Sunday, January 17, 2010

Commentary on the eHow UK Debacle

As most of you are aware by now, eHow 'cloned' 'mirrored' or 'copied' (no one can agree on a term and eHow doesn't like the term 'cloned') the US site and launched it in the UK. Along the way, they turned the 'laws' of SEO on their head and made it so that UK content outranked the US site. All of sudden earnings, mine included, were in the toilet.

If you are not familiar with SEO, the way Google is supposed to work is by recognizing the original publisher of content and ranking them higher than scraped duplicate content. Somehow eHow scraped writers' articles and then outranked the original writers on the US site. They basically subverted traffic and revenue to the cloned site.

To make things worse, eHow denied and denied and denied that there was a problem. Only through the persistence of a few vocal writers did eHow finally investigate and admit the UK site was the root cause of the earnings drop. eHow then agreed to remove US scraped content but that has yet to happen.

Now it's members against members--arguing amongst ourselves like a dog chasing a tail. One faction of members are afraid if writers make too big of a stink that eHow will shut down the Writers Compensation Program (WCP).

The other faction is, rightfully so, pointing out that if they hadn't spoken up, eHow wouldn't have done anything and one of the premiere passive revenue sites on the internet would've ceased to be profitable for writers. So kudos to the people who stood up and pushed and jumped up and down until eHow finally paid attention.

None of the writers making money off of selling ebooks spoke up against eHow, which is interesting to me and it is one reason why I have not signed up for any affiliate programs. I don't want my income sources to erode my ethics. I'll use a referral code here and there, but that's about it (and I never make money from those anyway, although I keep hoping!).

Ultimately, pushing eHow to deal with this issue is to their benefit in the long run (as well as that of the writers). If the company undermined the WCP to the point where no one made any money, I have to wonder what would happen to the site. Or the initial public offering they keep talking about. Probably not good things.

The reality is, if the WCP had been completely subverted by eHow's content scraping and mirror tricks, all the writers would've moved on to greener pastures, quickly making some other site the best new thing in revenue income. The influx of so many experienced content providers, would have further eroded the eHow brand while, at the same, time strengthening competitors.

Again, I say, it's really to eHow's benefit to remove the cloned content. The writers would've suffered in the short run, but would land on their feet in the end. There are waaaaay too many competitors looking to eat up eHow's market share for their not to be an influx of new opportunities. Competition is already happening without eHow helping it along.

But what about the Terms of Use (TOU) everyone asks. Well what about it? Yes, eHow can use our content as they see fit. Yes the TOU does say this, but I would argue there are some holes in the TOU. eHow is not completely free of liability here. Also, my personal expectation, would be some disclosure of how they plan/planned to screw over writers.

I would have never written for eHow in the first place if they had told me they were going to ever do what they did and I think a lot of other writers would've avoided them as well. It's one thing to use our content to build a distinct non-eHow brand elsewhere, another thing to use our content as a mirrored funnel that bypasses our accounts.

I would expect a new TOU to be issued as eHow works to rectify what went so horribly wrong with their UK business plan.

And make no mistake, this is a failure on eHow's part. They made some serious mistakes. I hope they take the time resolve them in a way that is equitable for all parties.

Lastly, eHow is still the best paying revenue sharing site on the internet. However, that could all change this year depending on the choices they make and what the competition does. 2010 is going to be a crucible for eHow. Will they burn or rise like a phoenix?


  1. As an eHow ebook author, let me comment that I took Nov.-Jan. off writing for the birth of my new baby in December. It's something I had planned for quite some time and it was a beautiful three months.

    Thus any silence on my part was due to being off-line and not up-to-date with the issue while enjoying my baby-moon.

    I've now taken the time to get caught up and posted my thoughts on my WAHM blog.

    In two and a half years of writing for eHow, I've seen earnings vary dramatically from month to month and a increase or decrease of 20% or more has happened to me several times as earnings fluctuate due to a variety of reasons.

    Perhaps the change in your earnings coincided with the UK issue, but was not entirely caused by it. Or perhaps the UK site caused the drop, completely. Unfortunately, there is no way to know for sure.

    My ebook sales could completely stop tomorrow and it would not be a concern to me -- the money is nice but frankly my honesty is much more important than book sales.

    As long as I believe in eHow's potential as a source of long-term residual income, I'll keep the book on the market. The day its viability ceases, I'll pull it.

  2. Suite101 mirrored their site for the UK at the same time as eHow. Almost every website that is of any importance is moving to mirroring their sites for other countries. It is part of global marketing. I wasn't crazy about the idea that we wouldn't get credit for our work on the UK site, but eHow has rectified that by redirecting links to the US website from UK users.

    The idea that the mirroring has caused decreased earnings is just speculation that I find unfounded based on my earnings history during my 2 years at eHow.

  3. My understanding is that Suite 101 not only mirrored their site, but also PAID their writers the additional earnings. BIG difference from what eHow did.
    Also, it is NOT speculation that the UK site affected WCP earnings negatively: eHow stated that as a fact on their video blog.
    For some people, eHow remains a viable source of long term residual income. For others those days have already passed. Their earnings have nosedived by as much as 85%, not 20%. eHow seems to have a few areas where a conflict of interest exists, and I suspect therein lies the problem.