Since 2004, Associated Content — “The People’s Media Company” — has grown a stable of over 380,000 loyal content producers who have contributed over two million pieces of text, audio, video, and photographic content to its distribution platform. In mid-May, it was announced that Associated Content had been sold to Yahoo! for a little more than $100 million, and has plans to shut down the Associated Content website when the sale is complete in the third quarter of this year.
How will Associated Content continue to court the loyalty of its contributors while the sale and shutdown are pending? And what — beyond the obvious advantages of loyal contributors and a huge cache of money-earning, evergreen content — does Yahoo get? I posed these questions to Patrick Keane, CEO of Associated Content.
But first, here’s how it works now. Associated Content’s writers create self-selected and assignment-based content. Most of what is produced is evergreen content, but there are also personal essays, product reviews, and the like. While some content is paid at scale or “upfront,” Keane explained that various types of content are often valued individually, according to the form (text, video, etc.) and potential earnings.
Since monetization happens over the lifetime of an article, and articles are considered annuities for both Associated Content and the producers, potential earnings are determined by a number of factors, including Web search results and Ad Sense metrics.
Content contributors have a number of options to help them distribute and promote their work across social networking sites and blogs. Contributors can also rely on the site’s search engine optimization and how-to guides for creating headlines and leads with search-friendly keywords. The combination of self-promotion and search engine optimization helps producers maximize what is available to them beyond the upfront payment system.
Keane said that “no immediate changes” would be made to the payment process. He elaborated: “We remain committed to the people that produce content. The acquisition by Yahoo! brings a great deal of opportunity for them and this will increase our contributor base. Contributors will continue to create and upload content onto Associated Content’s platform. They will now be supported with a much larger distribution — 600 million unique monthly visitors.
“There may be tweaks and changes to the process of content creation in the future,” he continued, “but both Yahoo! and Associated Content are committed to maintaining the standards our contributors are used to in order to produce the most useful, original content by the people, for the people. Yahoo! plans to leverage content from our contributors across its leading media properties including Yahoo! News, Yahoo! Sports and Yahoo! Finance.”
Contributors will also have the opportunity to produce for Shine, Yahoo! Movies, OMG, and most of the Yahoo! network.
Associated Content currently partners with media organizations, including Thomson Reuters, Cox Newspapers, CNN. Keane said the sale is viewed positively by them. “Yahoo! partners and collaborates with publishers and they view the acquisition of Associated Content as an opportunity to extend those partnerships,” he told me. “We envision that this agreement will open new opportunities to partner with other companies that share the same mission of producing high-quality original content at scale. No specific changes have been made at this point.”
There may be a battle brewing over who will produce fresh, news-style content, though. Even though its focus until now has been on the production of evergreen content, with less than 10 percent considered “news,” there are a number of seasoned journalists who contribute news-style content to several of AC’s verticals, including Sports and Society.
Prior to the sale, I had asked Keane about the potential for Associated Content to create local news. “Using the virtual assignment desk, we can activate any audience in any ZIP code,” he responded. “So, then, we could potentially have someone follow the story of a plane crash. We can activate people in any community to create news stories if we’d like to do that. But that’s not our focus.”
Yahoo!, however, will now be able to throw its hat in the ring, alongside others such as AOL, in the fight to produce content for local portals.