Helium.com

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Helium.com, Inc.
TypePrivately held corporation
IndustryInternet information providers
Founded2006
HeadquartersAndover, Massachusetts, USA
ProductsCitizen journalism, User generated content
 
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Helium.com, Inc.
TypePrivately held corporation
IndustryInternet information providers
Founded2006
HeadquartersAndover, Massachusetts, USA
ProductsCitizen journalism, User generated content

Helium.com, Inc. was founded in 2006 as a Yahoo! Answers-style website created from user generated content paid on a revenue sharing model. Over time the site evolved from short answers to longer articles, and began to offer writers the opportunity to earn from selling articles as well as passive income. The sale of articles to businesses and publishers is now its primary business, although revenue share still exists.

It is now owned and operated by RR Donnelley.

The site underwent a major redesign in late 2013 and has split into separate websites:

- Helium Content Source - a custom content provider for businesses and publishers

- Helium Network - a publishing portal for writers, enabling them to submit articles for sale to Helium Content Source or for revenue share on the 360º websites (below)

- a suite of 26 theme-based websites branded as "360º" (e.g. http://FineArts360.com)

Helium Network - Writing for the 360º websites[edit]

Through the Helium Network portal, members write articles for the theme-based 360º websites based on titles provided by Helium. Multiple articles may be written to the same title. All articles in a given title are rated by other members in a peer review system, similar to social news sites like Digg or Reddit.

Articles are grouped under their 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 member can submit only one article to any one Title, but multiple members can write to the same 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 before it is offered.

Several quality checks are in place. All new articles are vetted by Helium's Editorial Advisory Board team, New Article Review System (NARS). Additionally, there is a "Fact Checking Team" which fact-checks articles reported by members or visitors. 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. There is a flagging system which enables contributors to report plagiarism and otherwise poor articles.

There is also a sophisticated rating system, which determines the order in which articles are listed under the title. The details of the rating algorithm are confidential and author details are not shown on the rating screen, to prevent bias or attempts to game the system. When rating, two articles 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. Each time a new article is posted to a title, the rating process is repeated.

Revenue[edit]

Helium earns income through AdSense and pays a share of the revenue earned by each article to the writer of that article. The average rate is between USD 1.25-2.00 per 1000 page views, but is dependent on the rates being paid by advertisers to Adsense, which varies considerably depending on the nature of the product and competition between advertisers.

Revenue 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.

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)

History[edit]

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 originally pitched itself as an alternative to Wikipedia.[1] For writers, Helium's marketing focused on the opportunity to earn passive income in perpetuity. Then Helium began to enter partnerships with publishers, enabling writers to compete to sell articles to those publishers.

Over time the minimum word count has increased, from 100 words to 200 words and finally, to the current 500 words.

Partnerships[edit]

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 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.[2]

Technology platform[edit]

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. More recently, new features have been developed using Java and the Ruby code base is considered legacy.

References[edit]

Notes[edit]

RR Donnelly buys Helium.com http://www.businessweek.com/ap/financialnews/D9O0GCR81.htm