What’s a content site? It’s a website where people can post their work for the public to see and, often, earn money for it. (I blogged about the resurgence of content sites a few months back, with a focus on Associated Content and its unfavorable Terms of Service). There’s a growing number of such sites, each with a different focus and remuneration method.
Helium (“Where Knowledge Rules”) employs peer review plus a (patent pending and supposedly cheat-proof) ranking engine that decides which of its member-posted articles are the most useful. There’s also a payment system. According to the What Is Helium page: “Sure, Helium is an outlet for the writer in all of us, but it is also a place where you can earn not only the adoration of your peers, but money, too! We want you to be part of the success here. Helium shares a portion of revenue with you. Every article you write is an asset which can earn you revenue—into perpetuity.”
Perpetuity sounds good. Unfortunately, the Helium website is sparse on details. According to the fine print of the user agreement, “Your earnings are directly related to the number of your articles and the quality of your articles, as determined by other Helium writers, as well as the popularity of the subject and the corresponding advertising value to our sponsors.” Nowhere on the site, however, could I find a clear description or breakdown of exactly how this works, or what writers might expect to earn. In fact, the clearest discussion of earnings is the FAQ page’s description of a quasi-pyramid scheme whereby Helium writers who bring in new members get a “bonus” of 5% of those writers’ earnings.
Apart from this, Helium looks okay–it seems easy to use and its Terms of Service aren’t any worse than those of other content sites (and better than some).
So should you join? Whatever floats your boat–but don’t do it for the cash. As with other content sites, I suspect that the average Helium member won’t get much more than a pittance. No doubt there are exceptions–but for most writers, content sites are not the way to go if you want to earn income from your writing.