work. If you have written and saved to your computer, you have a record of the date the content was created. Better yet, before you post content on the site, open a free, private blog somewhere, post it there with the date and time, and THEN post it to the site.

Unless you have signed an agreement giving full rights to the site for your content (Helium is such a site, and some assignments and beats on Yahoo Contributor Network require this), you own it from the day it is written.

COPY THE TOU of any site you join on the day you join and save it, so you can prove your case. For example, both Mahalo's and Examiner's original TOU let writers maintain full rights to their content and gave them the right to edit or remove it at any time. This information is essential in proving the case in a law suit when they steal your content and lock it down. You are the one who must prove your case, so be sure you are armed from day one with the ammunition you need.


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