eHow UK debacle over the past few months. I'm just now getting caught up on other eHow members' thoughts and research on the topic, conveyed through blogs and forum posts and discussions.
For those who haven't followed or participated in the discussions, here's the 30-second version as I understand it. In about August of 2009, eHow created a "sister site," ehow.co.uk, which basically mirrored the US-version except for a unique front page -- the featured articles differ from those on the regular site.
However, Demand Media used US-member-submitted eHow articles on the eHow UK site. According to the TOS, they do have the rights to do so. But writers were unhappy that they basically copied everyone's content and published it on another site without discussion or permission from the writers first. Personally, I don't think this was done with malicious forethought; I don't think they really gave it much thought at all. But either way, some members felt it was not right.
In the face of uproar from its members, eHow administration decided to redirect visitors on the UK site to the original US-based articles, but eventually just pulled the plug and removed all US-member content from the UK side (some articles remain and flaws are being worked out).
Because of the persistence of eHow member-writers who asked whether articles re-posted to the UK site would receive reimbursement through the WCP, and who felt their overall revenue from eHow suffered due to their articles on the UK site appearing higher in searches than their US articles, eHow announced that it would give "generous compensation" to all WCP participants whose articles has been temporarily published on the UK site without permission.
This compensation arrived with the February payment of January earnings. For those who wondered, and in the interest of full disclosure, I received $140.
Personally, I feel that this compensation is more than fair -- simply because I never noticed any decline in my eHow earnings and any traffic that was taken from my US articles was likely minuscule, in my opinion. For one thing, the UK site has a fraction the traffic that the US one does. This is a comparison of traffic for the two sites from January 2010; traffic in the late months of 2009 was even more disparate:
I do know that there is chatter among Google Adsense users that advertising revenue across the web is down, likely because of economic factors worldwide.
Is eHow committed to its WCP, or Writers Compensation Program? I believe they are, or it would not still be inexistence. When it first launched, in 2007, it was their big focus, and things have changed since then. Perhaps there is not as much enthusiasm within Demand Media as they had previously for the WCP writers. In 2008, eHow held a member event, weHow, in Santa Monica CA, to which I was invited and attended.The whole focus was on the WCP and participation on the eHow.com website. They even gave recognition to the top eHow earner in attendance, so earnings were being promoted and encouraged.
In 2009, the event was focused instead on the new "I did It" feature that pays no compensation to those who submit I did It stories. So the focus has shifted a bit, perhaps to encourage people to join eHow for the user experience and not just the earnings potential.
Demand Studios writers, who provide content for eHow.com, seem to receive more attention, benefits and support than the "users" in the WCP. This is simply a statement of fact; it doesn't bother me. When you consider that DS writers are paid a flat $15 fee for most article, while I've had dozens of articles earn $100 or more, including several thousand-dollar eHow articles, they can keep their better forum and monthly grant contests and I'll keep my revenue sharing.
But even if eHow in general doesn't particularly love us WCP writers anymore (who can blame them?), the sheer quantity of user-submitted content, and the fact that we retain rights to our work, indicates to me that they would have a very hard time just nixing the program altogether. And I contend that they don't want to end it. For all we know, the eHow UK beta site may have included a long-term plan for extending the WCP and eventually increasing compensation based on UK revenue on WCP articles. I truly don't think anyone at Demand wanted to "steal" from the eHow writers.
And I believe that eHow remains one of the very best sites for building residual income today.
Those are my thoughts. What are yours?