Saturday, 15 December 2012

[Writer's Blog] Dawn of a New Suite Era

I have recently experienced some frustrations with the writing platform Suite 101 during its transition to a new revolutionary format that promises to leave other such platforms in the shade. Constant lack of access to draft articles has been the biggest biggest bug bear which have been sitting in limbo while the technical folk work their IT magic to roll out the all new singing dancing Suite 101. At last it's finished, I have been allowed back in and I must say I am pleased with the finished product. So if you want to get your foot in the writing door, whether as a hobby or a freelance Internet hack like me (almost) then this could be the platform for you.

Early Suite Days

For those not too much in the know, Suite 101 is a magazine website that publishes articles from its membership of contributing writers on just about any subject. Anyone can sign up to be a contributor and once accepted you can start writing and publishing your articles. There is even the prospect of generating earnings from PPC (Pay Per Click) advertising on your articles. Unless you can mass produce hundreds of top viewed articles the prospects of making a decent living from this source alone are slim (more on this later). What it does offer is, dare I say it, something more valuable - exposure and a viable portfolio of your work. 

Suite 101 differs from other platforms in many ways but the most standout feature was its enrolment process. The site requires wannabe contributors to submit two pieces of written work, around 600 words each if I recall from my early days, as well as personal information. The articles are really an indication of your ability and seriousness about producing high quality written work, whereas with other platforms you simply register as if you were creating an Amazon account. Once accepted and the formalities taken care of, the writing journey can begin. A team of editors review all articles posted (a thankless task one imagines) and any errors are brought to your attention. The registration and editorial process clearly distinguished it from other sites that have largely been branded as "content farms". 

Having tried the other platforms in tandem, I found that Suite 101 took care of things like formatting, ad placements and other technical features so that the writer can focus on the most important job - the writing, along with uploading royalty free/approved images, proof reading, and promotion through social media. I also noticed that articles published through Suite 101 are easier to find through search engines than other platforms thus attracting more readers. The earnings, as mentioned previously,are not necessarily life changing, and until recently have operated on the PPC scheme whereby payment was made depending on how my ad revenue your article accumulated. 
Changing the Suite.

In an effort to tackle the increase in poor quality content spewed out by content farms in a concerted effort to drive them to the top of search engine listings, Google launched "Panda". Far from being a new Orange tariff, Panda is an algorithm that specifically targets content farms and topples them down to the bottom. This should have been good news for higher end sites and blogs unfortunately the net was cast so wide those sites & Suite 101 were caught up. I noticed the effect when my hits dropped sharply from around two to three thousand per month to just a few hundred. Suite 101 did everything possible to tackle this problem by changing keyword guidelines and re-emphasising the need for high quality articles. This helped and levels rose again but not to the same heights. Perhaps in response to this decline in readership the team at Suite embarked on a radical overhaul with new features and a fairer earning system designed to be reflective of the writers' work.

Beware content farms - the Panda is coming for you.
Credit; Matthew Bietz

The first big change is the introduction of channels. A published article will usually fall into default categories or channels such as Film/TV or Politics. Visitors can follow these channels and keep with the latest articles. Writers however can create their own channels, give it a name, build up their own following, and exchange feedback. In case you are wondering, yes I do have a channel, it's called Movies, Postcards & Reel Tales. By all means feel free to visit.

Revenue of course is still a feature of Suite 101 and the model for compensating writers has also undergone a significant change. Gone are the days when writers had to rely on PPC for earnings. The site is still funded by advertising however payment is made based on a new contributor score system. Depending on how high your score out of 100 points will determine the amount paid. The score is calculated based on how well received your articles are based on readership, feedback, share through share social media. The higher the score, the more you get paid. 

Future Suite

It is too early to tell at this stage whether or not the model will be successful. However what it does offer is a greater potential for the writer in terms of exposure and earnings. In the days of PPC, writers often prioritised keyword rich populist topics over writing about their passions in order to earn effectively. Even if you received 20,000 hits per article the payback could be zero if no ads are clicked on. The new revenue system allows the author to write about what they want and use the channels to build up readership. It really could be a case of you only get out of it what you put in. So the more articles published and read, the greater chance of exposure, high readership and decent payment.

Or at least that's the goal.

Suite 101 is not the only platform available for writers and I will explore this in another post. However it is one of the more prolific and imaginative with a real desire for quality articles written from the heart rather hastily crafted content to capitalise on advertising. Yes there are still ads on the site and no doubt they will continue to keep the platform ticking over. What it means is that the author doesn't worry about things like SEO, keywords  or crafting articles to match the ads. Instead they can concentrate on their craft, build up a reputation for good writing and then.....well who knows. 

Happy writing.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

CrowdsUnite Helping to Make Choice in Crowdfunding Easier

Crowdfunding as an industry has grown exponentially with hundreds of platforms currently waiting to help project owners secure that all important start up funds from the ever generous crowd. Whilst there is greater choice beyond the more recogniseable names such as Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, the difficulty has arisen from the being to choose the right one from so many. CrowdsUnite is a new website recently launched to act as a one stop comparison site for the crowdfunding world providing information, reviews and articles on as many of the available platforms as possible. Project owners hopefully will be able to determine based on the information provided, the platform most suited to their venture.

Launched in October this year CrowdsUnite was devised by Alex Feldman, a graduate of New York University (NYU) with an MBA in Finance, Entrepreneurship as well as a BS in Computer Science & Mathematics. Over the last eight years Alex has worked with financial giants such as Barclays Capital and Lehman Brothers spearheading an assortment of key IT developments. The idea for CrowdsUnite was derived from having spent considerable time monitoring the growth of crowdfunding along with numerous discussions with industry leaders from which he identified a gap in the market for the provision of information on crowdfunding service providers.

With the help of friends and interns Alex maintains the data held on CrowdsUnite and each day is looking to expand this online library of crowdfunding platforms. Each one listed is placed into appropriate categories of debt, equity, reward or donation based platforms. Visitors can view information about the platforms such as whether it is an all or nothing model, which countries it operates in, and projects suitable for the platform. These are then rated and reviewed by passing visitors with experience of those platforms, and those not yet rated should contain relevant articles to help make an informed choice. The platform is also open to those looking for the right kind of project to support.
Right now we are focusing on uniting users with the best possible crowdfunding platform that they qualify for. We want to add every single crowdfunding platform no matter how small it is to our listing. We want that in the future when a person or a company decided to raise money they won't think of a bank first but instead think of going to CrowdsUnite and finding debt, equity, reward, or donation platform that they can use. - Alex Feldman, CEO/Founder CrowdsUnite
CrowdsUnite is a full time occupation for Alex, and for users there is no charge for using the service. The ultimate goal is to make the platform self sustaining and since launching has garnered positive feedback and considerable interest from industry leaders. CrowdsUnite has enjoyed significant support from New York's Soho Loft, a prominent organisation specialising in hosting events on all aspects of business and finance, who have signed as the site's partners. With so many crowdfunding platforms emerging following recent legislative changes as well as growing interest in alternative funding in the wake of the financial crisis CrowdsUnite has the head start in building the biggest library and comparison platform for crowdfunding service providers. 

Image Credit; Ganderssen 1