Squidoo for HubPages
Seth Godin, Squidoo Founder
In my view...
Squidoo and HubPages, An Arranged Marriage
No need to worry. That sucking sound you hear is just 200,000 or so Squidoo articles being sucked into HubPages, metamorphosed into something called a “hub.”
Think about it. If you’re an abandoned Squidoo writer, you never will have to explain to anyone what a “lens” is, except for your glasses, and no one will call you that strange concoction of a word Seth Godin must’ve thought irresistibly clever — a “lensmaster.”
After all these years, I still can’t force myself to save that silly term in my dictionary, leaving it eternally underlined in red.
Today’s the day on which HubPages promises they will be ready to absorb the content from their long time rival, buff the content up, bounce it around a little and let it go live as a “hub.”
What should we expect, those of us who’ve never had HubPages content, those who’ve have both HubPages and Squidoo accounts, and HubPages writers who never created a lens?
Good news, I think, for the Squidoo writers leaving the ghost town their preferred writing site has become. Good too for writers like me who’ve long had accounts on both sites. Initially, the least benefit will accrue to writers exclusively on HubPages.
As welcoming as many have been and as much as the long term results are likely to help everyone, in the beginning, HubPages writers will be unsettled and forced to adjust to a huge infusion of new content, much of it competing with what they’ve already created.
The main thing HubPages writers will find troubling is a broad drop off in the overall quality of writing. No, that’s not because HubPages has better writers. It’s because more of them are primarily writers, something that is not and wasn’t the case at Squidoo for a long time.
Megan Casey, Squidoo Cofounder
How Squidoo Devalued Writing
When Seth Godin and Megan Casey launched Squidoo, they promised that it would be, like Godin’s books, a place to write about your passions. That mission is still all over their Terms of Service and other official documents, but for most writers on Squidoo, that intention was buried years ago.
I can’t tell you what color Seth’s and Megan’s eyes were when they launched Squidoo, but by the time I started writing there, all four were solid green. You know, the color of money.
There was a lot to like about Squidoo, especially the effervescent community and Megan and her staff’s endless ways to encourage and embrace their writers.
But when she wrote a post one day that declared, in essence, the only opportunity for making serious money on Squidoo was from Amazon and, to a lesser extent, eBay sales, I wondered if I’d taken a bad turn or if I knew where I was going the first place.
Adsense, she wrote, was never going to make many writers much money. This hit me in the pit of my stomach. Adsense sharing was the only way I was making anything online. The dribble I got from Amazon sales reflected my disinterest in pitching products.
But by then, floodgates that led to drowning the platform she and Godin started had already opened. Experts on jacking up online income were coaching anyone with a dime to spare to get on over to Squidoo and start making lenses. Whether you could write or not was pretty much irrelevant.
If you could copy and paste product descriptions from Amazon and elsewhere, that’s all you really needed.
That isn’t too say that everyone on Squidoo was creating nothing but catalog lenses, but enough of them were. I can tell you from my days as what was called a “Squid Angel,” charged with searching for great new lenses and giving them a boost, struggling to find anything not oriented around Amazon product sales was exhausting.
One after another, boring lenses about consumer products were piling up.
No wonder. It was clearly what Megan Casey and Seth Godin wanted. In fact, Godin stopped talking about Squidoo as a place to write about your passions. In a major interview, he now called Squidoo “a recommendation site.”
Squidoo Leadership Asleep at the Wheel
The drug, the soporific, was money.
Seth Godin and his team were not alone. Marketing content rapidly overwhelmed writing on most sites, but Godin and company were among the slowest to react.
HubPages, for example, clamped down on Amazon product links, requiring a minimum textual content to justify the sales and prevent the site from becoming Amazon and eBay by proxy. Wizzley and others did too. Eventually, Squidoo imposed a twenty link limit on Amazon, with no corresponding textual requirement. Including eBay made the limits on catalog style lenses virtually meaningless.
Meanwhile, with Megan Casey fleeing without advance notice to an unrelated website about dogs, Seth turned the reins over to Bonnie Diczhazy, a popular HQ team leader, just as all hell broke loose with Google.
Why, Google wondered, should searchers be sent to Squidoo for information they could easily get in a click or two on Amazon? Squidoo’s views plummeted. And why shouldn’t they? The average Squidoo lens offered about as much original content as a Saturday afternoon on cable television.
Led by Diczhazy, who weathered a ferocious roar of criticism that should have been directed elsewhere, Squidoo’s HQ team scrambled energetically to recover. Of course, there were oversteps and mistakes, but in an emergency like no one has seen before, trial and error is the name of the game.
In the fall out, many writers abandoned Squidoo in frustration. Others were shocked to find content that had been encouraged and rewarded one month was banned the next. One impressive constant was Diczhazy’s unwavering optimism and the wellspring of fresh ideas that came with it.
Honestly, I don’t think I could have hung in there as she did, at least not with her class and perseverance. One thing did puzzle me though, and it nagged at me. Neither Bonnie nor Seth or anyone else in leadership at Squidoo took the least public responsibility for the fiasco that cost so many of us big chunks of income.
There never was an apology of any kind. Even when he sold access to our content without consent, Godin portrayed it as his doing us a favor.
That, in retrospect, was a harbinger of things to come.
But I gave up on seeing any apology and, impressed by Bonnie’s performance, I made a decision to, not just stick with Squidoo, but to do what I could to help rebuild the platform.
Not much later, I was asked by Nancy Carol Brown Hardin to join her, Margaret Schindel and Ruth Cox in administering a Facebook Group called Squidoo Positivity. Our mission was to help reinforce Bonnie Diczhazy and her team’s efforts by encouraging others to create great content and to give them an upbeat place to land outside the still raging storm.
That’s where I sat, two-hundred new lenses later when Seth Godin dropped the news that we were all on our way to HubPages. You had to weed through the double-talk, but essentially he’d thrown in the towel, selling out to his more successful rival, the one with the courage to make painful changes.
What Does Squidoo’s History Mean for HubPages?
This history now becomes HubPages history, an absorbed legacy for which adjustments will have to be made. Hats off to HubPages for making the future look less painful than it might be. But I can’t imagine it will be that smooth or as much under HubPages control for long.
A good number of Squidoo’s best writers will not joining the migration. A lot threw up their hands and deleted their accounts in frustration in 2013 when Google stopped sending traffic to much of Squidoo. Among the reasons -
- It wasn’t profitable enough anymore
- They protested Squidoo’s handling of the crisis
- HQ blocked dozens, even hundreds of their previously flourishing lenses
- Trust in Squidoo’s long term survival was gone
Others left because they believed that Seth Godin’s selling of access to their content was unethical or even illegal. Some were so turned off by the transaction they deleted their content before the transfer, believing that going along meant approving Godin’s conduct. Perhaps most damaging to HubPages, in the long run, are those that deleted their accounts, denying the possibility of a transfer because they felt HubPages, by association, approved of Seth Godin and his team’s behavior.
So, after a good deal of the best of Squidoo has been taken out of the mix, what’s left is sometimes very good and, at others, weak and far from HubPages’ standards.
Over the next four months, as HubPages absorbs Squidoo, it won’t be entirely like putting a round peg in a square hole, but it will be close. Frustration will rise off the assimilating Squidoo content as certainly as dust raises from a storm. The cumulative personality of HubPages will permanently change.
It won’t be only the weaker marketing material from Squidoo that causes friction, although there will be plenty of that. Of those of us who decided to accept the transfer, a larger number are unhappy with what occurred. Trust will not be automatic.
Few will devote themselves fully to writing on single platform. Squidoo shattered the allegiance many of us had. Maybe HubPages can win it back. They are certainly trying and gaining some converts with their responsiveness and consideration, but just like when you lose your first love, it won’t ever be like that again.
But who knows? A mature love, informed by experience, might be even better.
The clock is ticking, and time will, as always, tell.
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© 2014 David Stone
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