||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (December 2009)|
|Type||Privately held corporation|
|Industry||Internet information providers|
|Headquarters||Andover, Massachusetts, USA|
|Products||Citizen journalism, User generated content|
Helium.com, Inc. is a website where active writers are paid for contributing articles, and visitors can read these articles for free. It is owned and operated by RR Donnelley. At Helium, user generated content in a given title is rated up or down by other writers in a form of peer review system. As with social news sites like Digg or Reddit, user ratings determine the rank of an article. In this case, however, the ones who rate are the writers, and multiple articles exist and compete in most topics. In turn, high-rated articles receive more page views and earn more money for writers. According to Alexa's website global traffic rankings, Helium.com's rank increased significantly during 2008-2010 and is now consistently better than 1300 internationally and better than 500 nationally as of September 2010. The site's number of users has grown from over 5,000 in October 2006 to 100,000 in February 2008. . In October 2013, the legacy Helium platform was closed down and replaced by a more SEO friendly site, HeliumNetwork.com
Members write articles on the Helium site in return for a share of the site's revenue (see below).
Articles are grouped into topics (called 'Titles'). Articles are arranged by categories and sub-categories ('Channels' and 'subchannels'). For instance, Creative Writing ('Root Channel') has sub-topics such as Drama, Essays and Satire ('Leaf Channels'). Each writer can submit only one article to any one Title.
New titles can be created by a Helium staff members or by a writer. If a writer creates a new title, it must be submitted for approval by Helium staff or member of the Editorial Advisory Board (EAB) before it appears live on the site.
In the past, writers had to write the first article when submitting a new title, however, it is now possible to simply propose a new title.
Articles written to existing or new titles are run through Helium's Editorial Advisory Board team, New Article Review System (NARS), and are vetted for quality. After review, they may be removed if flagged as inappropriate. Additionally, there is a "Fact Checking Team" which fact checks articles which are flagged by people who visit or are members of the site.
Articles within a title appear in ranked order. The ranking is achieved by the rating process, which is carried out by Helium members. The process is anonymous to avoid bias. When rating, two articles from a title are presented side by side, and members are asked to vote for the better article. This process is repeated until all the articles in a title have been ranked in order (although each rater is shown only a couple of "rating pairs" per topic to ensure a spread of raters within a title).
Each time a new article is posted to a title, the rating process is repeated.
It is a key prerequisite for members to perform at least 10 rates per thirty days at a good quality standard in order to earn income on Helium.
The rating algorithm is confidential to Helium, meaning that members are given only general guidance on what constitutes "good quality". This has led to many lively debates on the topic.
There is a flagging system which enables contributors to report plagiarism and otherwise poor articles.
Writers earn writing stars according to the number of articles they have written and their rank. Writing stars are essential to qualify for additional benefits including higher paid writing opportunities through the Assignment System (AS), badges designating them as Premier or "Marketplace" writers.
Helium has released in beta as of March 2009 a range of social networking features for its members. Members can discuss and share in groups and forums. Members can make friends and follow the Helium activities of their friends. They can send in-site emails to each other.
Helium has entered into partnerships with a number of non-profit organizations, including the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting and National Press Club (USA). The Pulitzer Center is sponsor of "Global Issues/Citizen Voices essay contest" aiming at engaging citizen journalists in what the center considers under-reported issues. The National Press Club allows the best citizen journalists among Helium's writers to apply for membership. Reportedly, it is the first time in the National Press Club's 100-year history that it has made outreach to a non-traditional news outlet.
Another example is the TV show Foreign Exchange with Fareed Zakaria where viewers could submit essays to Helium.com and the best essays would get featured on the TV show; but this has since expired.
Helium earns income through AdSense and pays a share of the ad revenue earned by each article to the writer of that article. The sum paid to the writer depends on the topic channel. The rate varies between USD 1.25-2.00 per 1000 page views and may be changed at any time.
Revenue share is paid to a writer only on days when he/she has a minimum of one rating star, which requires either 10 "quality" rates within the last 30 days or 30 "quality" rates within the last 90 days.
Income earned by articles from writers who do not have a rating star is distributed to other members.
Earnings vary considerably depending on the Channels and Titles chosen. The average article earns between 5 and 20 cents per month. Helium writers who perform better than this may have hundreds of articles on the site, and/or promote their work heavily elsewhere, and/or have considerable success in contests and the Marketplace (see below).
Writers are encouraged to promote their work by writing blogs linking to Helium, or posting links on MySpace, Facebook, forums, social bookmarking sites etc. This improves earnings but is labor intensive as each article must be promoted individually to have a significant effect.
Writers can also win prizes varying from $5 to $30 in Helium writing contests. Contest winners are determined by ratings and may also be impacted by the number of titles that a writer participates in during the contest.
Writers who achieve certain minimum standards can also compete to sell articles to publishers through Content Source (formerly Marketplace). These articles are not visible on the public Helium website. Helium takes a commission but passes the majority of the fee to the writer. Ratings are less relevant for Content Source since the publisher chooses their preferred article, and articles ranked in the 20's or 30's have often been chosen.
If an article is sold through Content Source, it is not displayed on Helium. The unsuccessful articles may transition to the main Helium site allowing writers to earn revenue share.
The final income opportunity is stock sales. If a Helium partner publisher likes an existing article on Helium, they can purchase reprint rights to it, usually for $5. The writer is notified of this purchase and the fee paid into their account.
All payments are made via PayPal twice monthly on the 15th and last day of the month. The minimum payout is $25. To be paid by the 15th of the month, payment requests must have been made by 23:59 GMT on the 14th. Payments for the last day of the month must be requested by 23:59 GMT on the day before the last day (29th or 30th)
Beginning life as HeliumKnowledge.com, Helium.com was launched in October 2006. Its original format was similar to Yahoo! Answers, with contributors answering questions with short, informative answers (the minimum word count was 100 words). The key difference to Yahoo! Answers was that the answers were ranked ('rated') by fellow members according to the value and quality of the information.
Helium itself felt it was superior to Yahoo! Answers and pitched itself more as an alternative to Wikipedia. This marketing approach persisted into 2007, even though by that time, a large proportion of articles on the site was devoted to personal memoirs, debates and creative writing.
For writers, Helium's marketing focused on the opportunity to earn passive income in perpetuity. Although the policy is generally that once an article is posted it cannot be deleted by the writer, there is a program that does allow writers to request articles be deleted based on their writing stars.
In the last two years,[when?] Helium appears to have changed direction, focusing on developing a community of writers and facilitating the sale of their articles through Content Source and elsewhere. Helium takes a commission on all sales which is reportedly outperforming their ad revenue.
There is a strong move towards quality[verification needed].
The minimum word count has increased, from 100 words to 200 words and finally, to the current 400 words. Poor quality and too-short articles are being culled from the site in significant numbers.
Writers need to achieve and maintain one rating star to benefit from the full range of rewards available on the site. Income is no longer truly passive, (although at this point, the work needed to maintain income is minimal).
The site now relies heavily on members on a volunteer basis. A Channel Manager is appointed for each Channel, whose job it is to monitor the Channel for quality and mentor writers. Article reviewers work on the culling of unwanted articles (see above).
In October, 2013, Helium.com rebranded as HeliumNetwork.com and introduced 27 microsites that each specialize in a particular subject area.
Helium was originally built with the web application framework Ruby on Rails which enables simple but powerful integration of database-driven dynamic content in the user interface. In the last two years new features have been developed using Java and the Ruby code base is considered legacy.
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RR Donnelly buys Helium.com http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9O0GCR81.htm
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