Following on the heels of the Yahoo Contributor Network, Allvoices.com purged its site of all content and removed its entire network of digital journalists from its system on August 18th. However, unlike YCN, which completely shut down its website on July 31st, Allvoices is continuing to operate with a smaller and more exclusive workforce and a completely different payment model.
In a letter to its citizen journalists dated August 8th, a mere ten days before shutdown, Allvoices characterized the move as a necessary evolution in the changing world of digital media. “Allvoices began as a way for citizen journalists to share their stories with a global audience. Our goal of giving everyone access to their own personal megaphone was cutting edge and changed the way people interact with events in their lives and the global community … As has been noted in previous community-wide emails, Allvoices will continue to evolve. The world of digital media is constantly changing and, in order to stay at the forefront, we need to change with it.” It went on to outline that all existing content would be removed from he system and all compensation for writers would be halted on August 18th, giving writers only 10 days to remove their content before its erasure. In addition, any writers who wished to write for Allvoices in the future would have to reapply.
Along with a site redesign, Allvoices announced at that time that they would be scraping the pay-per-click payment model that it had previously used to compensate its writers. It is unclear how it will compensate writers in the future, but its homepage mentions monthly prizes and special freelance assignments.
There were many factors which prompted this move, including changing guidelines from Google penalizing news stories with low-quality content, but Robert Weller of Digital Journal believes that the federal court decision against Allvoices in June 2014 regarding copyright infringement of images by its contributors may have provided the greatest urgency. In Oppenheimer v. Allvoices, Inc. the court dismissed its defense of safe harbor under section 512(c) of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA). Allvoices also had been the defendant in January 2014 in the case of Nat’l Photo Group, LLC v. Allvoices, Inc. for similar offenses.
The recent legal actions were the latest in Allvoices’ litany of problems, including persistent complaints about quality of writing and a community of citizen journalists that were unwilling to submit to editorial oversight. Other contributors blatantly ignored changing terms of service in an attempt to maximize page views and therefore compensation. Allvoices complicated payment system included not only pay per click, but also promotional efforts and active participation in commenting on other articles, so many contributors were more concerned with maximizing pay rather than providing quality articles. With such actions opening the company to legal liability, it seems that Allvoices had no choice but to exercise the nuclear option and start over with a smaller group of trustworthy individuals rather the inclusive group citizen journalists that it had founded its website to serve in the first place.
One thing has been made clear by this entire debacle, and that is many working writers will have one less place to write for and earn money based on the performance of their articles. It may represent the beginning of the end of the noble experiment of citizen journalism that does not serve the interests of governments and corporations. However, yeahstub.com and similar sites continue to use the PPC payment model and give responsible citizen journalists a forum to write what they love and earn money for it.