For those of you unfamiliar with the site, Mahalo has a TON of content much of which is written by hundreds if not thousands of writers. These writers HAD been working under a revenue sharing model which meant if their pages did well, they got a cut of the Google AdSense profits.
Naturally this was an appealing model for many writers, as an article written today could turn into a passive income source for years to come given how well Mahalo ranks in the search engines! Not a bad gig right?
Just one problem… Mahalo has decided to end the revenue sharing program effective June 30th.
They’re not closing it off to new writers, or even closing it off to new articles. They’re ending the entire thing.
So writers who have put in countless hours of work creating content for the site, will no longer earn the income that was promised them.
Where I’m from if someone doesn’t pay me the agreed upon price for my work, I call that stealing.
Jason Calacanis, Mahalo’s founder, has responded to the criticism of this move in several places. Unfortunately, none of the responses actually address the fact that his company is stealing money from the pockets of the very people who helped build his site.
Writers Will Earn More
Jason’s first defense is that this model will actually help most Mahalo writers earn more money. While that might very well be true, it still sucks big time for anyone who wrote content under the old agreement. Calacanis in fact admits this saying “The small number of folks who had the killer revenue pages are going to be disappointed.”
Calacanis’ admission that Mahalo will be “disappointing” writers with high revenue pages is astounding given his vehement denials of the allegations.
The Writers Wanted the Change
Jason claims they did this “because 19/20 writers voted in favor of getting paid a flat rate over revenue sharing.” While that could also be true (I’d be interested in seeing where that vote took place), it doesn’t change the fact that ALL Mahalo writers are no longer receiving the payment they agreed to when writing the content.
The Content is Creative Commons
I’m not sure why or how, but Calacanis somehow got it into his head that this whole issue was about what license Mahalo uses for the content. The license Mahalo uses has absolutely nothing to do with the agreement between Mahalo and the writers creating content for them. Let’s move on.
These Accusations Are Lies/False
Calacanis has responded in several different places stating that the accusations being leveled against Mahalo are “lies”, “false”, and just made “by one person who is upset we changed models.” In one tweet he pointed me towards a Mahalo post about the change asking me to check the facts. Unfortunately for Calacanis & Mahalo the blog post announcing the change only supports the allegations against them.
They ARE ending revenue sharing, and they AREN’T offering writers any alternative. That’s the accusation being made, and Mahalo’s own post doesn’t do anything to dispute it.
And, throwing doubt on Calacanis’ claim that these accusations are being leveled by “one person,” a Mahalo question page was created by a different writer than the one mentioned in David Porter’s post which brought the issue to my attention. While someone at Mahalo attempted to silence the critic by deleting the post, the magic of the internet and a quick screen shot by @neyne preserved it.
And if that’s STILL not enough to convince Mr. Calacanis that several writers are upset about being ripped off, this comment on Mahalo’s own post was deemed helpful by over 25 other Mahalo members!
That certainly doesn’t sound like it’s just one rouge writer causing trouble for Mahalo.
This is an SEO Conspiracy
Just about any time Mahalo is criticized, Calacanis claims it’s just a bunch of angry SEOs trying to get back at him for criticizing the profession several years ago. While it is true that many of Mahalo’s critics are SEOs, I personally could care less what Calacanis has to say about the industry. Stealing from hard working writers just to improve his bottom line, now THAT I have a problem with.
A Way Out
Obviously Mahalo has a right to pay new writers however they want. If new writers are willing to work for peanuts and a copy of Calacanis’ self produced rap album (I’m making this up folks) that’s fine by me.
However, these writers produced content under a specific agreement and that agreement should be honored.
I’m no lawyer but Mahalo’s actions certainly seem to be a breach of contract.
Instead of treating the very people who built his site like crap, I would urge Calacanis and Mahalo to honor their initial agreement for all articles created under those terms.
If they’re absolutely unwilling to do that (I suspect some pages are making way too much money for Mahalo to be open to that idea) let the writers take their content elsewhere.
No, this isn’t going to help the writers replace their lost income. But at least the content wouldn’t have been stolen from the writers. Mahalo could easily replace the content with new, residual free content without losing much if any income.
Note: Lest this post appear one sided, I’ve extended an offer to Calacanis to be interviewed as a part of this post. I’m not holding my breath on that one, but if he, or anyone else involved feels like chiming in, I’ll make sure to keep you all up to date.
Update: Calacanis has agreed to be interviewed (see above) and also states that Mahalo was “clear from the start that we might change revenue sharing if it didn’t work.” I would certainly like to see the documentation supporting that claim, and I’ll be sure to address the issue if/when the interview happens. Stay tuned!