Writer Wednesday—End of an Era?


Today, the ax fell. Helium.com, or Helium Publishing, or Helium Networks, whatever you want to call it, announced today that all sites would be closed down in December this year.

Well. I’d still like to get the fifteen bucks they owe me. Ha.

I started writing for them, a content site in case you didn’t know, back in 2008. I made some money. And then I made more. I became a sub-channel manager, then a channel manager—of course, over the years the titles have changed—and I was on the editorial board.

And then things started to change.

As a channel manager, I was given a list of things to do and I did them well—finding sub managers, mentoring writers, placing content and starting new channels, managing those managers and creating pages and of course, my own content. Unfortunately, even before some genius decided to split titles—you know, changing them into every possible search string configuration so we had perhaps ten articles per title, except that there were four or five titles that were almost exactly the same—things in the management area were getting a little crazy.

They’d give us a job, say, to weed out the silly stuff, and we’d spend hours and days making title lists—and nothing ever came of it. Talk about “busy work.” And always, always, we were told to “be sure to make time for your own writing!”

Except there wasn’t time for that—and this was a volunteer position!

So I finally got disgusted, along about 2011, and resigned. I kept writing, on and off, and I still collected some cash, but all the heart had gone out of me. And then I stopped writing there, too.

You see, we used to have contests, fair ones, with prizes from $25 on up; when things started going south, the “prizes” dropped to maybe $5. Maybe. We used to be able to submit to other sites, magazines and such, and get paid up to $100 or more; no longer—pay for these dropped to, again, $5.

Now, I could whip out one of their “articles” in about 30 minutes, and you might be thinking that $10 an hour isn’t too bad. But—on other sites, I was making five times that much! And then I started publishing books—my own, that is, in 2012.

The politics of Helium were horrible; the arbitrary changes were worse. Most of the friends I’d made over the years were as appalled as I and we defected in fairly large numbers. But there were always others, newbies, to take our places. And there were the cheerleaders, the ones who stuck with Helium, defending her to their dying breaths . . . because that’s where they’re ending up, dying right along with the website that did little, the last few years, but screw with writers trying to earn a living.

Helium offered every possible excuse as to why revenue was down, yet they refused to allow anyone to remove articles. Well, mostly. I mean, I did go back and write one more, late in 2013, that addressed the sneaky changes to the TOS and slammed all content mills—which Helium had become, certainly.

They deleted that one. Oops.

Anyway, so long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodbye!

Helium, you had a good thing going, and you blew it. You cheated all your writers, but most of the good ones left—those that remained couldn’t carry the site when you let in all the crap producers who would work for pennies. And when you kept changing things for the worse, and hiring people without a single clue among them, you shot yourself in the foot.

I hope RR Donnelly is really proud of its investment now. And I hope they choke on my articles.

 

3 comments on “Writer Wednesday—End of an Era?

  1. And, Robin, you wouldn’t be the first or last to happily say “bye-bye” to that door-nail company and it’s unethical business model. Frankly? The demise of Helium is a good thing for too many reasons to list.

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  2. melindaclayton says:

    You and I followed a similar path. I started there in 2008 and made decent money selling articles. The highest one sold for $250. I became a channel manager and a fact-checker. Then we had to maintain rating stars to earn pennies – impossible, since we had to be with the majority of voters to earn a star. I don’t know who made up the majority, but I always seemed to be in the minority and although I’d always maintained 5 rating stars, they all slowly winked out and I never could get them back. Hence, no pennies per click. Then the $5 articles….No, thanks. I left in 2011. I was glad to get the email today, and especially glad that all those old articles will finally disappear. Well, as much as anything ever disappears on the internet.

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  3. At one point I was earning in excess of $1000 a month, working 30 hours a week. I quit after they increased the workload but cut the pay for CUPs – worked 50 hours a week for a month to write articles for private companies, and earned a whole $500. Erm… I don’t think so somehow. They can keep my 700+ articles, they can keep the $8 in my account. Sometimes you just have to cut your losses.

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