Friday, August 29, 2008

Is Helium.com a bust?

Sometime this summer, I saw an ad from Helium.com requesting freelance writers.

Looking for every opportunity to publish at this point, and being new to Internet publishing (i.e., not knowing what else is out there), I wrote a response to one of their posted debates, on motherhood and writing.  It’s the top-rated article in the “No” category for this question—but I haven’t been paid for it.

On their information page, Helium promises: "When you write at Helium, you help inform millions, earn money, get recognized and build your portfolio." However, even when I signed up, I was suspicious that this might not be a legitimate business venture for me since they didn't ask for my SSN (which even Google wanted when I signed up for Google AdSense on one of my blogs).

When I look at the ad-engorged pages of Helium now, I realize that letting people post whatever they want on a web site and having them return to the web site again and again to see who is reading it or how it is rated would be a great way to guarantee eyeballs to the web site's advertisers. So I asked other writers (via a local writers’ listserv) to share their experiences with it. These represent the typical responses I received:

 “I occasionally post to Helium and my articles are always highly rated. Sounds good, right? Not so fast. Because I've only written a handful of articles, and only a few of them are the sort advertisers would find useful, y-t-d I've "earned" about $7.36. You don't even get a check until you a certain threshold ($50, I think).”

 “I have a Helium account, but quickly lost interest because I found it rather confusing and not worth the effort. I believe I've made about $4.50 cents with Helium. They're legit...but you have to contribute lots and lots of writing to make it worth your while.”

“Be cynical. ...what you'll find there is akin to a "fan readership" you could generate at MySpace or Gather or any social networking site. If you do publish there (just for fun), I wouldn't add it to to your resume as a publication credit.”
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What's sad is that there are so many people who think they can write and have something worth sharing with everyone else in the Internet universe. Helium offers their essays on such varied topics as:
  •  An overview of Lake Mead boat tours
  • Realization that your Pastor has value, and
  • Animal books and their educational use with children (which includes this helpful advice, "Animal books capture the attention and imagination of most children, and by reading them they can learn many different things...."
I pity these people who are fooling themselves into believing that someone is reading them–and that their writing matters. But then I realize the context in which I am sharing this—on my own blog, read by few, publicized nowhere right now, and for which I am not paid. A tiny voice in a roar I have helped to create.

1 comment:

Richard White said...

Writer Beware had an entry on Helium.com you might want to check out also.

http://accrispin.blogspot.com/2007/03/victoria-strauss-helium.html