Editorial Note: I wrote the majority of this blog post several years ago but never bothered to post it. With the recent closure of Yahoo! Voices, which was originally Associated Content, I thought I'd edit it and finally post it.
Several years ago when Yahoo! acquired Associated Content, I was curious about the website. For those who don't know, Associated Content was a website where anyone can write an article, post it, and get paid money for the views and ad clicks on the articles written. Unlike other content farms out there (eHow, Hubpages, Squidoo, to name a few), Associated Content sold itself as a company with more journalistic quality. They desired articles covering reviews, op-ed pieces, advice, and even coverage of local events. They would pay people upfront for higher quality articles and reject articles they considered drivel.
After it was acquired by Yahoo!, Associated Content was renamed Yahoo! Voices. The idea behind the acquisition was that Yahoo could get a number of unique articles written by Associated Content's users that could be fed to Yahoo's users. They could be specially targeted with local articles that wouldn't be possible otherwise. I recall a BusinessInsider article (The Inside Story: How Yahoo Bought Associated Content) that described how some tests showed huge click rates on articles.
So I decided to check it out and see how this site worked, so I went and wrote a bunch of articles. They weren't anything particularly out of this world: reviews of video games I played, opinions on baseball players that should make the All Star team, random tech tips, etc. The experience was fun. I did pick up some extra scratch, but learning about search engine optimization, backlinking, and the content farm industry was the most interesting part of the experience.
Associated Content/Yahoo Voices! made the article writing process fun. They gave you badges/awards as you completed more articles and made more accomplishments. However, the fun does wear off at some point. At some point, I just stopped trying. Writing articles became boring and I was blindly pumping out articles just to try and "win" badges. I can't imagine what drivel comes out from people who do this for a more serious living. I ended up writing somewhere about 150 articles over 4 years.
While my earliest writing attempts were legitimate, taking a reasonable amount of time to write, the quality of my articles went down over time. As luck would have it, I wrote an article related to "Top Ten Videos about X". Think of something like what you'd see on BuzzFeed today with all their lists. Amazingly, in a relatively short time period, this became my most viewed article. So I wrote more just like it: top ten quotes from this TV show character, top ten videos from a channel on Youtube, top ten easter eggs in this video game, top ten moments from this sports team, etc. To put it bluntly, these articles were trash. Just random lists of links with only a sentence describing the link to the video. These "articles" generated me more views than anything else I wrote, and it wasn't even close.
There's a part of me that would sit and think, "How in the world did this article get viewed X times. It's complete trash. Who in the world is searching for this?" God knows what people search for on the internet, and with a billion people out there, I suppose I'll get views once in awhile.
I'll give Yahoo! some credit. While Associated Content was willing to accept the above "Top Ten X" articles for publishing, Yahoo! was not. They reached a point that such articles were considered bad enough trash that they wouldn't put them on their website. So good for them.
At my peak, I earned around $50 a month from Associated Content based on my article views. If I kept at it somewhat more seriously, making a few hundred dollars a month would have been easily doable.
One of the more interesting observations was how search engine algorithm changes (most from Google & Yahoo) would effect views and thus payouts. Without changing anything or even writing any more articles, I saw payouts averaging $50 a month plummet to $4 a month, then jump back up to $20 a month.
Now that the content from Yahoo! Voices/Associated Content is gone, I may recycle some of those articles and put them on this blog.