Ah, the eHow UK clone issue still won’t go away. Well, actually it would, and quickly, too, if eHow would answer one simple question:

Do they pay writers for profits generated by eHow writers’ US articles cloned on the eHow UK site or not?

For a single, breath-holding moment yesterday, it appeared that eHow Community Manager, Rich Noguchi, had finally answered the question posed by members on eHow forums after five weeks of waiting for a response.

Only he didn’t.

He responded, but he did not answer the question. The following question was posted on eHow’s forum on 11/5/2009:

“Maybe this has been discussed, but I can’t find mention of it:
1. Do we earn money for our articles on eHow UK?
2. If we delete an article/video from our eHow library, is it simultaneously deleted from the eHow UK site?”

Rich posted this reply on 12/14/2009:

“1.  We have our own algorithm so it’s based on that.
2. If you delete articles on the US site, yes, indeed your articles will be removed from the UK site.
May I remind you that the UK thing is not what could be attributed to your decline in earings.  Some folks are not even complaing about this, but you should remember that it is the holidays and usually earnings tend to drop during this period.  Thanks.

Um…okay. First of all, the deleted articles question had long since been answered in the same thread by the person who asked it.

Secondly, the original question did not mention a decline in earnings. But some members did question in this thread whether their lower earnings could be related to this, so that is why he addressed it. Sort of.

And yes, Rich has a point. AdSense earnings do historically tend to drop across the board during November and December for non-holiday and product-related content.

However, to state unequivocally that not sharing the profits with writers that they have generated for eHow’s UK clone site, “is not what could be attributed to your decline in earings [sic],” is a stretch. Especially when one considers the fact that these cloned articles on the UK site DIRECTLY COMPETE AGAINST the writers’ own original articles for search engine traffic.

Rich’s response to whether writers are paid for their clones is a non-answer: “We have our own algorithm so it’s based on that.” Huh? Okay. No one is asking for the secret recipe for Kentucky Fried Chicken or Coca Cola here, (and even they list their ingredients).  The consumer usually has the right to know what they are being asked to ingest. But apparently, not with eHow.

Here are the known eHow Clone Wars facts:

1. eHow UK was launched the first week of August, 2009, according to data from Compete.com.

2. eHow US articles and user profiles are cloned on the eHow UK site, but the Google AdSense ads on the UK site are different than those shown on their US counterparts when viewed seconds apart. (The advertisers may overlap, but the ads are not cloned or fed from the US site to the UK site.)

3. eHow UK article links frequently appear in search engine results immediately following eHow US article links, but for for different articles. This happens more often when long-tail keywords are searched and there is less competition from other sites.

For example, when the title of today’s “Top How To” on eHow, “How to Get the Whole Family Around the Tree,” is searched in Google, the first result at the top of the page is for that article. BUT the second result is for that article’s category on eHow UK, “Family Building Basics,” followed by a sub-result of the title of an otherwise unrelated article on eHow UK, “How to Get Your Oprah Fix.”

Do you think any searchers looking for an article about how to get the entire family around a Christmas tree without Grandma killing their unemployed boyfriends, will instead click the “Oprah” article? Considering that the original article’s title is listed under the description for the Oprah article, it’s realistic to assume so. Searchers see that description and they know they will get two articles with one click. And Oprah’s name is always a draw.

Are you an eHow writer? Do you optimize your articles, and work hard to write them well? Do you do any keyword research in advance, and write thoughtful titles? I hope your answers to the previous two questions are affirmative, or you’re missing out on earning the money your articles could provide you with!

If you are an eHow writer who invests time and energy into writing for eHow for the residual income opportunity it offers, then eHow’s UK clone search results can significantly reduce your articles’ earnings potential.

You do the research, you write the articles, and eHow uses that work to compete against your original articles with non-paying clones on their UK site. I’m not saying that is their specific intent, but it is certainly the result.

I don’t know what Demand Media’s (eHow’s parent company) intent is. I do know that their CEO has announced that he may soon offer public stock, and I do know that this eHow UK clone has the potential to increase eHow’s value ahead of any such offering, especially if they do not compensate writers accordingly.


Oh, and the eHow UK site, after being live for more than three months now, still does not allow UK members to join and write articles!

Yes, it’s fair to say that assuming eHow does NOT pay writers for its UK site profits they generate is jumping to conclusions. But being “led” to conclusions is more accurate.  And if eHow/Demand Media DID intend to share these profits with writers, wouldn’t they announce it with fanfare, like they announced their new “Android” app feature? Compare the size of the UK symbol on the front page of eHow with their Android announcement and judge for yourself.

eHow’s reps avoid answering the question for five weeks, and then when the controversy refuses to lie down and die, they respond with, “We have our own algorithm, so it’s based on that.”

Really? Okay. Our investment in eHow’s bottom line, and whether it will help us pay the bills this month, is none of our business.

This response seemingly refers to eHow’s terms of use that writers agree to when they sign up, that stipulate eHow does not have to reveal what percentage of ad income they will pay you for your contribution to their bottom line. Or whether their “secret compensation recipe” is even based on ad income, page views, or a combination of both.

It appears that eHow chooses to honor merely the “letter of the law” and to disregard the “spirit of the law.” And they are free to do so (apparently), but writers are also free to leave eHow. In droves. But the rub is, it’s a hardship for many whose articles have “aged” and gained favor with  the search engines. It’s a hardship for those writers who built the eHow community, and who have led other eHow writers to success by offering the hand of experience and friendship. And thus many of these writers remain, in hopes that eHow will get their act together, fix the publishing glitches, compensate them fairly, and communicate openly.

So eHow, whatever happened to good faith? And how about a little transparency–you know, a simple, direct answer to the question: Do you or don’t you share the increased profits that you presumably generate when you place ads on cloned eHow writers’ articles on your eHow UK site, and those articles compete against the original articles in the search engines? Yes or no?

And thanks in advance for clearing this up for us, eHow, so we can all get on with the business of writing and publishing outstanding content together and enjoying–or at least feeding our families with–the residual income profits from ALL the fruits of our labor.

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