I've been contemplating for weeks whether or not I should tell my story about Today.com and finally realized after reading some of the posts on their forums by newbies that I should get all the facts out there so that new bloggers are able to make informed decisions about whether or not they should be blogging with today.com
I joined up with them in September of 08 after seeing an ad on Craigslist. At that time I knew absolutely nothing about blogging. When I saw that they paid $1.00 per post for two blogs plus $0.02 per impression I thought well, why not give it a try. So, I signed up, got my two blogs A Poets View and My City By The Bay. I took my blogging very seriously and posted daily. It was like a job for me. I must say that I learned alot from all of my fellow today.com bloggers in the forums. I was always able to get a quick response by other bloggers to my questions. Admin, half the time ignored what they did not want to answer.
In the beginning it was great. My traffic was steadily growing and I was gaining readers each day. I loved writing on the San Francisco blog because it allowed me to be a tourist in my own hometown. It was fun. Then, Today.com decided to change the blog templates to a universal one. I didn't like the idea but went along with it. Then they decide to implement their advertising program. The rates in the beginning were very low at only $4.99 to advertise on any blog for the entire month. This was before they made it public. I admit I thought it was a great idea so I went ahead and bought advertising on some of my favorite blogs including my own. What they did not tell us was that after a months time the rates could skyrocket. When I found out I immediately wrote to them and told them I could not afford those ridiculous rates. I got an email from them telling me that the way it works is that once we buy the ads they will stay in effect until either I or they decide to cancel them. Which basically told me that they stay at the original price until someone else buys them at a higher rate. I knew then, that they could not be trusted.
The new advertising guru HP had told me before this happened that he would be talking to me about being partners with him in the revshare program. When I let all the ads cancel after the month's end, I never heard from HP again.
Then they come up with the affiliate program. Again I thought well why not? It's a way of making some extra money. So, I implemented affiliate ads into each post, which by the way I did not enjoy doing because I didn't want my posts to look like I was selling something. Not to mention, on my San Francisco blog all the affiliate ads for tours, attractions etc... were way overpriced in comparison to actually being in San Francisco and buying tickets and I felt bad about that but again, I did what they asked. I also realized that there was really no way for me to see any stats on these affiliate ads. We had to just go by what Today.com told us. I made one sale for eight cents.
Then comes the Entrecard debacle. I had a problem with a virus from an EC ad at that same time Today.com banned them. Then, they decide not to ban them but threaten if we allow any paid ads our accounts would be closed. The whole thing was ridiculous.
We've always been told that traffic from Google pays the $0.02 CPM well I can tell you for a fact that they are lying about that statement. For almost a month I didn't post on either blog or advertise them. My stats showed traffic only from Google and the amount did not add up to the $0.02 they claimed. Not only that for some reason they disabled Google Analytics so we could no longer track the stats - a second red flag for me.
In March, Today.com gives me the Editor's Choice award for my A Poet's View blog. Of course I'm thrilled to get that and I'm thinking how wonderful they are and even write a post about how they are the most wonderful blogging community around. The day after, that same blog is taken off PPP. I'm obviously baffled as to why so I write asking what's going on and of course, no response. I write again and I'm told that quote "It's just A Poets View and not on My City By The Bay." That didn't really answer my question but I left it at that.
During this same time I do a copyscape search on both blogs as I did on a monthly basis. To my horror I find that since middle March each and every post on my A Poets View blog had been scraped to include not only the text but the photos and affiliate links as well. The text was somehow altered so that it was not verbatim and the posts were on at that time five different blogs. They are now on eight different blogs all located in Russia. I totally panicked, did not know what to do so I wrote to admin. I heard nothing, I wrote on the forums pleading for help and of course I heard nothing from admin but did receive some good suggestions from fellow bloggers. I wrote again to admin and they told me quote "thank you for bringing this to our attention." I would think that since Today.com owned the content they would help in resolving the issue but did nothing. I issued a cease and desist order which I found online but of course they plagiarists ignored the order and there was really nothing more I could do. I blogged about the plagiarism and received many comments including one from another Today.com blogger who mentioned that there was another blogger on Today.com who was posting scraped content from the Washington Post website on pasting it on her own blog at Today.com. A day later I get an email from Admin telling me to delete that comment because it "looked bad" for Today.com I hated censoring a comment but I deleted it.
As a result of the plagiarism I no longer could stomach writing on A Poets View blog any longer so I stopped. At the same time I noticed and began reading about all the bloggers who were locked out with their accounts and being closed for speaking out in the forums. When I heard that I decided that I no longer wanted any part of Today.com.
I checked my stats and realized that I would just make the $50.00 payout for the month so I would wait to do or say anything. Then, as we all know payday is the 10th of the month. So, on May 8th, we all receive an alert while looking at our VIP stats that if we made $600.00 for the year we would have to send them a w9 before we were paid. Well, because of that award I received and the fact that I was still on the PPP for My City By The Bay, I reached that amount. So, on Friday the 8th, I download the w9 in it's entirety, fill it out, sign it and mail it. It was being mailed to PA from California so it would not take more than three days to arrive. I contact them on the13th and they tell me they don't have it. We go back and forth with emails and by this time you have to realize I do not trust anything they say or do so I finally tell them if I don't receive my pay NOW I'm contacting my attorney. They write back and tell me they are sorry I feel this way but they cannot pay until they receive the w9 because they are now based in the USA as opposed to being in Canada. Long story short and I know, I'm sorry this is so long, I tell them that I will send it again and if I don't receive my pay by the 22nd - can you say lawsuit? I then decided since I don't have a scanner I'll take a photo of the w9 and email it. Seconds later, I receive an email from accounting telling me the funds have been deposited.
I then write a post on My City By The Bay blog redirecting everyone to my new blog. I get an email from Today.com a few hours later saying my account was closed. I checked My City By The Bay blog and they deleted my post redirecting everyone to my new blog. I knew they were going to do that.
I'm sure there are some points I'm forgetting here because there were so many things that happened. However what I know now is that having your own blog with the freedom to do and say whatever you want far outweighs any pennies you will receive from Today.com. I do however have to thank all the help I received from my fellow bloggers there.
Also another point I want to make. The latest in their advertising "schemes" If you look at any of their blogs you will see green highlighted words which are basically links to websites that are selling you something. The bloggers obviously had nothing to do with these ads. They were implemented by HP in advertising.
That's my story and I just wanted everyone to have the facts. It is so nice to have my own blog, with my own ads even if all I get is pennies a day with AdSense. I know it will grow and I feel so much better about not having to "pimp" my blog for Today.com's greed.