AOL CEO Tim Armstrong has a big goal for his newly-independent company: revitalize AOL by turning it into a bona fide content company.
A big part of his plan is Seed.com, AOL's recently-launched content platform. Seed.com essentially employs the same model as Demand Media, which relies on freelance writers and editors to create SEO-friendly content on a mass scale.
Unfortunately, if early anecdotes paint an accurate portrait, Armstrong might be hearing "you've got fail" when he checks his email. The reason? It appears that AOL is already having trouble executing as more than a few writers who have submitted content to Seed.com are reporting that AOL isn't approving or rejecting the articles they submit in a timely manner.
These reports mirror the experience of a friend of mine, an experienced freelance writer who signed up for Seed.com shortly after it launched publicly. I asked him about his experience and he agreed to provide some comments anonymously. His experience is quite the same: after submitting several articles to Seed.com a full month ago, they still haven't been approved or rejected. He not received any communication from AOL regarding the articles he's submitted.
The Seed.com Publishing Agreement specifies that articles will be approved or rejected within five business days after the assignment due date, so in fairness to AOL writers should know that assignments may not be accepted or rejected quickly in cases where the due date is a ways away. Unfortunately, this is problematic for writers. After all, who wants to wait a month to find out if an article is going to be accepted or not? Those who decide to participate are certainly incentivized by this to submit articles for assignments that are about to expire.
The issue for AOL here, of course, is that the content production model it has adopted with Seed.com requires speed. Demand Media, for instance, reportedly publishes thousands of articles and videos on a daily basis. Topics for assignments are based on an analysis of current search trends, ad prices and SERP competition. Cashing in on hot topics means that content has to be created and published quite quickly. Move too slowly and the model isn't bound to work so well.
The question is whether AOL is off to a slow start or whether it simply lacks the ability to execute. Obviously, it's still early on and I don't think anyone expects the new AOL to execute perfectly. Time will tell if AOL is just getting its sea legs under it or whether the company's dreams of becoming an online content powerhouse are just that -- dreams.
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