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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.

Photo credit: psd via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 7 January, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2401 more posts from this author

Comments (6)

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Gary Overton

I signed up for seed.com and one of my 1st articles was bought for $25. A few since have been rejected. I now have 12 waiting for either approval or rejection. Wanting to submit more but not doing anything until something happens

over 6 years ago

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Charley

Had one accepted in December, to be paid at the end of the month. At the end of the month the to-be-paid date was moved to the end of January. I've heard of a moveable feast, but this is ridiculous.

over 6 years ago

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Allison Taylor

Considering that Demand Media's eHow writers are up in arms about the company's refusal to admit or deny whether they pay writers for their copied content on the new eHow UK site, they may not be long for the virtual world, either. A quick view of eHow's forums (you have to sign up to see them now), will show you just how much trouble eHow is in. Maybe AOL should do some recruiting there, and speed up their approval process. If eHow had started out by approving articles before publishing them, they might not be facing the mutiny they have on their hands today. But that is only a small part of their problem.

over 6 years ago

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Rich Young

I've had similar expereinces and blogged about it today. The lack of response is frustrating. But the site itself needs a major facelift and backend overhaul. Quite surprised a tech company with such deep pockets has a somewhat bare bones platform. I do understand it's in beta so given a pass until they work out the bugs, etc.

http://www.lewis360.com/2010/01/aol-to-save-journalism.html

over 6 years ago

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Rich Noguchi

@Allison Taylor  Although we reserve the right to repost eHow.com member articles on Demand Media owned sites, our priority is to our valued community. Since we are unable to compensate our writers for their content on the UK site at this time, we are in the process of removing all member created articles from that site.   

over 6 years ago

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Tony Vahl

Sounds like a nightmare for a writer.

As a website owner and blogger for many years, I've gotten quite used to seeing my reactions to current events going up in real-time.  That's one of the beauties of the web. 

I understand MEDIA companies have deadlines and publish months ahead of time for print stuff and legit news reports, but ... I think the web is a little different.  I know I want to be freed from constraints.

I know I don't want to sit on an article I invested time and effort in for a month only to have it rejected ... and then what?  Post it on my blog once it's stale?

I hope Seed works out, since freelancers need avenues ... but I have my doubts.

over 6 years ago

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