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And here I was just saying I might - just MIGHT, if the right assignment came up - write for Y!CN again.

Only now they've let every current/former contributor know that it's become "Yahoo! Voices", with new content guidelines, and oh yeah, if your old content doesn't fit? It might be "retired". Better yet, they'd like you to retire it yourself. From the email I just got:

Editing and retiring content: The above guidelines apply to new and existing content. Any published content that does not meet these standards may be returned for editing or retired. We ask that you review your own library to identify content that doesn't meet our new guidelines, is outdated, or simply isn't something you're proud to call your best work. We've added two new options to our content flag tool. "Flagging my own content for retirement" will, pending editors' review, remove that content from the site (without affecting your accumulated page views, pending Performance Bonus, or Clout score). "Flagging my own content for edits" will prompt us to return the content to you so that you can update and resubmit it.

For a fraction of a penny per page view? Ask me if I'm going to bother. I'm so glad I found other platforms to write for, that don't change their guidelines and expectations every few months...
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Squidoo, your Tier ranking will never cease to baffle and amuse me.

My highest ranking lens on Weight Watchers PointsPlus and the Problem of 29" has slowly, so slowly, been creeping its way into Tier 1. Right now of course there's a lot of buzz for WW, with the annual plan tweaks and changes due to be announced by the end of the week. As such, it finally broke through and stayed in Tier 1 for all of November (yay!) and was actually hovering around 500 in the ranks for the past week or so.

Yesterday it gets its best single-day traffic ever, jumping from around 150-200 hits a day to almost 600! I was excited to see how that might affect lens rank this morning. Well, it managed to DROP in rank down to #1,016. :-/

Just goes to show, there's no one foolproof way to get high rank. This is a lens that gets a decent number of clickouts but doesn't move many products. And I suspect with sales/holiday lenses being the "thing" for December, it'll be a struggle to keep this lens in Tier 1 this month, unless I add a lot of new info once the plan changes are revealed.

We'll see.

My writing goals for December - well, I'd love it if some quick upfront assignments showed up at DemandStudios, but I doubt that's going to happen. Even though I'm in their First Look program, yesterday was the first time I got a notice about any assignments available in my favorite topics in a good month or two. And of course they were long gone and claimed by the time I woke up at 6:30am and got the email. That site has just completely dried up for most users, which is a shame - and just makes me glad I didn't over-commit myself to counting on them earlier this year. It was nice for a month or two when I could pull in a hundred dollars a week or more, but a lot of tedious work writing to their format as well. I've even started watching the assignment desk at Y!CN again, but for some reason I just keep getting targeted with NYC-Metro area stuff, and, um....hello, I'm outside of Philly? I don't get it. I still have my issues with them since earlier this year, so I'm not going to write anything there again unless it's for good upfront pay.

So I guess I'll stick with updating and promoting my Squidoo holiday pages and hope for some decent sales, even if I can't crack the mystery of Tier ranking!
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I published this article as an opinion piece, this morning with the disclaimers below that it was solely published as my opinion. I've now had it "Editor Declined" by Y!CN - a first for me. Here was their email as to why:

Your submission, Working Out the Numbers, has been declined by the Yahoo! Contributor Network.

This content is in violation of our Submission Guidelines, which state the following: "Don't publish content that consists of feedback intended for the Yahoo! Contributor Network staff. It is not appropriate to publish content that criticizes or reviews our policies, staff members, or other contributors. Contact us with suggestions and/or complaints. You can use the Contributor Forum to discuss the Yahoo! Contributor Network with other contributors. But even in the Forum, attacks on other contributors are inappropriate. If you feel that someone has published an item that violates any of these guidelines, flag the content by clicking the "flag" icon (present on all Associated Content from Yahoo! pieces) – don't call out the person in public." Our Featured Contributors FAQ states: "Our Featured Contributors are expected to strictly abide by the Yahoo! Contributor Network Submission Guidelines, the style guide in their particular category, and all instructions from Yahoo! editors." Please note that due to these standards, submitting content that violates our Submission Guidelines could result in the suspension or revocation of your Featured Contributor status. We are happy to respond to your feedback via any of the appropriate channels of communication detailed above. You can also contact your Featured Contributors Program CM using the email address provided to you in your acceptance email. Thank you for your understanding and thank you in advance for abiding by all Submission Guidelines in the future.


I'm seriously tempted to just ask to no longer be an FC, period. If the following is so grossly critical of Y!CN that I cannot have the voice to speak it, then I no longer want to contribute to such a company. End of story.

*

Working Out The Numbers
Or, Why I've Started Writing Considerably More for Demand Studios instead of Yahoo! Contributors Network

An introductory note: The following is purely my personal reflections on my own interests, objectives and needs as a writer. I'm not out to "bash" anyone who has a different point of view, but to simply explain why I've made the decisions I have of late in regards to my writing.

The Yahoo! Contributors Network - known when I first began here as simply Associated Content - was where I first dipped my toes into the waters of content writing for the web. Of course, I had my own journals and several websites on-line already - professional and hobby-oriented - but I'd never made it a goal to directly make money with on-line writing before. I had been a system administrator and written considerable content for a large website which had always struggled to make enough money to stay afloat through on-line advertising, therefore I wasn't keen to pursue a site where ad sharing would be my only source of writing income. I wanted - I needed - direct pay for my writing in some form or fashion to make the effort worthwhile. I wasn't thinking of this as a plan to make tens of thousands of dollars a year as frankly I had other part-time jobs already which were more critical to my livelihood. But something I could work on for a few hours every morning to help pay the monthly household bills? Hey, sign me up!

I very quickly got the writing "bug" on AC and enjoyed slowly building up my page views and monthly earnings, as meager as they were at first. I found trying to chase hot news stories and celebrity gossip wasn't for me as they never had been my interests. I concentrated on the subjects I loved the most: travel, food, crafting, local interest stories for Philadelphia, classic and alternative rock music. Over the months I worked hard to get into the old AC Featured Contributors programs and at one point was in four at once - at least until the Local FC program was killed.

I was becoming really pleased as each FC category I was in meant three upfront $10 assignments a month, and that was a nice little boost and incentive to keep writing for AC/Y!CN. I didn't feel as though I had to worry about chasing the page views as much, although they were slowly but steadily rising. By January 2011 I was closing in on my goal of having a 500 PVA (Page View Average) for my body of work.

I applied to Demand Studios around that time to start broadening my writing markets. I was thrilled when my application was accepted quickly, yet struggled with the format for some time. Even after mastering the basics of their writing guidelines, I found it difficult to find open subjects I could tackle. For $15 upfront - and no residuals - I couldn't justify wasting too much time researching obscure technical topics I knew little about.

Yet then everything started changing around Y!CN, at least for me. In early February 2011, Google enacted a major overhaul in their search rankings which massively targeted numerous so-called (or in their minds, at least) "content mill" domains - including Associated Content. Like many other Y!CN writers I saw my daily PVs take a nosedive as a result. Where I'd previously been averaging 400-500 PVs a day, with occasional spikes over 1,000, I was now down to 150-200 at best. Response from The Powers That Be at Y!CN were minimal on the topic, save eventually a blog post on the importance of original and quality content. Well, I'd been trying my best to provide original, quality content all along so this advice didn't really have much to say to me.

And just after what I like to call the "Googapocalypse," the old Associated Content Featured Contributor program was closed. A new Y!CN Featured Contributors program would soon begin accepting applications, but I was disheartened. I'd recently convinced a few friends and fellow writers to apply to the old program, and just a month or two into it they lost their "badges" and would have to re-apply. The benefits of the new program were nebulous with only one promised monthly assignment of $15.

I applied to several categories I had been a Featured Contributor in before, and so far have regained one FC title. Yes, a rejection I received in another stung, but already I was beginning to question where my future as an on-line content writer was going to lead me. Better titles about the topics I knew well were coming in more regularly at Demand Studios and I sat down to do a little thinking, and a little basic math.

While a $15 assignment at DS was a "one-time only" payment, with no residuals, that would be equivalent to a "display only/no upfront pay" Y!CN article needing to get 9,375 page views (at my current Clout 8 level, meaning I earned $1.60 per 1,000 page views). In truth, of my over 250 articles written for Y!CN in about a year? Only two articles had ever bettered that number in page views. Even those old $10 upfront Featured Contributor articles would need to get 3,125 page views in order to make that additional $5. And again, from my overall body of work, now I was only looking at four out of over 250 articles which had accomplished this page view goal.

All of a sudden my focus and writing direction became a lot clearer to me. While submitting for Demand Studios meant giving up more control of and rights to my writing, as well as the subject matter I'm writing about, from a financial point of view there was no question in my mind which was the better market for my work. If I could turn out at least two or three $15 articles a morning, several days a week - and with no limit on the number of $15 articles I'd be able to claim and submit in a month? I'd be looking at considerably more money sitting in my PayPal account on a regular basis.

If money wasn't at least a partial factor in why I write, sure, I'd probably continue to publish more here on Y!CN than elsewhere. I still enjoy the freedom of publishing allowed on Associated Content by Yahoo!, but I just don't know that my style and my passions really mesh well with what they wants for their now more heavily promoted sub-sites like omg!, Shine! and Your Wisdom. Maybe I never really was the right fit here to begin with, given my page view numbers rarely hit the levels most of the "Hot" writers for the site were able to achieve regularly. I'll wait and see what "opportunities" I do receive from my one new Featured Contributor program here before applying (or re-applying) to any of the others.

But in the meantime, I'm concentrating more on Demand with the objective of qualifying to write for more of their other properties beyond eHow. I've also been tremendously enjoying creating lenses for Squidoo, where the format is not just more flexible but I can also easily promote my artwork and other projects through my writing there.

Again, what I've written here are all just my opinions and the reasons why I've made the decisions I have of late. And also, why my friends and fans here on Y!CN will likely see less of me around these parts in the coming months, until or unless things change again. You never know. A few months ago I was writing about what a great experience Y!CN had been for me, and now I currently have much more mixed feelings on the subject. It certainly was a good experience in the past; in the present I am undecided.

I certainly would not discourage anyone from "sticking around" Y!CN if they're doing well writing here, enjoying it, or maybe looking in to writing for the site for the first time. But Y!CN is not the old Associated Content, and for some that's good, but maybe for others, not so good. A writer needs to find the market that best meets their objectives and goals, and what's the best fit for one author is not necessarily going to be the best fit for another. My only advice to writers is to not be afraid to experiment and explore - it's a big web out there, and there are many opportunities to put your talents to work.
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So, as anyone who writes articles for the web knows by now, Google recently launced a massive smackdown campaign against (not all) so-called "content farms." What that seemed to come down to, as the linked article shows, is that many domains such as Associated Content, Suite101, hubpages and others are now massively devalued in search results. An article that might have shown up on page 1 of Google results before may now be buried on page 5, 6 or even 10 - largely just because of the webdomain it is published on. Curiously enough, one of the most often criticized "content farms", eHow, only seemed to get a boost from the re-ranking process.

I know I've certainly seen the fallout myself. Whereas before I was getting anywhere from 350-1200 page views a day on my AC content library, over the past week that dropped more to 150-250 page views. That's a huge, huge drop and very discouraging, especially when I always prided myself on trying to write "evergreen", original content instead of chasing Google trends or churning out celebrity gossip for the PVs.

Interestingly enough, the public announcement of the Google change came only a few days after Y!CN announced the ending of their former Associated Content "Featured Contributor" program. That meant the end of 9 $10 upfront assignments (+PVs) for me a month. To say my enthusiasm for writing for Y!CN dropped significantly after that was an understatement. Why would I kill myself carefully editing articles and trying to do my best when a piece might only get a couple hundred hits now, if that? When earning less than $2 per 1,000 page views on Y!CN, the economic impact of the Google change is huge to many.

I understand and fully well saw there has been plenty of crap published on AC/Y!CN through the years - even through their mismanaged FC programs. Poor grammar, plagiarized content, nothing but link lists to other sites, you name it. And yet now everyone - including the good authors - has to suffer? I think it stinks. Y!CN seems to be doing its best to move people off the AC domain and onto their own sponsored networks like omg!, Yahoo!TV and Shine - which is great if you write the kind of content they want for those channels. I don't. I've only had one article chosen from my 250 piece library for Yahoo!TV, and while it got a nice upfront, it barely has received 30 pvs in over 2 months.

I've reapplied for the "new" Y!CN featured contributor program in 4 categories but remain discouraged. Now instead of 3 $10 assignments per month guaranteed, per category, you'll only get one $15 assignment as a FC - oh but they keep telling us "new and exciting opportunities are coming!" Yeah, sure. I really don't believe that.

So what am I doing? I'm branching out. I'll work harder at grabbing $15 upfront assignments from Demand Studios to reach the next level where I can qualify for better assignments. I've been working on developing a library at Squidoo where I can earn pay not just on how my pieces are performing but on affiliate sales links.

I'm also getting back to what I should have been doing for months - working on my artwork, marketing it, rebuilding my Etsy shop and realizing that web writing was a good gig while it lasted and might still be a good gig, but only if you're willing to change with the times and play the system as it develops. And I'm not sure how much I want to play the system just yet.
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One writer at Y!CN/Associated Content whom I frequently read is Jack Wellman, a Christian author & pastor. While his religious point of view is not always in alignment with my own, I've found many of his pieces quite inspiring and thoughtful. He's also very generous toward other writers on the site and represents much of what I find good and positive about the Christian faith, even as someone who shies away from the more evangelical side of Christianity.

So I couldn't believe it when I saw that his church is about to be picketed by the Westboro Baptist Church. Yes, THAT group. Because Jack's church is located in Mulvane, Kansas, home of the Patriot Guard Riders, motorcyclists who have a mission to honor fallen American soldiers and shield their families from protesters at funerals and memorials. But I have to hand it to Jack, who is planning on meeting their protests with kindness and offers of cookies and hot chocolate. Because meeting Westboro's hate with more hate will not do any good; they seem most upset and defeated when people counter them with love and the true spirit of Christianity.

I'll keep Jack and his parishioners in my thoughts this weekend, and hope that others come to stand by him and keep those who falsely lay claim to being Christian at bay.
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While I've got ideas for my Featured Contributor articles this month, I'm always looking for other interesting topics to tackle. So if you've got a topic you'd like to see me write about, leave a comment here! It could be anything from a rant or opinion piece to something informative about any topic you'd think I could handle. Go crazy. Give me ideas.

Also, if any of you other creative types - writers, artists, musicians, crafters etc. would ever be interested in being featured in an interview, please let me know. I'd love to feature you and hopefully bring more attention to your work.
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I find it curious to examine, after 4 months, what are my top performing articles on AC and to try to understand why.

Number 3 is 20 Things You Must Eat in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. This one benefited from getting Tweeted by a very popular AC writer with a lot of Twitter followers soon after publication. Yet it also continues to get steady hits long after that. Perhaps name-checking so many Philadelphia restaurants and types of local food has something to do with its lasting popularity. Traffic to the article has increased this summer as well, probably as there are more tourists visiting Philadelphia at this time of year. It also received a high upfront pay from AC when I first submitted it, so there must be something about the piece which is just what AC wants.

Number 2 is Bad News, A-Team Fans: No Dwight Schultz nor Dirk Benedict in A-Team Movie, which was just a quickie piece I wrote after seeing fans react to the announcement that their cameos had been cut from the firm. I later updated it when it turned out their cameos remained, but only after the credits. Not all movie-news articles do well, but I guess a lot of people were searching for this info (and continue to search for it). I also linked to it on several A-Team messageboards and communities.

Number 1 is Etiquette for Shopping at and Browsing Craft Fairs and Dealers' Halls, which I find amusing as it's a rather snarky piece I wrote about my experiences dealing with annoying customers. It was doing okay page-view-wise, but rocketed up after being selected as a Featured Article in the Crafts & Hobbies section of Associated Content. Since then it continues to get some modest daily views.

Looking at these results, there's no real consistent theme for me as far as what has performed best to date on the site. Certainly getting featured either on-site or by another popular AC contributor helps, as well as providing entertainment news on a non-saturated subject. I'll continue to keep looking at what are some of the better subjects to write about that will provide solid, steady traffic.

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Nicole ("sockii") Pellegrini

January 2013

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