Confessions of a Former Digital Sharecropper

Don't put all of your eggs in one basket, especially when you do not own the basket.Publishing online using free web platforms can become a severe drain on productivity. The time and effort involved in creating a webpage can be lost if the site owners decide to impose massive and abrupt changes. Just as sharecroppers did not own the fields they worked in everyday, online publishers on free sites (digital sharecroppers) risk the same kind of abuse of their labors by investing most of their time on web platforms owned and controlled by others.

Making investments on rented space can be asking for trouble. Copyblogger refers to this “the most dangerous threat to your online marketing”. He discusses ‘digital sharecropping’ , comparing such site owners to landlords who ‘are fickle’ and may simply fade away, leaving you in decline. Owners of such free sites benefit greatly from your free content and can make drastic abrupt changes that leave you out in the cold.

squidooWTF.lisa.howardAn Example of the Risk: Squidoo Drops Bomb Seth Godin simply dumped those who had published on Squidoo for many years. The publishing platform had lost clout with Google and members were aghast at the recent instability of the site. Constant changes during the last year the site was live were met with concerns that were ignored. Seth Godin established a trend – like it or leave! And eventually HE left – sold out to HubPages during the summer of 2014.

The point to remember is this… Investing too much focus on websites that you do not own is risky. Some like Squidoo and Posterous are now dead. Other free revenue sharing sites include HubPages, Wizzley and others where writers can post content free. The practice of ‘digital sharecropping’ also includes social media sites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest or Google Plus. They can be powerful puzzle pieces, but you do not own them. The primary part of an online business needs your control.

The Silver Lining in the Calm after the Storm
As a long-term Squidoo member, a high level of ‘trust’ there has been established with other writers. Most have adjusted priorities, have learned the hard way that with such free platforms, control over our online work is significant. Lessons learned and moving on, with healthier focus. The ‘silver lining’ is the networks, the relationships formed over any years in many cases is still strong.

Sure, Squidoo and other free web platforms – including social media – (ie.’digital sharecropping’) are effective sites that serve a purpose as a part of a big picture strategy online. Use them, but do not allow them to use YOU! The point is not to rely on free sites, to avoid putting all your eggs in one basket because you do not own the basket.

Instead, give priority to those web properties that you DO own and control (like WordPress sites). Another possible option to consider is Weebly, since the modules there can be built in a very similar way to the Squidoo platform, with no need for coding or html. Some who just gave up on learning WordPress found Weebly to be a viable option.

Can You Relate? The lure of such ‘free websites’ is strong indeed! How much of your time and effort is spent publishing on free web platforms? Have you ever suffered a severe attack on productivity due to changes to a free web platform?

Carolan Ross

CFO(Chief Fun Officer) at SoloSpark
Freelance writer, creative soul, solopreneur and former teacher who networks with rebels, visionaries, artists and other square pegs in round holes. I support solopreneurs with copywriting and juggling life and business to SHINE ONLINE!


    • says

      Yes, Google is an ongoing puzzle to master, but their recent changes were mostly aimed at those who attempt to trick the system with keyword stuffing and/or creating pages with very little unique content. Those who avoid that kind of thing had little to worry about.

  1. Virginia Allain says

    I went through the major upheaval that eHow created when it closed its writer’s compensation program. They did make buy-out offers to the writers and I felt my 5 figure offer worth turning over all my content. Others found theirs too low and hastened to move their articles.

    Fortunately I was already trying out Squidoo and never looked back. Unfortunately the events you describe have cut my income on Squidoo by over half. Discouraging indeed.

    I’ve chosen to hang in and try to roll with the punches because of the labor it would take to move the huge number of lenses I have.

    • says

      That’s interesting, Virginia, I didn’t know that eHow offered a cash buyout to publishers there. I’ve also spent so much time and energy publishing at Squidoo for years that I’m not inclined to just close up shop there, although the income and traffic has taken a nosedive.

      While I do keep up with my main account with lens updates, etc. my efforts toward publishing new content will no longer be focused at Squidoo or any other site that I do not own. That was one tough lesson to learn. The silver lining in that dark cloud is the network of great people I’ve learned to appreciate along that journey, people like YOU! Thanks for visiting here and posting, really appreciate that.

    • says

      Yes I understand that completely, Virginia. I’ve moved some of the content but feel a fresh start is best. It has been discouraging but we live and learn. Best of all is that the networks of good people are still active. I’m very grateful for that.

  2. Wendy Krick says

    I couldn’t agree with your more. I learned the hard way. I earned a lot of money over the years at Squidoo and I’m still there, but now most of my earnings come from sites that I host myself so I don’t have to worry about big unexpected changes. Nice Post.

    • says

      Thanks Wendy, I learned the hard way too, but along that journey met some really great people like you and many others. It’s great to see that group help each other moving forward.

  3. jmchaconne says

    Great blog, I like the clean sharp look, and the layout. I hear you all the way. Thanks for your email help. I appreciate it.

  4. Lisa Howard says

    Free platforms definitely have a place and can perform a function, but you’re absolutely right that no one should put all their faith in a platform they can’t control. Diversity is the key to surviving on the web, and even then you can find yourself capsized very quickly by a rogue Google wave.

    • says

      Rogue Google waves…no kidding! I wasn’t hurt too much by the first two. Seems Penguin & Panda were mostly aimed at those using ‘black hat’ methods. But Hummingbird, now THAT one was a direct hit rogue google wave, ouch. We live in an era where the internet is growing and changing lives at such an enormous rate, which is exciting and yet google is the traffic cop in the midst of this avalanche pandemonium growth spurt. As much as we are totally frustrated with the search engines, being in that spot amidst such rapid growth must be insane.

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