Confessions of an Editor: My Take on Associated Content

Looks like my last post stirred a little tempest in a teapot, so I thought I’d address the Associated Content issue from an editor’s perspective. It would be easy to assume from my last post that I don’t think you should ever use Associated Content. Quite the contrary.

Should you use Associated Content posts as writing samples? As evidence that you are a published writer? HELL NO. Not for any serious publication, anyway. Do you want to know the secret? What makes editors (not just me) turn their nose up at this?

Two words–editorial review.

As in, there isn’t much doing at Associated Content, and good editors know that. The simple fact is, posts on Associated Content have value to a writer, but not quite in the way most people assume when they start publishing there. Editors know that there’s no real motivation to edit someone’s posts on AC because they are NOT in the business of publishing in the same manner as Travel + Leisure, Poets and Writers, or Spin Magazine. Associated Content is a completely different business model, and doesn’t require the same kind of editorial rigor you’d get from somebody behind the desk at Fangoria or Scottish Life.

If you want to write for publication, you need clips from magazines and websites that conform to INDUSTRY STANDARDS about the quality and content of the writing. A blogger doesn’t need to worry as much about content–look at the fast-and-loose writing that goes on in this very column–but I promise you, my writing for publication is much more precise and on-target. It’s AGONIZED over in a way that much of the stuff you read on Associated Content is not.

Writers, you CAN use AC to increase your Google clout. Bloggers can profit from this, and it’s a great thing to be able to say (yes, I am bragging here) that my quite common name turns up in the top five results in Google. How did I do that? By getting my name EVERYWHERE on the net, including posts on AC.

I used AC in the early days of my fulltime freelance career to A) pad my pockets with cheap and easy cash B) to increase my Google clout and C) to pad my pockets with cheap and easy cash. Did I say that twice? Yes I did. For emphasis.

Freelancers need all the money they can get. AC is great for quick cash, but I would NEVER sign my rights away to something I could use later for bigger bucks, so let the poster beware. Instead, I wrote about stuff I knew I’d never need to use anywhere else.

I sure as HELL never used an AC post as a writing sample, and I also have turned my snotty little nose up at people who do when their resumes and cover letters come across my desk. Why? Because it displays a fundamental cluelessness about the way this game works. And I don’t have time to coddle you. Neither do 99% of the editors you are likely to meet. You need to have your work in front of and approved by editors who ACTUALLY EDIT. People who try to pass off material they wrote for AC don’t realize that the editors viewing those clips know you didn’t get any kind of editorial scrutiny. Technically, they may be published on the web, but they aren’t what me and my editor chummies would call ready for prime time. Even if the clips are frickin’ brilliant, the lack of editorial rigor at AC gives them a taint.

Call those clips blog posts, call them “content”, call them Granny Sue in a flaming baby cart, but don’t call them PUBLISHED CLIPS.

Do your homework. Ask questions on writer’s forums, read writing websites and learn about how you need to do business in your chosen part of the freelance writing game. Or, you can disregard my last two sentences and sit on your thumbs wondering why nobody is responding to your queries. It’s up to you. Don’t take MY word for it, go out and do your own research. One day, you’ll think to yourself that the cynical snotty guy on was actually RIGHT about something.

Fancy that.

12 thoughts on “Confessions of an Editor: My Take on Associated Content”

  1. GREAT article. I have been a long-time member of AC for the very same reasons you did. I enjoyed being active in the forums and meeting other content producers. Now, years later, I have an MFA in creative writing and a full-time job in eCommerce and social media — two loves, converged. Now that I can see both perspectives clearly, and with back-up professional knowledge, I must agree with you. AC is a content network, built with SEO in mind. This is quite obvious, for example, when there is anchor text embedded in one article of a word that is a synonym that links to another unrelated article. AC is smart this way. It has managed to develop an extremely high ranking on its articles because of the science behind it. SEO strategists will tell clients to focus on link-building campaigns.. AC’s networks of content producers do that because they, too, will reap the benefits. I strongly feel AC has a great business model and lends a great opportunity for writers to share their knowledge, make money, and take advantage of the valuable SEO points you can get from publishing on the site. I would never diss it for what it is. However, as a creative writer and print journalist first, I wholeheartedly have to say that AC articles should not be treated as clips. Ever. Writing for the Internet and writing creatively are two completely different things. An SEO-enhanced article with strategically-placed keywords would not be a suitable clip to show a literary magazine that is written for people. AC articles are, of course, written for people, too. But, more importantly, they are written for the search engines. That’s why they rank so high. Can a serious writer do both? Yes. But, if one seeks a print writing job, or more importantly is looking to nab an agent or book deal, linking to AC clips will turn an editor away. Wow. This was one heck of a comment. I think I am going to turn this into a blog… You saw it here first! = )

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