September 30, 2009
AllVoices.com CEO Refuses to Reveal How Much Contributors Are (or Aren't) Earning By Angela Hoy | printable version
Last week, we pondered if AllVoices.com, which runs lots of ads for writers, is just another pay-per-click meat market. I issued a call for AllVoices.com contributors to contact me, and to share their experiences. This is what I wrote at the end of the article:
So, this week, I'd be interested in knowing how many writers Allvoices.com has and the total amount they've paid out to their "Citizen Journalists" since they launched. I'd also be curious how much the highest earners have earned versus the lowest earners. And, I'd be curious to know what percentage of their contributors have earned less than, say, $100 in the past year. I'm also wondering how long it takes to write a typical article for them and what the pay breaks down to by hour - for the average "Citizen Journalist", of course. I bet they wouldn't give me any of this info.
Surprisingly, not one AllVoices.com contributor contacted me with answers to my questions. However, I did get an email from the founder of AllVoices.com.
EMAIL EXCHANGE INITIATED BY THE CEO/FOUNDER OF ALLVOICES.COM AFTER OUR ARTICLE APPEARED LAST WEEK
Amra Tareen wrote:
If you have questions regarding Allvoices, Please, let us know and I will be happy to answer.
Thanks for your interest in Allvoices
Angela Hoy wrote:
How many contributors has AllVoices had total (including ones who have left)?
How much have you paid out total to all contributors since you launched?
How much of that has gone to your top 10 earners?
How many of your contributors have never reached the $100 threshold to receive a payment?
Amra Tareen wrote:
[FIRST THREE PARAGRAPHS REMOVED BY WRITERSWEEKLY BECAUSE THEY WERE MARKETING VERBIAGE.]
Now going back to your specific questions, I cannot share compensation data about our contributors with you, I am sure if you were a contributor you would not want me to share your data with someone else. Allvoices is a private company and all the information that you want is private which unfortunately I cannot share with you.
Thanks for your interest in Allvoices and I hope you will contribute on Allvoices in your spare time.
Angela Hoy wrote:
I didn't ask for a marketing spiel. Already got that from another one of your reps...and published it, too.
I guess I figured right when I said you'd refuse to give me the information. I didn't ask you for any specific person's income so your excuse about your contributors not wanting you to is ridiculous. Also, answering the question about how many contributors have never hit the $100 threshold doesn't give away your financial info. at all. Your refusal to answer is simply proof that most of your contributors have been paid zero by AllVoices.com.
I will publish your response in my follow-up piece next week but I'm going to remove the first three paragraphs of marketing verbiage. Nice try, though.
QUALITY OF ALLVOICES.COM CONTENT IS DEFINITELY IN QUESTION!
One thing that bothers me about the AllVoices ads is it appears they don't care about quality. They use terms like this in their ads: "Anyone who has an interest in writing and would like to earn through writing is qualified to sign up."
In fact, this is how they describe "quality" on the Incentive Program page of their website:
"Quality: No copyright violations (text or photos)"
Hey, AllVoices, wouldn't those violations go under copyright infringement, not quality?
One alert reader sent us a link to a recent article posted on AllVoices.com that contains numerous errors. Now, before you dog me for cherry-picking the website, you need to know that the article was written by none other than Amra Tareen, the CEO/Founder of AllVoices. (Can you hear me clearing my throat from here? You probably already noticed the errors in her emails above, didn't you?) It's her most recent "news story", which contains these gems:
I on the other hand loved the movie and that is showed reality on what goes in world on different fronts.
It further shows how racisms takes fold by using derogatory terms like...
The Aliens possessed superior technology than the humans but seemed to be lost on earth in a different environment where they were treated as inferior.
The main character of the District 9, Wikus (played by Sharlto Copley), is bureaucrat working at MNU the agency that deals with Alien issues.
He is put in charge of relocating 1.8Million Aliens from a location in Johannesburg to smaller shelters outside the city, by his father in law.
It showed the dark side of the father in law who wanted to sell his son in laws soul for experimentation...
In short I loved the movie and I think for the first time I saw an alien Sci-Fi movie where aliens where not trying to take over the earth by killing the human race. Instead sheds light on the problems in our society of greed and fear of the unknown and difference.
Heck, I had a hard time finding sentences in the article that DIDN'T have errors. Now, before you dog me about one article (maybe she just had a bad day?), you should know that I checked the previous news item she wrote as well, and found these:
Whether we made money in stock opitons, real estate or private equity and decided to either start a business or re-invest the money. We all have lost it regardless of where we invested the money.
It seems everyone owes someone money and are highly leveraged.
There are other errors as well and her other posts have plenty of errors, too. Everybody makes mistakes but, well, we're just sayin'...
I haven't written for AllVoices.com but I wanted to comment on something your contact wrote in their response to you.
"In our previous program, we paid out a lot of money. However, since we're a startup, we can't continue to pay those rates until we're more profitable."
Reading between the lines: In their "previous program" they realized they could maximize their profits by paying writers less, so they started over with new, lower rates. Otherwise, why would they end their "previous program," since it seemingly was so successful?
That's my take on it, anyway.
Thank you, thank you, thank you, Angela!!! I was *this close* to starting to write for Examiner.com or Allvoices.com when I received my WritersWeekly ezine from you this morning. Great timing for me!
A friend of mine recently started writing for Examiner in order to gain prestige in her area, and tried to convince me to do the same. She said that she hadn't been paid "much" yet but she was sure more was to follow! Since I write because: 1) these thoughts have to get out of my head somehow; 2) I'm not happy unless someone somewhere is reading something I wrote; and 3) frankly, I need the money, I decided that Examiner wasn't for me. After all, there are plenty of markets willing to pay what my writing is worth.
Thanks for the article. As far as I see it, you saved me a lot of effort for minimal return. Thanks again!!
I don't write for AllVoices but I do know what you mean about these pay-per-click. I got myself involved in one, Helium.com. They appeared on television and writer's sites as a great website for professional and non-professional writers to get paid for their short stories, essays and, how-to pieces. As short stories are a hard sell, this site interested me. As of this date, even with promoting their site for over a year on my websites, I haven't gotten paid or accumulated enough points through them to get paid for my numerous pieces though my ratings were considered high and my stories were top rated. You can't get paid unless you accumulate $25, which is nearly impossible to do. You also have to obtain enough stars by rating other people's work. The other thing I found out is that you can't remove your work from their site. Please inform people to be extremely wary of these sites.
Thank you for bringing this out in the open.
I SHARED THE CEO'S ENTIRE EMAIL WITH ACTIVIST AND AUTHOR SCOTT ROSE AND THESE ARE HIS COMMENTS:
I'll say this; Allvoices CEO Amra Tareen is an exceedingly well-practiced (term removed by WritersWeekly).
In the face of your inquiries and implicit criticisms, she claims her site's contributors view payments for their contributions as incidental to the opportunity to be citizen "journalists." I placed the quotation marks there with consideration for where I was placing them. Professional journalists must adhere to standards and ethics through professional filters, which Allvoices does not apply. The phrase "citizen journalist" mocks the profession. Are those who contribute to the New York Times perhaps not citizens of some country or other, just as Allvoices members are each a citizen of some country? Then, too, show me where there are "citizen dentists," "citizen bank tellers," and/or "citizen container ship captains." The phrase "citizen journalist" is a meaningless contrivance. It is a fact; not everybody can write, and not everybody who can write knows enough about journalism to properly engage in it.
An active Mediabistro help-wanted ad for Allvoices says: "The focus is Build Your Brand, Gain Influence & Make Money." So beyond any doubt, Tareen is enticing people to contribute to her Allvoices site in order to "Make Money."
The language in the Allvoices "Terms" contract is as confusing as such language comes.
Look at this phrase from it: "Allvoices shall deduct from such Promotional Payments any processing or transfer fees (including, without limitation, related wire transfer fees) that may be assessed in order to make such payments to You."
A naive person reading that could be misled to believe that Allvoices is legally entitled to subtract from their earnings any "wire transfer fees." However, earlier in the phrase, where the contract states that Allvoices "shall deduct . . . . . any processing or transfer fees," the company has covered its bases. Allvoices could arbitrarily decide that Amra Tareen's inspection of a payment necessitated her subtracting a 100% processing fee. The contributor would not have any legal basis for bringing a legal action against Allvoices. The contract says that Allvoices shall deduct "ANY processing fees." It is legally empowered to define, set and apply "processing fees" according to its whim.
If I am not correct about this point, then why does the contract not say something more like: "Allvoices shall deduct from such Promotional Payments only those fees assessed by third-party entities in making wire transfer fees. Prior to wiring payment, Allvoices shall advise contributor of wire transfer expense and shall offer contributor the option of receiving a company check for their earnings in full, to be sent by ground mail if in the United States or Canada and by Air Mail if overseas. If the company check option is chosen, Allvoices shall deduct from such Promotional Payments the cost of the U.S. Mail postage stamp associated with mailing the check."
AND, FINALLY, DID ALLVOICES.COM OFFER TO PAY STUDENTS TO POST COMMENTS? HMMM...:
Last year, Chris Tompkins, a writer for The Industry Standard and also a student at Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism, alleged AllVoices had sent emails to students there offering to pay them to post comments on the site. Chris said, "...it's an underhanded way for a Web 2.0 community to build contributions, and runs the danger of betraying the trust of readers."
We have to agree.
IF YOU WRITE FOR AllVoices.com, PLEASE CONTACT ME. Your anonymity will be protected. Email: angela-at-writersweekly.com