Last month, August 2010, marked my 20-month anniversary as a Content Producer for Associated Content (AC). Though I had some minor successes along the way, I never considered that I might have any future in writing of any kind.
August was a month of experimentation for me. I set certain goals, tried different strategies and, by doing so, it led me to my first “Hot 500” badge, and I surprised myself.
This is the story of how I have become a writer at Associated Content over the past 20 months. Though it’s a long one, it’s worth the read as I share what I have found out since I started at this site, and this submission marks an important milestone.
How I began writing at AC
I was introduced to AC by someone I knew who reads at the site. He was retired military and I shared Thank You for Your Service: My Military Story with him. He encouraged me to post it on the site. I was reluctant, but did it anyway.
I signed up with AC on December 19, 2008 and submitted that piece and two journal entries I wrote about my experience with breast cancer and waited for approval. On Christmas Eve readers were allowed to take a Walk Down Mammary Lane, with me and, with Oogiddy-Boogidy Bandages, I took the reader into my unconscious mind as I searched for lost body parts.
I was excited to see those first few page views, and told a writer and actress friend about my decision to write at AC. She was less than flattering about her thoughts about the site and its payment policies, but I decided that it was not about the money for me. I told her that writing for AC was “a way to find my voice” and tell the world (whomever might stumble upon what I write) what I thought about life. I figured if a few dollars were thrown my way from time-to-time, then it was “gravy.”
December’s week of page views (PV) produced 18 cents, not enough to get a payment, nor enough to buy a packet of gravy!
January 2009 was my first full month at AC and I submitted several things for upfront payment and published a total of 17 pieces. Many of them were based on journal entries, and poetry I had written. Others, like Beyond the Wienie and Dumpling Soup or And Then I Met a Man with No Legs, invited my readers to see the world through my eyes, opening myself up to show how I thought about life and others in it. Combined, they have received 372 PVs in nearly two years.
January’s performance payment was $1.34 and it was added to December’s, so I received my first payment of $1.52. I also received Upfront Payments totaling $12.38.
Best New Content Producer award
On February 5th, AC announced its “Best New Content Producers January 2009.” It was an honor to have received the accolade, and it came with a $50 prize. You would have thought I had won the lottery!
The announcement was made on the AC’s blog–Best of AC & Best CP Awards-January Winners. Reading my name in print was validation that I was doing something right, and had some talent. And my writer friend apologized for her trying to discourage me from involvement with AC.
The next 11 months
For the remainder of 2009, I found it difficult to produce content. After January’s 17 published, my average number of monthly published submissions numbered less than 7, with six of the remaining months being less than the average. It was due in part to my starting a new job in March, as well as several bouts with “writers’ block.”
I was given an opportunity to write a few targeted pieces that paid $25 each, two of which I have found out on the Internet. Though they included my byline, I was disappointed that I’d worked so hard to have them edit my writing down to a very condensed version, and that PVs did not increase due to people wanting more by linking through my name. I felt as if I were spinning my wheels.
Even so, I ended the 2009 year with 90 published submissions, totaling $200.56 in upfront payment, $21.17 in PVs, and a $50.00 award bonus. I didn’t pay much attention to PVs, so did not record the numbers.
2010-The first six months
At the end of January 2010, I had stumbled on a blog written by fellow contributor Lyn Lomasi where she mentioned interviewing others. I was bold and contacted her to let her know I would like to be interviewed. It held a dual purpose for me-I wanted to see if doing so would drive more traffic to my content page, and it appealed to my sense of “center stage.”
Over the course of about five days, I answered a series of 10 questions from Lyn. True to my style, I wrote lengthy answers. On February 6, Interview with AC Contributor Coral Levang was published on Lyn’s page (my answers in entirety, so she kept the integrity of what I’d written intact). She also encouraged me by saying, “Keep writing and do not give up.”
I decided to try something different and submit only for automatic payment, to get submissions up earlier and not have to wait for approval. I wrote two articles on the Super Bowl, which I thought might have more audience appeal. For several days, I received PVs numbering in the 200s, when I typically averaged fewer than 40 views per day, but that was short-lived. Those two articles, to date, have fewer than 400 views.
Once again, I was disheartened that all I tried did not seem to work. As well, I had learned that a dear friend’s cancer had, once again, returned and the decision was made to deny any medical intervention. She lost her battle to cancer on May 26, 2010, just three days before her 42nd birthday. (Read my story about breast cancer and why I walk the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer 3-Day event.)
Those months were tough for me emotionally, and I did not want to pour out any feelings on paper. Truth be told, I wrote and published only 34 from January to June 2010, averaging 5.66 submissions per month. In May and June I only wrote 2 things each month. I had shut myself down.
Even so, my readership seemed to have increased a bit, as my performance payments increased. My total payment for views for the first six months of 2010 was $16.70, averaging $2.78 monthly. The two articles published in the first six months of 2010 that received the highest PVs other than the Super Bowl were: Jimmy Dean: Country Music Hall-of-Famer and Sausage King Dies at 81-years-oldand Living Beyond Criticismwith 176 and 394 PVs, respectively.
It was in July when I started to think a bit about trying to make it work at AC. Though I had started to write at another site, I also stumbled upon an article that reinforced fellow contributor Radell Hunter’s advice to me: “Figure out what others are reading and write about it.”
On July 5th I watched a special ABC interview with Bachelor Jake Pavelka and the winner of his final rose Vienna Girardi as they verbally threw blows at one another. The next morning, I did a quick write-up totaling just over 200 words. In 12 hours, it received 776 hits! I was astounded that people would read something like that.
July ended up being my best month ever in PVs and payment-2928 PVs totaling $4.54, having only submitted 13 new pieces of content. I started to analyze things a bit more after the Pavelka-Girardi story and started to track some data.
August was a month of trying a new approach and setting goals. I remembered fellow military veteran and contributor Marie Anne St. Jean’s advice to me-“Write often, get your published content numbers up and you won’t have to beg for the PVs.” She also advised me to learn SEO.
Advice from all three of the mentioned contributors in hand, I decided to jump in and test the waters, as writing what was on my heart was not getting the hits. I wanted to learn more about what others wanted to read.
I set my goal to write something every day. If I were not able to accomplish that, then I would make it up the next day. I did not set a limit on the type of submissions, but that I would simply write, and try to figure out what the readers wanted.
What people read
What I learned is that audiences are fickle. Even though we have an unemployment rate that is around the 10 percent mark, people are not interested in reading about the Three Qualities Employers Want in Employeesor to learn the Resume Mistakes that Can Cost You the Interview.
Instead, they want to read about the latest reality TV scoop or the dish on public figures. So, I gave it to them.
I watched as Ali Fedotowsky gave Roberto Martinez the final rose on The Bachelorette Finale on August 3, 2010 and wrote this article about it. It received 2202 page views that day, and has received nearly 1300 hits since the first day.
The following day I wrote an article about Bristol Palin breaking up with Levi Johnston. It brought in 1881 views the first day and has had another 140 trickle in since.
Dr. Laura Schlessinger’s use of the N-Word helped me hit a home run with two articles, which generated 3453 views in 18 days.
Throughout the month, I jumped on the Ali and Roberto bandwagon, and added the ABC reality show The Bachelor Pad. Between reporting on the snippets of information on Ali, and the sneak previews and recaps of the shows of The Bachelor Pad, I wrote 18 articles for a total of 21,185 page views for the month of August.
Final results of the August experiment
Though my goals were not initially very specific, I set out to: Write and submit something every day; target an audience by writing more on news topics and pop culture; and, have my highest month in PVs than ever before.
Within the first week, having had two days with more than 2200 views per day (more than what I typically had in a month), I set more specific goals. They became: Write and submit 40 articles; target ABC’s reality TV audience; accept and write in the Food & Wine category to try and land a “Best of” award; and to double the combined total PVs of 28,145 received from December 2008 to July 2010, in a one-month time frame.
The results: Articles written-44; published-45 (one was a holdover from July); and I wrote 24 of 31 days. Thirteen of the articles were in the Food & Wine category, though the “Best of” winners have not yet been announced.
Page views went through the roof. The monthly PVs for August was 29,998, more than doubling the total I had accumulated, giving me a grand total at the end of month to 58,143, with a performance payment of $48.00. I achieved the honor of “Hot 500” for the month of August.
This month, even though my days are limited for writing, I see the importance of writing everyday and setting goals. I am also reading and researching more and getting more involved in conversations with other Content Producers so that I can continue to learn more from them.
September has gotten off to a slow start this first ten days in PVs. It seems that The Bachelor Pad is not as hot a topic as Ali and Roberto were, nor are the articles I have submitted on saving money on groceries. But there is some residual still coming in on last month’s submissions that are keeping my PVs at an average of over 400 daily, for a total of 4160.
I have begun to write some articles for upfront submission again, though I have already been declined, the content being seen as not valuable enough to warrant payment. In these first 10 days, I have submitted 13, and published 12.
My goals for September: Submit-50; publish-45; reach 80,000 total PVs; and to purchase and start reading The Yahoo! Style Guide to gain more knowledge about writing online.
A final thought
I am keenly aware of how important interaction is with others who write online. Even though I read much more than I used to do, I am trying to be more diligent about trying to comment more often. Sometimes you’ll find me on Twitter and leaving a message or two, but I do not find I have a lot of time to write, so social networking and comments unfortunately take a back seat to all the other things I have on my plate.
This week, however, I encouraged a friend of mine-his pen name is C.E. Mann–to sign up to contribute to AC, to give him an outlet to tell “his story” and let his voice be heard. At the moment he is waiting for approval of his first few submissions. When you get a chance, please stop by his page, introduce yourself and make him feel as welcomed, as you have done for me.
And with this being my 200th published content piece, I would like to extend a hearty “thank you” to all who have helped me to make AC my writing “home.”