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The Demise of Writing Sites: Bubblews, Persona Paper and Niume
Here's why the business models used by many writing sites lead to failure. I offer my opinion based on my background as a system analyst.
I am constantly updating this article:
• March 2017: News of Persona Paper's resurgence.
• May 2017: Niume will no longer pay revenue.
• Oct 2017: All content on Niume deleted Oct 2nd.
How I Knew Bubblews Would Fail
Bubblews has been a site that attracted people who wanted to write about anything with a minimum of 400 characters. It was founded by Arvind Dixit as a blogging site that paid a penny for each view.
Despite the fact that many of us kept reporting spammers, they continued to favor the people who couldn’t write a complete English sentence. This attracted a lot of spammers who gamed the system.
Other problems kept cropping up, such as server outages and system crashes, not to mention poor programming of the platform.
When things went wrong, they made quick, untested, fixes that added more bugs to the system. For example, in July of 2014 they upgraded the system without ever testing it. All of a sudden anyone who had more than one image in a post had lost all the text after the second image.
Many of us frantically edited our posts to put back the lost text before Google would drop our indexes due to empty pages. What did Bubblews do? They decided to remove the ability to edit and fix old posts, claiming that the people who were diligent at maintaining damaged posts were spamming the system by editing.
Bubblews is Gone!
In November 2015 Bubblews shut down without warning, but not before they changed their policy that gives them full rights to anything posted on their site and can use it as they see fit.
The pending demise of Bubblews became clear way back on December 18th, 2014 when Arvind Dixit posted “Bubblews has distributed over $1 million to date, considerably more than our revenues.” This clearly meant that they were out of money.
I am one of many who decided to stop wasting time on Bubblews. Shortly after they announced that they are reneging on paying redemptions made prior to November 2014, I deleted all my articles.
I am saving them for future use somewhere else. I may combine them to make future hubs here on HubPages. That’s a decision for another day.
I'm glad I deleted my posts when I did. Shortly before Bubblews shut down, they changed their policy stating that anything posted on their site is their property and they retain the rights to use as they see fit. Basically, they stole your work.
It was obvious that they never had a clear business plan and they were just winging it as they were going. As a businessperson myself, I could see right through that.
I have a management background and I had coordinated programmers in two large nationwide corporations. I would never have allowed implementing programming changes without testing. Yet, I saw that happened time and again with Bubblews.
Every time they tried to fix one thing, they kept breaking something else. I remember when they created a bug that lost half the text and all images after the first. Then they removed the editing feature so no one could fix these errors in their posts. They never fixed that! It was left that way. I would never keep programmers on staff that messed up as they had.
Good programmers test their code thoroughly. And managers check to be sure it’s working. Professionals don’t write code without a well thought-out plan. I didn't expect Bubblews to survive.
I’d rather write on a site that functions on a professional level. It’s hard to find anything else that matches the integrity and professionalism of HubPages.
A Business Model Destined for Failure
I see all the new sites using the same payment structure. Why they all chose to use the same procedure I do not know. But I find it interesting that this seems to be becoming a trend.
Bubblews and Persona Paper had a payment model whereby they committed to paying earnings before they even know what amounts they will be collecting. They created their own algorithms whereby they pay per view, per comment, or other user actions.
I think this is a business model destined for failure. And in the case of Bubblews, it attracted fraud. I can’t forget how Arvind Dixit, CEO of Bubblews, stated that due to a “ridiculous amount of fraud” they would not pay those of us who followed all the rules.
In addition, Bubblews discovered that certain countries did not bring in any revenue. But they committed to paying funds anyway, which put them in a bad position with the Better Business Office.
After I, and many others, had registered complaints with the BBB, they asked Bubblews to explain why their failure to honor redemptions owed to users is not applied to just those users who acted in a fraudulent manner.
Bubblews has failed to respond to the BBB. Here is an alert on the BBB website when you search for Bubblews.
On March 26th, 2015, Bubblews accreditation was revoked by BBB's Board of Directors due to failure to eliminate the cause of complaints.*
Bubblews Stole Our Rights
If you deleted your posts before the policy change, as I had done, then you still have rights to your work in my opinion, since you posted in good faith under the preexisting terms of service.
Many things they have done were fraudulent and many of us have records on file with the Better Business Office about the fraud and payments still due to us. So I doubt he can even sue for rights anyway.
Failed From the Start
Persona Paper is a writing platform that is oriented around writing short pieces. Their mission is to provide a platform for sharing thoughts, experiences and knowledge.
The problem I see developing is that many people write about their daily lives. I see posts such as one person who writes about waking up, having breakfast and walking the dog. What’s the point of sharing that? I’m surprised to see people following her. But Google finds no use for that and it hurts the ranking of the entire site.
When I first discovered Persona Paper I considered it a site that works well in conjunction with HubPages since authors can use both: HubPages for more involved articles created with research and Persona Paper for short posts when one simply has information to share that doesn’t require much background.
Persona Paper was started on March 1, 2014 as a Sole Proprietorship by Ashley (&Ashley). But after receiving a promotion that involved a lot of traveling, his close friends Heather (&MaeLou) and her husband Will (&elitecodex) took over the management of the business.
They had a difficult start and did something to have their AdSense account canceled soon after they began. This doomed them from the start.
This only affected mobile users, but when I reported it, management said they didn’t have the resources to buy an Apple iPad to check on this.
This was one of several red flags about Persona Paper that began to unfold.
Payment Based on Ad Revenue Exchange Rate
They pay in virtual coins that are presently worth $0.0015 per coin. The value of the coins is based on an exchange rate that is adjusted in relation to the ad revenue.
The plan was that users can either cash out once they reach $20 worth of coins, or they can leave it in their virtual bank and let it grow.
Two coins are earned for each unique view and one coin for each comment we write on other people’s posts. Nothing is earned for likes or comments received from others. I find this to be a unique concept that is designed to avoid hackers and spammers from gaming the system.
One can appreciate the value behind this concept. I don’t think Persona Paper will ever be plagued with spam or with fraudulent activity because of these decisions.
The beauty behind the fact that we get paid for commenting is that it motivates people to engage with the author of articles. Comments need to be well written with at least 30 characters, not just “Nice Post,” which is unacceptable.
Zero Tolerance Policy
Plagiarism is not tolerated and is closely monitored. Accounts are deleted if duplicate content is found.
They also carefully enforce the proper crediting of images used from other sites. When posting, one needs to complete an "image credit" section. Even our own images need to be credited - to ourselves.
The Owner Didn't Care to Rid the System of Malicious Code
Persona Paper was run as a Sole Proprietorship by a married couple in Florida. Heather (&MaeLou) and her husband Will ( &elitecodex) began the website on March 1, 2014.
I noticed that Persona Paper was not careful with system programming. Will is a programmer and he seems to be the only one maintaining the site, so he didn't have the means to fully test his programming.
I’ve reported a number of problems to Will. The worst is malicious code used by one if their ad agencies that redirects readers with Apple mobile devices away from the site to force mobile reader to see their product, like it or not. They use a known browser exploit that is in Apple mobile devices.
Will’s answer about the malicious code was that that particular ad agency pays the most ad revenue and they need to keep it. I consider this a poor business decision. One has to wonder why Google banned Persona Paper’s AdSense account in the first place, which is why they need to use all these other ad agencies.
I later discovered, from a poll I ran, that the malicious code only affects people with Apple mobile devices. I never run into it on my desktop. But both Will and Heather say they don’t have an iPad, or any Apple product, to test this. That’s their excuse for not fixing it.
I guess they were also clueless because they see that most people who responded to my poll didn’t have a problem. But they missed the point that my poll was directed towards other authors. Authors tend to write on a desktop or laptop, not on a mobile device.
In August of 2015 both Heather and Will, the only people running the site, were nowhere to be found.
Persona Paper Owners Disappeared
I expected Persona Paper would continue on a path of growth as a wonderful place to write.
But with little attention to solving problems with malicious ad agencies and the fact that they have no money to run the site professionally, I changed my mind.
My conclusion became clear in August of 2015 when both Heather and Will, the only people running the site as a family business, were nowhere to be found.
Many users posted articles about their failure to get a response from wither of them.
Persona Paper As of September 2015
Finally on September 5th, 2015, Heather posted a message stating that they both became very busy with their personal lives as an excuse for not being around.
She basically was saying that they had no time for the site, as I infer from her statement.
Then Will also left a comment saying they are discussing their options about how they will be moving forward.
It was at that time that I knew they wouldn't be around much longer and I stopped writing there.
On September 7th Will (&elitecodex) posted a detailed explanation of the present state of affairs with Persona Paper. Both he and his wife Heather (&MaeLou) have full time jobs and don’t have the time to commit to Persona Paper. Will also explained that they gave out more coins than they have the money to pay out. This sounds familiar to me. The same thing happened with Bubblews and we all know how they handled it.
It’s not a good business plan to commit to paying revenue BEFORE the actual residuals come in from the ad agencies. I just don’t understand why we are seeing more sites doing this after Bubblews proved the method fails.
Anyway, Will went on to explain that they are closing the gap and hope to accumulate enough payments from ad agencies in order to pay out what they promised. I guess time will tell, but I’m not one to trust the outcome and I don’t feel inclined to put effort towards writing on such a platform.
Will also explained “we aren't throwing in the towel just yet.” Even though they both have no time for this, he and Heather discussed the future direction of the site and came up with two choices:
- Pay out the money now to whom they can and shutdown the site. Or…
- Ask for volunteers to assist with day-to-day operations of the site such as help moderate spam and check articles for plagiarism.
I personally didn't like where this was going. Just ask yourself, would you trust spending your time writing and posting on a site run by two people who don’t even provide their last names and who don’t have the revenue to pay the bills?
Persona Paper As of February 2016
Persona Paper announced that they are shutting down just as I predicted. It was so obvious with two people admitting that they were too busy to run the business. They never followed up to fix bugs. They warned everyone five months earlier that they ran out of money. It was only a meter of time.
Unlike Bubblews, they at least had the courtesy to leave the site online for a short while so that people can copy and save their articles. I write all my content off line so I already have everything saved. But I did log into the site and delete what I had left, just to be sure the search engine indexes would be dropped as soon as possible. I might reuse them in the future somewhere else if I chose.
Persona Paper As of March 2017
Meg Learner purchased Persona Paper from Will and Heather last year to take over the entire business. As of today I see she is actively responding to issues. Even though she says the site is still not paying anything, she invites authors to publish new articles.
Maybe she will be able to turn things around. The timeliness of her response to another author indicates her seriousness in making Persona Paper a success.
I truly wish her luck. With all the latest changes by Google (such as the Fred algorithm) and the fact that the prior owners of Persona Paper had been banned from using Google Adsense, the task is not going to be an easy one.
When a writing site displays problems right from the start, it's important to consider that when deciding to spent time writing for that platform.
It's also important to observe how strongly the team on writer's site is willing to keep up with the latest trends with search engines and the Internet in general.
Notice how HubPages is constantly revising their methods to match the requirements of Google and other search engines. That is what's so important in order to remain profitable for both the writers and the owners of the business.
Niume – Gone!
Niume Shut Down as of October 2nd, 2017
Niume has always said it's a social network collaborative site. That implies that search traffic is not the focus. I took a look at Niume's XML sitemap, which is used to show search engines what pages to index. I discovered that they never included author's posts in that file. So the only way search engines could find the articles is through other social posts and links.
It’s sad that they never had a good business strategy, or maybe they just didn’t understand how to do it. They focused on building traffic via social media rather than search engines.
The problem with Niume is that they did not make the site friendly to search engines. The sitemap, which is a file search engines use, did not include Niume posts. Being a system analyst, I noticed that when I first investigated how Niume was constructed. I knew their days were numbered and I predicted their demise as I did with the others that are gone.
On May 26th, 2017, Niume posted in their official blog that they will no longer pay revenue for posts, but will leave the site up for those of us who wish to write without compensation.
As of October 2nd, 2017, All content on Niume will be will be deleted and the site will be shut down!
A Review of my Final Thoughts
All the sites that have gone out of business focused on accumulating posts (I can't even call them articles) that people wrote about any miscellaneous subject to their heats content. That didn't serve much of a purpose, and offered nothing that Google can use to provide answers to people's search queries.
A site needs to specialize in one subject and provide information written by people who have a demonstrated knowledge of the subject. It doesn't matter if they are specialists or simply experienced by being involved with the subject.
Nevertheless, even specialists will fail if they share their articles on a site among unrelated content. That's why HubPages is doing so well, since they broke up the material into individual vertical niche sites. And that's why I'm glad to be writing on HubPages.
© 2015 Glenn Stok