Helium is a multifaceted writing and publishing operation that I recently discovered. As their website states, Helium exists to help you "learn what you need, share what you know." I asked Helium President & CEO Mark Ranalli to take part in a blog interview and he graciously agreed. Here's what he had to say about the organization:
JW: How did you wind up creating Helium and what's your long-term goal for the site?
MR: Helium's founding mission was to bring order to the chaos of user generated content. The explosion of content being created on the Web is awe inspiring, yet it has been missing a structure. The traditional publishing industry, despite many of its short comings, has succeeded for thousands of years. This system established credibility, orchestrated distribution, and established standards of quality. Helium's objective is to empower its community to replicate many of the assets of the traditional publishing industry, such that it can help launch a citizen journalism industry.
JW: Helium's Marketplace site is where content publishers are posting their needs for articles and other short-length works. It looks like much of this is for online content. Are you starting to see traditional magazine and even book publishers utilize the Marketplace? How do you see this evolving?
MR: We are very excited about Helium's Freelance Marketplace. We are seeing interest from publishers from all spectrums of the publishing industry. Many of the early adopters were online publishers, but we are seeing an every growing body of more traditional publishers start to embrace our solution. Through our Marketplace, we have provided content for a number of high end print magazines, we have sourced material for books, produced corporate marketing material and product descriptions, and most recently, we've begun to partner with a number of newspapers.
JW: Your site mentions a proprietary peer review technology. How does this system differ from the typical peer review model that other sites/services use?
MR: Helium's rating engine is at the core of our offering. Helium has created a true meritocracy. Our rating engine is designed to elevate quality, not popularity. Helium's rating system pulls from both peer review and relative ranking.
JW: Who owns the rights to material that's written through Helium? Are the rights determined by the paying publisher or is there a blanket set of terms that applies to all works on the site?
MR: Content rights are very straight forward with Helium. Our members retain all rights to their content that they publish on Helium. The only exception are the articles that are purchased through Helium's Freelance Marketplace. With Marketplace articles, the member is fully aware of what rights they are assigning to the publisher, which only transfer upon payment. The most typical rights transfer through marketplace are for exclusive publishing rights to the content, although in some cases, our publishers are only requesting First Rights, and in some cases they are requesting re-naming (ghost writing) rights.
JW: Is there a typical earnings model new members tend to follow? I know it's hard to generalize on this, but some prospective authors would probably like to know how long it typically takes to see an income stream. Are new members finding that it's a creative outlet that's a labor of love or do they frequently find they're generating income much sooner than they originally expected?
MR: Earnings on Helium cover a wide spectrum. Like anything in life, you get out of Helium what you put into it. Helium's underlying brand promise is that we will always share our advertising revenue with our writers. As Helium continues to grow, the pool of advertising revenue we share will continue to expand. Today, we have writers who have built up a portfolio of a few hundred articles on our site. These members are earning upwards of $50 to $100 per month for their body of work, and will continue to do so. Other members focus their energies on our numerous weekly contests, and are earning weekly prizes that range from $5 to $75 per contest. For those writers who are most interested in writing for the money, Helium's Marketplace is putting a lot of money in our writers hands. Last month, one of our writers earned $1,300. This isn't bad for a part-time passion.
I believe the most valuable reasons for joining Helium are to build skills, to be recognized, to participate in a massive community of people who are seeking to share their knowledge and to have their voices heard and to express themselves as well as possible. One of our most recent announcements is the creation of Helium’s Journalism Awards program. Through Helium, our writers have the ability to win journalism awards for the Pulitzer Center, the Knight Center for International Media, OneWorld, Foreign Exchange, and several other organizations. Additionally, the National Press Club has extended application offers to all of Helium’s 5 star writers. Through Helium, citizen journalists have the ability to be fully recognized for the value they bring to the broader journalism industry.