Seattle, WA- Writers who were members of Yahoo's vast network of online contributors had a rude awakening this morning as the company distributed an email outlining their plans to scrap the Yahoo Contributor Network (YCN) and Yahoo! Voices, an online content platform that allowed writers significant freedom to generate and share content intended for the search engine company's online audience. Top articles could be featured in Yahoo! News or Yahoo! Sports, pages with huge readerships where up-and-coming writers could be published right next to professional staff writers.
"I'm freaking out. I've got to find something fast," said Samantha Thompson of Newark Valley, NY, one of YCN's top contributors. "It's my only income.There are no other sites like it."
In its correspondence to its writers, Yahoo! struck a much different tone. "You made the past nine years incredible." it began "At Yahoo, we’re focused on making daily habits more inspiring and entertaining. That means we’re constantly reviewing our products and experiences and, in some cases, we have to make tough decisions to no longer support a product." The statement went on to reveal that it would no longer accept articles for submission as of today and would delete all content that it had not accepted under a work for hire license. The good news for writers is that they will maintain the right to all content they submitted (save those purchased under work for hire), but must download copies of the content themselves before the end of the month.
This is little comfort for hard-working writers like Samantha Thompson.
Thomson has been a contributor to the platform since 2006, when it was still known as Associated Content. She contributed close to 500 articles in her time with the platform, getting AC and Yahoo! close to 2 million views and winning top contributor awards in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2013. Her dedication had taken her to the top of the contributor pay scale - $2.00 per 1000 views - and contributed enough articles on a daily basis to get by with writing as her sole income.
Thompson is still in shock that the way she has made her living for close to a decade is disappearing overnight." As of this morning writers were notified that submissions will no longer be accepted. This leaves them searching for other income opportunities. We are still in shock at this point. What this means for me is either I find other work elsewhere fast or I cannot support my kids."
There are many theories circulating regarding why Yahoo! would bail on its $100 million investment in the Associated Content platform and alienate its large workforce of independent contractors. Most point to Google's Panda update as the instigator, penalizing content generated on platforms such a Yahoo! Voices. Moving forward, Yahoo seems primed to mine its 1.1 Billion purchase of Tumblr for all the free content it can get and replace its professional writers with unpaid bloggers. It is a move that is sure to put other content generation platforms on notice: adapt to the realities of the Post-Panda internet or perish.
For writers, they have not only lost a source of income. They have lost a place where their voice was appreciated and they were able have a shot at seeing their name in print right next to the biggest names in the business. For Samantha and countless others like her, there is no guarantee that an opportunity like that will ever come again.