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Helium announced the launch of their article marketplace. Arbitrage giant Geosign is on the client list, scooping up automotive articles. Some of the article descriptions show that the goal is to get just enough content to wrap ads around it, in true arbitrage style:

Collect the latest news about Honda (or another car manufacturer of your choosing). Summarize the news. How does this news affect the average Honda owner? Before you write, make sure that you do some research. Take a look at the latest articles on Google News, the latest automotive blogs on Technorati, and any other online sources you feel are relevant. Max 350 word count.

Some of the other publishers are looking for a bit more meat, but all are likely sharing their marketing strategies with anyone willing to take a look.

How They Should Have Launched

If they were trying to make a big splash at launch time they sent the wrong message. They should have done some co-branded marketing allowing writers to publish for traditional media sites, and/or partnered with trusted charities on important issues.

Why You Should Try Helium

The pitch at Helium is:

Real advice from real people-more than 300,000 articles. Why should you waste your time wading through search results when what you really want is the knowledge that comes with first-hand experience?

Do a bunch of underpaid freelance writers on a generalist site about writing filter through the world's information better than Google or other sites that crawl and index the web? Not likely. For example, I just went to Technorati, and discovered this video is currently popular, with 44 people linking to it

How can a closed off network compete with the web as a whole? It is slower and of lower quality, and will always be that way. Plus it has a spamming incentive baked into the pay structure.

Will the marketplace be a vibrant one, or will the site be a noise filled AdSense honeypot that results in watered down content clogging up the search results? With about a half million pages already indexed in Google you would think Hellium should have more than 14 advertisers signed up. Once writers start tracking their AdSense profit-share results and the site starts ranking for more competitive phrases how many erectile dysfunction articles do you think will get published? The same thing will happen to it that happened to Squidoo.

Human Focused Near Markov Chain Content Websites

Content for everyone about everything by everyone websites are going to make search engines more aggressive in filtering how deep they are willing to crawl these types of sites. If they are not, it won't be long until AssociatedContent, Helium, eHow, WeHow, WikiHow, Yahoo! Answers,, (I have seen PR6 automated splogs on Wordpress based on aggressive tagging) and a few other similar sites join Wikipedia, YouTube, eBay,, and Amazon as Google's top 10 results for everything. And then the newspapers will respond by getting more aggressive with pumping out garbage content. Some deep pocketed domainers may also look at the success or failure of sites like WeHow to help determine their longterm strategy.

What signal does Google want to send? Will Google ever try to regulate how you acquire content? Will any of the content sources eventually be deemed bad in a similar light to how Google tries to manipulate public perception about buying link based advertisements?

Hiring Great Writers

With more people trying to solve the content problem it is getting easier to scale and look large even if you are solo. If you have an arbitrage website or authoritative website and just need backfill content then sites like Helium might fit your needs, but if you are looking for higher quality writers search around for stories about how Gawker got built, search for thought topical leaders in the blogosphere and offer them similar salaries, and perhaps post an ad on Craigslist or the Problogger Job Boards.

If you value your time in the longrun it is cheaper to hire a great employee rather than filter through the noise hoping to find a star.

Discovering the Hellium Experience

I am off to go read about contacting aliens, the truth about Kennedy, debt consolidation mortgage loan, what you need to know to apply for a credit card, how to get an instant approval credit card, uses of Viagra, hypoactive sexual desire disorder, and best places to bet online. All the best bits of the web in one spot. They even have what is spam, but it's not comprehensive enough. There is no mention of Helium. ;)

Published: August 21, 2007 by Aaron Wall in marketing publishing & media


August 21, 2007 - 10:08am

The same applies with the new paid Wiki. These sites have a race to gain enough link authority to rank before people realise they are ranking and fill them with useless content and bombard them with links.

If Google takes a stand against Squidoo then nobody else has a chance.

August 21, 2007 - 5:51pm

Just be careful not to use Viagra while trying to contact aliens...they hate that.

August 21, 2007 - 6:13pm

Good post Aaron - although I would presume Helium isn't impressed. I guess they've tried to invent something to fill the gap (or at least what they perceived to be a gap), but didn't think of how well it can be abused, over and above disregarding the fact that people don't need that type of thing.

Cygnus - that may actually help with reception... LOL

August 21, 2007 - 6:49pm


Excellent post. Finding great writers can be challenging. I spend few days every month interviewing new writers, evaluating their style, and making sure they can deliver on what they promise. After doing that for a whole year, I only have 12 writers on staff. I guess it is a good problem to have but it can get frustrating.

Deciding on the correct rate to pay writers is another challenge. Most writers want to make more than $50 per article/blog. Most of our clients want to pay $50 per article/blog. We still have to make some money. I think I finally came up with an acceptable arrangement that satisfactory to us our writers, and our clients.

Some people did not like what I had to say when I posted about how much you should pay a freelance writer:

[ I am not sure about the comment policy, so please do remove the link if that is not appropriate]

August 21, 2007 - 10:01pm

Hi Aaron,

This message is not about this post but it's the only way I know how to contact you.

I have a very simply tip which can speed up SEObook by 37% in one easy step. Basically, the picture of the SEObook book needs to be optimised. It should only take a graphic designer a minute or two. Read more here:

I hope this helps you Aaron,

All the best,


August 21, 2007 - 10:20pm

I fixed that Julian :)

August 23, 2007 - 7:57pm

Hi Aaron,

I'm pleased that you were able to fix the problem. A small mention on your great blog as a sign of thanks would be much appreciated.

Keep on blogging,


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