content mills

It’s time to say goodbye

Content mills are being axed left and right. Just yesterday, Yahoo! Contributor Network (YCN) sent the following message to its writers (or contributors):

yahoo content network

This message was very similar to the one that Helium posted a few months back, when it alerted its writers that the platform would no longer be publishing content:


While Helium was certainly more descriptive as to why it was choosing to shut down publishing, Yahoo merely mentioned having to “sharpen our focus.” However, I suspect that the root cause of both shutdowns is the same: continuing falling advertising revenue thanks to the Google Panda crackdown on content mills.

Yahoo’s own financial performance over the last year has been disappointing; the company posted revenue drops for all four quarters of 2013, with the biggest drop being over 6% for the fourth quarter of 2013. Apparently, the bad news was enough to cost Marissa Mayer, the CEO, her stock options for the year; Yahoo’s board of directors forced her to forfeit what amounted to $4.5 million in stock option profits for failing to meet performance goals.

Yahoo’s CFO (Kenneth A. Goldman) also took a financial beating, giving up his stock options worth $1.5 million.

Fortunately for Yahoo, the company has widespread investments and can simply tighten its operations in order to become profitable once again. One of those “tightenings” involves saying goodbye to its content mill operation, Yahoo Voices and, eventually, the entirety of the YCN.

The panic begins…

Freelance writers everywhere who had previously been earning a few bucks per article on the YCN are panicking. On the YCN Facebook page, here are some of the reactions from angry contributors:

YCN facebook

ycn comment

Other writers are posting “advice” articles that tell their colleagues what other content mills are still operational and can be flocked to during the YCN apocalypse:


Here’s another “advice column” that mentions three other replacement content mills:


However, the bottom line is that continuing to write for content mills- of any kind- will inevitably spell disaster for a budding freelance writer. Why?

The revenue model is unsustainable.

Google continues to hound low quality content and keyword-stuffed sites; i.e., content mills. Thus, even if your own writing is superb, you’re going to get lumped in with all the black-hat SEO’ers that thrive on content mill sites. And if the site itself can’t make money on advertising and page views, then guess what? Neither will you.

Your reputation goes down the crapper.

I used to write exclusively for content mills like YCN, which a few years back was called Associated Content. I kept plugging my mill “clips” when I’d pitch magazines and newspapers, and to my surprise, no one ever responded. Finally, it hit me that my reputation as a writer was in question because of all the content mills I associated with. Once I divested myself of any further involvement with places like YCN and Helium, I started getting query responses and actual clients.

In short, if you think that your content mill pieces will land you higher paying gigs and better clients, think again. There is no respect in the writing world for content mill work.

You continue working for pennies.

Earning $5 or even $10 for an article is not a realistic way to make a living as a writer. Furthermore, even if you’re currently capable of swinging 20 articles a day to earn your daily $100 or $200, how long will you last before burning out?

Of course, it takes more forethought and a bit of training to find the bigger gigs and work with regular clients. But that is the “real world” of writing. It’s also the kind of writing that pays $150 for a blog post or $1,000-$3,000 for a white paper.

Trust me, once you start working in this real world, you’ll never go back to writing for pennies again.

Find out more…

I’ve described how to find top-paying freelance writing gigs and negotiate for better pay in my writing course Jump Start Your Freelance Writing Career! Currently, I am revamping the course and adding even more content into it. I’ll make the announcement once the course is ready to go again.

In the meantime, I also run a LinkedIn group called Freelance Writers Unite!  This group offers freelance writing advice and information on how to earn more as a writer, land lucrative writing gigs, qualify clients, and much more. I highly recommend that you join this group if you are struggling as a freelance writer or looking to expand your horizons (and increase your earnings). Join here!