For years, the contributor network has been seen as a proven way for publishers to grow quickly and cheaply. But that model is getting harder to prop up amid today’s emphasis on quality over scale.
Late last month, Bleacher Report laid off the last members of its user-generated content program, the final nail in a coffin they began building when Turner bought Bleacher almost five years ago. Last fall, The Huffington Post, which partly defined itself as a platform for unpaid contributors, launched a new content management system that prevents contributor posts from appearing in search results, and it does not integrate contributor content into new endeavors. Forbes, which has been using its contributor network to grow its digital footprint for years, slashed the amount it pays those writers at the end of 2015 and has started disclosing the fact that some of its traffic comes from contributors in its media kit.
It’s all part of a broader flight to quality among publishers who once pursued scale as far as they could.