Not Liking What I’m Seeing At Associated Content


Associated Content (AC) has gone through some major changes and problems lately. I’m not getting a good vibe from it either. As ya’ll know, I’ve been publishing with AC for about three years. I’ve stuck with them through the bad and the good. I’ve always been honest when I express my feelings about Associated Content. I praise them for what they do right and call their mistakes what they are.

Lately, AC has created several glitches. Some they have corrected. Some have been corrected, but subsequently reappeared. Some they refuse to acknowledge. As always the communications, both internally and externally, appear lacking. The most serious problem right now,one AC refuses to admit is a problem, is the de-indexing of AC articles.

The problem started in late 2008. AC writers (note, I refuse to buy into AC’s new, dehumanizing terminology and call their members “sources”) began noticing that Google would index articles as it always did, but then de-index them. The articles would show up about a week later with a much lower placement. To add insult to injury, the newly index article would have its abstract jumble with HTML code. Many articles did not get indexed by Google at all. I noticed this when the weekly Google alerts I had set up, stopped coming. When they did trickle in, the links were only to blogs and other sites that mentioned my articles, never the AC article.

The forum was awash in complaints about the problem, but they Associated Content staff seldom reads their own forum. The one guy who did participate in the forum, the one guy who kept members informed of problems and the status of the solutions, was let go from AC today along with the AC staffer who ran AC’s blog.

I’m not a conspiracy nut. I like to think there are simple, logical reasons for happenings in this universe, but the time line of events all point to one conclusion…AC has lost its mojo. The two things AC had going were its built-in audience and a special relationship with Google. That relationship has been debated and speculated numerous times, but the debate is moot. The love affair between AC and Google is over.

Here’s a brief time line that led me to this conclusion.

  • Late 2008, the de-indexing of AC articles starts.
  • December 2008, some AC members think the problem is a change to the article’s link because AC adds a “?cat=#” to all articles.
  • January-ish 2009, AC members start comparing notes and posting examples.
  • February-ish 2009, AC ignores the forum chatter completely.
  • Late February 2009 AC begins deleting articles due to “questionable content and poor grammar/spelling.” This unannounced rule change, though probably for the best, was an attempt to get back in the good graces of Google.
  • March-ish 2009, AC says they’re looking into it.
  • April-ish 2009, AC says there is no problem with articles being indexed. AC says it’s working like always and they don’t control what Google does anyway.
  • May 2009, despite dozens of forum posts and hundreds of emails with examples of the problem, AC continues to say, “There is no problem.”
  • May 2009, after getting a new CEO and $6M in investment funds, AC fires some of the people who have been the best communication link for their writing members.

Conclusions:

  • AC lost it’s Google mojo.
  • AC doesn’t want to admit they no longer have a special relationship with Google
  • AC has new management and is trying to clear out the old guard
  • Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia.

Given the facts, I don’t think any of this is a random collection of events. AC is changing. AC is hiding something. AC isn’t looking so well these days. Google has devalued the AC domain so severely, it now just ignores articles posted there. If the average surfer can’t located an AC article with a search, traffic will be reduced significantly. No traffic? No per-click payments. AC’s biggest draw disappears. It’s really no wonder AC doesn’t want to admit this is a problem.  If Google is going to ignore the AC domain, there is really no incentive to put up with the other glitches and formatting limitations.  I can have more formatting options and complete control over my writing here on my blog and still get ignored by Google.  If the pay is the same, why bother jumping through AC’s hoops?

That’s my take on the situation.  It’s not one I jumped to without some serious thought. It’s one that fits the facts.

P.S. Sam we’re going to miss you, but I think you may have gotten off the AC ship at just the right time. I’m sure there are many AC members who will be following you. AC is becoming more trouble than it’s worth.

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15 Comments

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  1. Sam isn’t with AC any more? He’s one of the few content managers that would leave comments about your articles.

    I’ve been with them since about 2005, through the good and the bad, taken hiatus and recently returned. I’ve noticed a lot of the things you’ve mentioned and more. What got under my skin was that bad writing was getting published and lowering the upfront payments. In 2005 it was nothing to get $10 an article. Offers are significantly lower these days. I assumed as the site grew, the better writers would get better offers. Obviously this wasn’t the case. The offers I get are decent (usually) but they still aren’t where I had expected them. At this point with AC getting $10 offers would be nice.

    I’m now category editor for Health & Wellness. We don’t get paid for that and we’re supposed to find recently published articles which meet certain criteria.

    I was also gearing up to start submitting more work to them, hoping they had worked out the kinks, but in light of your post it may not be the best idea. I don’t know about Google and all but I have my posts updated on my wordpress blog, so I’m hoping traffic comes in that way at least.

    Good post. Very thought provoking. I’ll bookmark your blog.

    Patti Stafford

  2. Randy, if AC has lost it’s “juice” with Google, will it get it back? Have they burned bridges? I do not understand how those associations work so would appreciate your feelings and any knowledge about that.

  3. The only way I can see it being profitable to write for AC anymore is to write news. Those PVs don’t seem to be affected, but maybe I’m wrong. It seems that the news articles are still being indexed and grabbed up by Google News.

    What’s crazy is that Jason has posted in the forums that the PVs are too high. How in the hell does that happen when everyone is complaining about the recent PVs being lower than normal? I would like to see the process of counting PVs, and I wish AC would be more transparent about how our individual PVs are counted. If a blog can show me where my PVs are coming from, then why can’t AC?

  4. Thanks for your informative post, Barefoot. I was really determined to write more for AC this month, but apparently it’s a bad time to do so.

    I’m going to hold off on publishing until I know for sure what’s happening at AC and whether it can be fixed (although I think your post is a good theory about what’s going on). If they continue to deny what’s happening, then I guess I’ll be suggesting a lot of my ideas to Demand.

    I would be more reassured if AC would come out and explain what’s happening with Google, and what they’re going to do about it. Even if it was bad news, I’d at least be placated that they’re working on fixing their relationship.

    But, as someone else pointed out on a thread, that would probably scare off potential investors.

  5. Thanks for writing this Randy. I felt that somethign was up at AC but I don’t know enough about the inner-working to make an educated decision. Thank fully I tracked all of my PVAs from day one and I have noticed a phenominal drop in my page views as well. In one week I dropped from a 476 PVA to 230 PVA, even calculating in new articles and PVA that I should have lost, the actual amount is far greater.

    I have a couple of regular clients now, and I intend ot find somemore, so for now all AC is to me is a place where others can view my writing topics and styles.

    Thanks again for the info! I love the “1984” reference. AC does seems more like Big Brother with their “friendly” explainations as to why higher upfront payment is not offered. Anyways I could rant forever…so I will stop now.

  6. Thanks for writing this, Randy. There’s probably a lot more going on, of which we don’t know about.The pulling of articles without an explanation from AC was a particularly bad one.Questions going unanswered in the threads is another one.And all of what you’ve summed up.

  7. I had an article publish last night and index this morning with the ugly html code in its description. I still have 2 articles from last week that are not indexed.

    This was frustrating and now it’s downright scary. It is discouraging and I really hope your conclusions are wrong, it’s doubtful, but one can hope.

  8. And I forgot to add, with the loss of both Sam and Laura, it does sure seem like there is some kind of restructuring going on.

    I hope they left on the their own accord and/or go on to bigger and better things.

  9. I am relatively new here, so I can only gauge any changes (good or bad) through the experiences of crusty ol’ vets like you, Randy!

    It does seem like AC has more problems than it should for such a web-savvy organization. When I ask them to solve mine, I usually get no reply at all!

    My latest problem is that I have somehow been blocked from posting comments anonymously (which normally shouldn’t be a problem since I NEVER post anonymously!

    The problem, however, is that I cannot even read comments on my own work unless I log in (and when I’m short on minutes, I just like to stop in and glance at my work w/o having to log in!)

    I am just now starting to really make a good name for myself on AC, and I hate to think that things won’t turn around again; I bet the problem may possibly be arrogant attitudes possessed by managers who can’t take criticism, or even suggestions, from anybody, since they’re ‘never wrong’.

  10. Randy I so agree with you. I know when they began to index and I even sent an email to ac on 4/18 with the cause… they ignored me. I have some ideas to bounce off you, can I contact you privately? You can find me at the email listed here, ac or on michy’s board

  11. I hope they get things straightened out. I know some people were doing very well with AC and depend on them somewhat. Sorry to hear everything is going to hell in a handbasket!

  12. Tsu Dho Nimh May 11, 2009 — 14:49

    Randy –
    Could the indexing problem have been caused by the change to the page appearance. Indexing is done by their computers, and if the computer’s programming thinks you look too ad-oriented, they rate you down or drop you completely.

    This can be subtle – like changing the position of an element, or adding one too many widgets.

  13. Thanks for giving us the benefit of your knowledge it has opened my eyes to the issues.

    I for one will wait till they resolve their problems before I post any more articles. They dropped my highest PV article which put a serious dent in my pocket and ego (mainly ego).

    Time to maybe work on my Hub Pages.

  14. Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia? What?

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