Yahoo! the Trailer Trash of the Web, Cans Voices
In 2010 Yahoo! bought the open content platform Associated Content for $100 million and then called it ‘Voices’. The CEO at the time, Carol Bartz, called the move “a game-changer…[and] we’ll create more content around what we know our users care about.” Then, four years later, Yahoo! gave the thousands of low-cost, freelance writers that had been submitting and populating Voices one month to pack up their content and leave. We’re deleting it all, Yahoo! said.
I was one of those aspiring writers who found his first online writing experience at Associated Content in 2008. My first article was a stiff academic paper about John Keats’ poetry — don’t bother looking for it, it’s now been scrubbed from the web.
Associated Content would pretty much accept any article that didn’t contain profanity, sexual content, or a lot of typographical errors. What they created was a vibrant community of writers, some talented, some not, who read and commented on each others’ work, as well as received a lot of traffic from search engines like Google.
I really picked up steam writing online articles in 2009. From years of hunkering in solitude over hundreds of pages of fiction, I then reveled in the open, online opportunity to get read and get paid, although very little, for every article I posted.
My political voice was discovered, as was my love of social commentary. In 2010, I was named the “Most Intriguing Political Writer”. That article too is forever destroyed in what is being called ‘Yahoo!’s Great Purge of Voices’. Imagine that! These were the topics people cared about and read about, so I could gain more traffic writing about presidential debates, Kim Kardashian, what it would be like as a guest on David Letterman’s Late Show, and, for example, how to eat non-seedless grapes. Sometimes I combined all of those subjects in one article.
The goal for me, ultimately, was to reach 10 million ‘hits’ a month. I thought I’d really be living large then. So I wrote and wrote about everything popular. Rebecca Black’s fake suicide to Anthony Weiner’s junk shot on Twitter.
If a writer could earn $1 for every 100o hits, I did the math and thought I might earn a small living. In the end, in a passionate career of online writing, I only saw just over half a million visitors to my articles. At least I’ll earn residual income for the rest of my life, I’d thought, as my articles were still getting thousands of hits every month. But alas, that was not the will of Yahoo!
Many writers left after Yahoo! swarmed in with their dirty millions and changed the entire AC platform. Essentially they destroyed the community of writers by changing the rules and trying to lift the quality of the site by encouraging more professional freelancers to publish rather than the slipshod community of folks hammering out their how-to, personal experience articles. Deep down, after 2010, we knew the site was doomed.
I do not like to get misty-eyed over anything in this world, because that opens the urge to be weepy for one’s entire lifetime, but I did lose a few hours of sleep overYahoo!’s closure of Voices, which was essentially the dismantling of our beloved Associated Content. You would think they could leave the articles up, and in a readable format.
With phrases like “as part of our ongoing effort to sharpen our focus” and “it has been such an incredible privilege”, Yahoo! sent out the bad news in July (which really said, “From the bottoms of our hearts, f*** you”) to every one of us who were blessed enough to live through the content farm glory days of Associated Content. Instead of innocuous corporate-turd phrases, Yahoo! should have lived up to their quest of being inspiring and exciting:
“It’s Judgment Day at Voices, the trumpet has blasted, the last scroll is being rolled up, and like all pregnancies during the final Hour as depicted in the Great Books, we are terminating all your submissions that are in process. All of your previous efforts, good and bad, are finished. The fruits of your labors will be trashed, and your orchards are being burned. No one will ever know you existed. Your slates are wiped clean. Your voices are muted. None of you have a say in restoring the content you’d worked so hard to create. We here at Yahoo! wish you the best, truly.”
If you want to know how this amateur hillbilly writer really feels, Yahoo! is the trailer court of the web. It is the tacky community next to the better run, more finely kept Bing, AOL, and Google, and disappearing every last trace of the content-farm ‘Voices’ from online existence will not change that. If there is ever a virtual thunderstorm, and I hope there is, may it spawn wicked sister twisters that, in classic tornado style, sniff out Yahoo! and nail it like the trailer trash it is.
In a world filled with constant disaster, that will be one calamity that actually helps me sleep in peace.
Some of my favorite Associated Content titles (which were then vacuumed up by Yahoo! and now erased from existence) were the following:
Charles Manson to Receive Star on Hollywood Walk of Fame (the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce loved that one as they were barraged on Twitter by outraged nitwits who said things like, “Really? Of course we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s Hollywood after all!” Even Change.org lent a hand by creating a petition boldly titled, Stop the Manson Star!)
How to Eat Non-Seedless Grapes
371 Dead Birds Fall on Sunset Boulevard (even that rapper Little Boi, or is it Big Boi? tweeted out this one)
In Heaven They Give Out Rolls Royces for Free (Roseanne Barr criticized me for this one, but then RT’d it on Twitter, and I voted for her for president)
LA Weekly Makes Good Toilet Paper for Homeless, & It’s Also a Pretty Good Read (nobody was much amused over this piece, except for me)
Obama Presents bin Laden’s Heart to GW Bush During Ceremony (screw Barack Obama, and screw GW Bush too)
ONE LAST THING — You Want to Amend this, Yahoo!?
Yahoo! could rectify this situation with me if they made me their online news editor, or politics editor, or even gave me a column featured on their front page called Luebke’s Lipstick, which is a strange name until you realize that I like to dress up canned information and smear it with color. It is also a nod to my godfather, who as a little boy was called Lipstick Luebke, but for no good reason other than schoolchildren are cruel.
Oh, and Yahoo!, don’t forget to pay me the final four dollars and change you owe me for the web traffic I received in the month of July.
[Yahoo! photo from Sebastian Bergmann]