Everyone is fighting for a better, more cost-efficient way of producing content for Web sites. But is the so-called “content mill” search optimized approach of a Demand Media, Associated Content or Examiner.com the only way to achieve this?
Whether you agree or disagree with the characterization of these companies (we largely disagree), alternatives are out there. One alternative is presented by Helium, a 29-person, Boston-based firm that brings in text articles from 160,000 writers and editors, filters it via peer review to let the best voices rise to the top, and allows media partners to generally choose from multiple entries for the best fit.
Helium was founded in October 2006 and has received $16 million in Series A funding. Most interesting to us, it is also 20 percent owned by mega publisher RR Donnelly. Indeed, RRD, with 1,200 sales reps, is its principal reseller to local media clients including TV stations, radio stations, newspapers, Yellow Pages and Web pure plays.
Using Helium, media partners can personalize the content for their own purposes.
One TV company we recently talked with said it liked Helium’s approach more than the others because it had confidence in the quality of the articles since they are refereed, and the company is able to let local reporters add their own touch to pieces that run on its Web sites. It isn’t so much about using outside content as “letting the company’s talent do more,” it said.
This company would be among Helium’s pay-by-the-article customers. The cost can range anywhere from $30 to $50 for general interest content, to up to $1,000 for a high-end medical specialty piece. There are also monthly plans. The company’s content is also distributed on its own ad-supported Web site, which receives 9 million page views per month, growing 5 percent to 7 percent per month.
President and CEO Mark Ranalli tells us that writers are paid on an algorithm based on a portion of ad revenues. The payment scheme is similar to that of Demand Media, Examiner.com or Associated Content. “Many, many writers receive from $5,000 to $10,000 a year,” he says — enough to be a good source of supplemental income. But that also does not differentiate the company. The difference, he contends, is that the content may be “reviewed better than professionally written material.”
“We are not oblivious to what the search engines are doing,” says Ranalli. “You want to be on Google at the end of the day.” And the other content creators may have been perfectly optimized for Google. But instead of producing articles specifically to top the search engine, Helium is bent on producing the best article. “That’s perfectly aligned with Google,” which really just wants to highlight the best content, he says.