What the End of Yahoo’s Contributor Network Means for Freelancers

By Gabe Rosenberg July 10th, 2014

The marketplace for freelance voices just got a little bit quieter. Yahoo announced last Wednesday that after years of decreasing popularity, the Yahoo Voices and Contributor networks will be shut down at the end of July and August, respectively.

Yahoo allowed writers who passed their online academy to register as Contributors and submit articles, videos, and images to their more than 600 million monthly visitors. Contributors could also accept assignments for domains such as Yahoo News, Yahoo Sports, Yahoo Finance, Yahoo TV, and Yahoo Movies. Teaming with PayPal, the company offered up-front payments between $2 and $25 for assignments, as well as unlimited performance payments that paid out a few peanuts per 1,000 pageviews and distribution bonuses for any content published on third-party sites.

“By focusing our energy on Yahoo’s four core areas—Search, Communications, Digital Magazines and Video—and the two incredible engines that power them, Flickr and Tumblr, we can make a bigger impact on the things people do everyday,” wrote SVP of Yahoo’s Cloud Platform Group Jay Rossiter.

Apparently, Contributors did not make a big enough impact.

Yahoo Voices launched originally in 2005 as the independent Associated Content and quickly became one of the most-visited sites on the Internet. But it also gained a reputation as a low-quality content farm, cheaply seeking as many pageviews as possible to generate the most ad revenue. Yahoo bought it in 2009 for just under $100 million, turned it into Voices, and launched the Contributor Network and Academy in order to improve the quality of their content.

Despite the push for higher-quality material, Yahoo Voices wasn’t able to become a content powerhouse and couldn’t slash its costs to stay afloat. Its cancellation was announced alongside a series of other cuts at Yahoo, including their Research Reports, Newslook, People Search, and Yahoo Shine web magazine. Over the last year, Yahoo has overhauled their editorial strategy with a number of big-name talent acquisitions, including hiring Michael Isikoff of NBC News as its chief investigative correspondent and Katie Couric of ABC News as its global news anchor, as well as New York Times tech columnist David Pogue for the new Yahoo Tech site.

The changes might be necessary for Yahoo’s long-term health, but for creatives trying to get by on a pitch and a paycheck, this announcement is delivering a significant blow. When the Contributor Network goes offline for good, all pieces published by Contributors—even on Yahoo sites like News and Finance—will disappear. Not only is one of the largest freelance platforms shutting down, but there won’t be any official evidence left proving most freelancers ever worked for Yahoo at all.

Yahoo will give final performance payments in August, but Contributors should act quickly to make sure they have evidence of their writing online. Freedom With Writing suggests a number of alternative websites to self-publish articles, including HubPages, which similarly offers traffic-based payments to writers.

So don’t despair, freelancers. Your voices will be heard somewhere—just probably not on Yahoo.

Image by Alex Eylar
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