We Test-Drive AOL's McContent Platform, Seed.com... And It Looks Good!

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AOL’s new editorial strategy is to complement its in-house writers and editors with content submitted by freelancers through a more automated publishing system called Seed.com.  We gave the Seed.com system a test-drive, and it looks good.

  • It’s easy to use with minimal steps necessary during the submission process.
  • It clearly defines and promotes the revenue opportunity for writers
  • It highlights topics likely to generate meaningful readership via search traffic.

Here’s a quick tour:

SEED HOMEPAGE EFFECTIVELY CALLS CONTRIBUTORS TO ACTION

The homepage does a good job of calling contributors to submit content without a lot of instruction reading.  It uses a lot of “call to action” graphics, which we believe will lead to more content submissions.

In addition, the layout highlights topics AOL feels will perform well (decided by the company’s algorithm and editors which scan its search traffic and browsing on its websites).

Finally, the design is classy and suggests professionalism, which we believe will encourage reasonably high-quality contributors to submit content to the site.

Seed Homepage

EASY SIGN-UP PROCESS

AOL needs to make the signup process as easy and intuitive as possible or it will lose writers that otherwise would submit content.

The signup process is surprisingly easy and only requires three pieces of information to start contributing. This should help drive the maximum number of contributors to sign up for the service.

Seed Signup

USER-PAGES PROMOTE REVENUE OPPORTUNITIES AND OPTIMAL CONTENT

Key to the company’s strategy is to make its contributors money and get them to submit content that will attract a wide audience.  The personal dashboard does this by clearly enabling contributors to follow how much money they are making and pushes them to submit optimal content according to the potential audience (monitored through search and surfing habits).

Seed Signup

SUMBMISSION PROCESS IS PAINLESS

There are just two steps between choosing to submit an article and publishing it, which should lead to more content submissions and ultimately published content.  In addition, for content that is unsolicited AOL recommends a price that the freelancer should charge the company for their work. 

The price is automatically generated on the submission page and is likely tied to the company’s search algorithm that looks for the most popular content of the moment.  As a result, the freelancer gets paid according to how widely read AOL believes the article will be, aligning costs with potential revenue.

We uploaded an article published by The Business Insider this morning and received a suggested price of $13.67.  The article has generated about 3700 page views on businessinsider.com thus far this morning.  So, assume:

  • 3700 page views.
  • 3 banner ads per page.
  • $10 CPM per ad.

According to the metrics above, the article we uploaded would generate about $110 in revenue, which is a nearly 90% gross margin (before overhead and admin costs).  If the seed.com system continues to align costs with revenue effectively it will be able to generate a significant amount of profitable content.

Seed Submission 1
Seed Submission 2

The Bottom Line: Seed looks good.

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