My daughter found AC while surfing the Internet looking for ways to earn money this summer to help pay for her graduate school year in Scotland. Her clever article about Difficulties Using the Euro in Rome has been her only submission so far, but I definitely got the AC bug and can see myself sticking with this activity and enjoying it.
At this point I have published 11 articles and I feel good about each one. I have written about a variety of subjects, but the core topic has been higher education, my profession. To be honest, I have little or no trouble with spelling, punctuation, and grammar, but I am struggling with some other aspects of writing for AC. But first, here are the big pluses I have noticed so far.
Major Pluses of Writing for AC
AC is an amazing vehicle for a person who likes to write and has some things to say and would like to have an audience. For years I have been put off by the process of writing for magazines or newspapers. At a minimum, that requires: identifying specific publications and their topics of interest, having a bunch of “clips” of previously published similar work, and being prepared for many rejections before any success. AC has a very streamlined submission process that provides a standardized template for your articles, and makes it very easy for you to upload accompanying photographs.
AC also provides a support network for aspiring writers. AC contributors obviously read each other’s material and offer encouraging comments. In addition, AC recognizes contributors through awards, featured contributor status on the AC homepage, and through contests. Forums, the AC blog, and other parts of the site promote this sense of mutual support.
AC pays for your work and does so in a way that is explained very clearly, is immediate, and administratively simple. The upfront payments are particularly welcome, even if the sums offered are not vast. The way I view the payments is that I am mainly writing for self-expression and to get some ideas out to an audience and not mainly to support myself financially through writing. The fact that you are paid gives an extra incentive to do this and recognizes that your work does have economic value.
The overall tone of the AC library of articles is positive, upbeat, and helpful and not opinionated or biased. In addition, AC does not encourage or allow sleazy or borderline pornographic content (which could be an easy way to get pageviews). There are opinions expressed on the site, but as far as I can see so far, no tirades, no bashing of the other point of view, no profanity or “trash talk”. Since the internet as a whole is absolutely jam-packed with explicit sexual content and trash talk, this makes AC a kind of sanctuary of civility that I find very welcome.
AC also exhibits professionalism and integrity in being very clear that plagiarized work is unacceptable, that retreads of previously published work are unacceptable, and that sources must be cited appropriately. The AC guidelines state that work published must bring something new to the topic. The rules for submitting photographs make clear that copyrights are taken seriously and each photograph must be credited. Bravo! This is the right thing to do. These standards make AC content more than just an unregulated collection of free-form blog entries.
A Few Concerns about Writing for Associated Content
On the other hand, there are aspects of the AC phenomenon that leave room for improvement or are minor frustrations. I am still studying these issues and so far I do not see any serious enough to deter me from participating enthusiastically as an AC contributor.
There seems to be an emphasis on producing a large quantity of content, with many contributors writing multiple articles a day. Anything mass produced at that rate will be less thoughtful, less well researched, more likely to contain errors. Some (certainly not all) of the articles on AC appear to have been written hurriedly in order to meet these self-imposed production quotas. One “tips” article I read said not to spend hours on an article, but just write something and get it submitted fast. This may be a way to make more money, but it is not going to result in high quality content. I am not willing to hit the “submit” button until I am completely satisfied with the product.
There is inadequate quality control to prevent articles from being published that contain many obvious (not subtle) errors of grammar, spelling, punctuation, and syntax. I gather that some submitted articles are rejected because of such errors, which is a good thing, but others are making it onto the site. I also worry that articles may contain factual errors, but I can’t say that I have seen an outright factual error yet. A more common problem is an unsubstantiated statement. I know that it would be prohibitively expensive for AC to employ copy editors and fact-checkers sufficient to guarantee a high standard is always met. But should there be a way for other content contributors to alert editors to a problematic piece on the site? (There is a “flag” feature on some sites for this purpose.)
Once your article is published, unless you have chosen “Display Only” rights, you have no opportunity to make revisions and updates. This is frustrating because there may be major new developments, new data, etc. that would strengthen the article and make it more appealing to readers. Allowing us to refresh articles would increase page views. Also, unless it is a “display only” article, we have no control over how long it stays on the site. This means that an article that is no longer up to date can’t even be pulled by us, but will remain out there indefinitely.
The emphasis on Search Engine Optimized content or SEO leads me to wonder about whether I am comfortable with “producing content” that is primarily designed to attract potential buyers of products rather than writing pieces that are primarily designed to communicate something useful, interesting, or with artistic merit. Regardless of pvs, the best articles will have original and useful messages, professional credibility, factual accuracy, and artistic merit. In theory it should be possible to do both-attract a lot of readers to a high-quality piece of work– and this is my goal as a contributor to AC. However, if the writing has to be stilted in order to use terms that search engines are looking for, something has been lost. I am fine using “graduate school” in my title instead of “graduate study” based on Google trends data about how people search. But putting words in that do not fit well in an effort to attract pvs is not my goal.
All in all, it has been fun getting to know AC and participating in the community. The many pluses greatly outweigh any concerns. I look forward to getting to know other writers and learning from you.