While some people might still equate AOL with that ridiculously antiquated CD-Rom that came in the mail, hideous dial-up noises and the phrase “You’ve Got Mail!” from their childhood, the media company has been working to reinvent itself in the last several years as a major producer of Web content. You may not even know it, but some of your favorite Web sites are AOL-owned, such as Urlesque, Stylelist and, yes, even TMZ…along with 67 other niche sites.
The company has also been hiring teams of freelancers to produce original content for its sites at a time when most media companies are cutting back, putting them in a unique position: AOL can produce original news without having to aggregate it from other sources. (However, despite its hiring blitz, AOL is still seeking to trim about a third of its staff in order to cut its budget for the new year.)
And now it’s time, says AOL’s CEO Tim Armstrong, to start raking in the cash from this production after its split from Time Warner next month, through the use of an automated system that will tell editors and advertisers which content should draw the biggest audience.
While this all sounds like a new, inventive way to both produce news and give jobs back to writers, it comes at a cost: AOL sites’ advertisers, who will have a large role in what is being placed on the pages they pay for. Not directly, AOL promises, by overseeing the content, but marketers will be able determine how much freelancers will get paid. PaidContent.org suggests:
“AOL will using the forthcoming site Seed.com to coordinate article assignments among its 3,000 freelancers. The new system will also help determine how much freelancers get paid, as it predicts how much marketers might pay to advertise on a particular article…The automated tracking system could also mean that AOL’s freelancers make additional money. technology predicts marketers will pay to advertise next to their articles or videos. The predictions of what an advertiser might pay ranges from zero to over $100.”
So no, editorial on AOL’s website won’t be dictated by advertisers, though you might want to keep in mind the products sponsoring your site when writing freelance for the company, at least if you want to get paid.
AOL to Produce News, Videos by the Numbers –Wall Street Journal
Previously: AOL Still Hiring Journos As It Cuts Staff