How The Huffington Post Silences Writers Without Giving Any Reason (A Summary)

I’ve been a Huffington Post blogger since 11-11-2013.

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And I’ve still got an author’s page on The Huffington Post site.

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View my archive now: John McElhenney on The Huffington Post

But somehow, The Huffington Post blog team has cut off my posts and blocked me from being able to login to the new publishing platform. Here’s the top of my archive today.

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And you will notice a long gap between my last two published posts in NOV. 2014 and my most recent publications on the new Contributor Platform in OCT. 2106. I had been allowed to publish posts since NOV. 2014 but not 1 of the 70+ posts I submitted got released to the blog.

I struggled with this loss in my publishing platform. I wrote letters to Arianna, the woman who invited me into the publishing platform in the first place. I wrote letters to Brittany Wong the woman who wrote a profile about me and my journey as a positive divorced dad. I wrote letters to the email address for corrections and issues from the blog team. (blogteam@huffingtonpost.com) And for two years I got nothing.

Then The Huffington Post finally made the transition to the new platform. And in that process I was given a credential to login and create my NEW account. Which I did on October 6, 2016. I updated my profile for the new platform. I got a new author’s page http://www.huffingtonpost.com/author/jm32austin-893, and was set up to finally rejoin the ranks of Huffington Post blogger.

And so I started out with a few posts in my sweet spot topics. Divorce and Health and Fitness. And to my surprise, the new Contributor Platform allows writers to push the post live without “editor” intervention. So all four of my posts went LIVE.

And once of them, the “Dear Ex-wife” post began to trend. Within an hour I had over 3,000 views directly from The Huffington Post. And they hadn’t even added me or promoted me in a section yet. The post was taking off in the generic posting on The Blog.

Of course, I was thrilled. I looked for another post, the last Brad and Angelina post, that I could throw into the stream to up my traffic. And BOOM. It was all taken down.

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And now none of my 2016 posts are live.

What could have happened? I speculate all the time.

  1. Someone on the blog team has suppressed my publishing back in 2014. (Without telling me why or giving me recourse to remedy my transgression.)
  2. My viral post was threatening to some editor so they took it down. And then proceeded to take all of my recent posts down, to complete the suppression.
  3. Someone on the blog team saw my posts, connected the dots with 2014’s suppression and re-killed my publishing platform.

In all of these cases there is a problem if The Huffington Post is attempting to foster a community spirit with their new Contributor Platform.

The kumbaya statement of community with the Contributor Platform looks like this,

“The community we are working to build here is one where diverse, vibrant and original ideas are celebrated and elevated. We welcome posts that embody that free-speech ethos, even when those viewpoints differ from our own.”

And then comes the hard part,

“We reserve our right to remove posts that abuse that spirit of community, such as hate speech, anything overtly commercial in nature and and posts that we believe may be attempting to mislead the public in some way. There may be other times when we will remove a post that has been flagged by our community for other reasons, including matters of professionalism and taste. We hope and expect those times to be rare and we will not take these decisions lightly. But in building this community, we respect the right of its members to be vocal about their objections. When those objections arise, we will leverage the sound judgement of our editors to determine what is best for the spirit of the space we’re trying to create.”

And yet there is no mention of the community of editors, the conversation that should be had around any removal or suppression. So far, even on the new Contributor Platform I have been suppressed, on all of my posts, and not given any explanation or justification for what went wrong. And I don’t expect my record is going to be any better than it was since 2014. Maybe they’ll open a new platform and give me a credential to login there, who knows.

Three Rules of an Open Community

  1. The community rules.
  2. The community can discuss the rules.
  3. Questions about the rules should be allowed and discussed in the community.

When you take out the third rule, you’ve created the same problem you had with the old platform. When editors can suppress writers and not give any explanation then there is no community.

I realise there are thousands of writers who are willing to write for The Huffington Post for free. I am one of those writers. And there a thousands more asking to be let into the community every day. But if you really want to create a community you need to have a feedback mechanism. We are people. We are part of the community. And we deserve an explanation when our post or our entire publishing rights have been rescinded.

I have never gotten any explanation or response in two years of requesting feedback. I lucked into a loophole when the new system was brought online. And then I am merely suppressed again, without explanation or response to my repeated requests for information. I’m guessing, from the comments on my previous posts about this issue, that I am not alone in this.

Dear Arianna Huffington Post and The Blog Team, your Statement of Community is just pretty words. Until you provide a mechanism for feedback and give all of your writers an opportunity to communicate with you, there is no community. You have created the idea of community while behaving like the same all-ruling dictator that we have come to know. Tolerance is our only recourse.

The message of your community becomes more transparently BS when you realise there are many writers that have been cut off without explanation, like myself.

I’d love to hear what happened. I’d love to know how to get my publishing turned back on. I’d love to know if you still value the 70+ posts that are still live and still generating traffic on your blog. I know you no longer value me or my voice. But I’d at least like you to tell me why.

Sincerely,

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth

Catch up on the entire Huffington Post story

PS: I’d love to hear your HuffPo shutdown story in the comments.

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Marketing on Facebook vs. Advertising on Facebook

LET’S CLARIFY A FEW IDEAS: A shared Facebook post about the value of a brand or a brand story is marketing. A Facebook ad trying to get you to buy something is advertising. They are similar but not the same. Let’s explore.

When McDonald’s advertises the Big Mac on Facebook they are doing something in between. They are not actually trying to get you to stop at McD’s for a Big Mac at that moment, that would be advertising. They are really trying to build the idea of the Big Mac in your mind. Make your mouth water, so the NEXT TIME you see the golden arches you turn in for a Big Mac and some fries.

Marketing – telling a story, sharing a brand experience, with the intention of influencing future purchases.

Advertising – buy now, click here to register, special offer now.

On Facebook you can do both. But of course Facebook is not intending you to be surfing Facebook while driving, so their intention is mainly focused on future events. However, with mobile advertising and mobile Facebook the lines are getting a bit blurred. I’d still offer that marketing on Facebook is what McDonald’s is doing. They don’t have to give coupons for discount fries. The fries sell themselves, so McDonald’s usually advertises or markets things in addition to the fries. Like “all-day breakfast.”

In my experience, there is one type of advertising that works really well on Facebook and everything else is really branding. Typical results from a boosted Facebook post.

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And because I know my audience, that 4.36% engagement rate is pretty high. Typical engagements range from 1 – 3%. In my demographic, women for this ad, here is my demographic breakdown.

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From this information I can see that no one over 54 or under 35 clicked on my ad. So I can tighten up the target a bit more. But this is branding and marketing. I am trying to build a readership and audience for my blog.

When we talk advertising the one WINNER on Facebook is the Mobile Downloads Ads. But of course these require two things.

  1. That you have a downloadable app.
  2. That your required WIN is downloading your app.

In this channel, Mobile Downloads,  I have seen engagement rates as high as 35%. That means that over 1/3 of the people who see the ad then click on it. The actual download rate then goes down, because not everyone directed to the download store on their various phones is actually going to then click the download button, even when the app is free. That rate usually dropped by 20%. So we’d get a solid engagement and download rate of 23%.

The last mile, for this company, was getting the user to actually launch the app and register with the company for the application to work correctly. This is where the drop off is more of a problem. At this point our WIN rate was about 7%.

So of an ad that produced a 35% engagement rate and a 23% download rate, we would end up with a 7% registration rate. Now if we dropped these numbers to the typical Facebook engagement rate of 2%, you can see where we’d run into serious problems convincing anyone to allocate dollars to a Facebook advertising campaign. Branding yes, advertising, not so much.

Know what you want to accomplish on Facebook. Pick marketing over advertising and see if you can come up with a mobile app version of your website (These can be created for free these days with 3rd party apps.) and you may have some real potential on Facebook. Otherwise, you’re building brand and goodwill, also valuable, but harder to justify in this competitive business environment.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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YouTube/Google AdSense Still Blocking Me

A month ago I started talking to the YouTube specialists about monetizing my YouTube videos. I thought I had made some progress even though I was being shuffled between different customer service managers for several weeks. Today I got my revised and same answer.

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So I hipped Adam to my previous history of “violations.”

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AND that did it.

He viewed three of the posts about my past problems with AdSense.

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And then sent this response. Um, thanks Adam.

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And while I asked Adam, “Why?” I’m pretty sure I’ve heard the last from the YouTube Team.

Thanks Adam.

Read the entire Google AdSense and YouTube saga.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

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An Open Letter to Arianna Huffington On the New Contributor Platform

Huffington Post has launched a new publishing platform. And for part of one day I was allowed, once again to publish my articles on single parenting. And then they discovered my post going viral and they killed my account. I’m still in some odd form of stasis. I’m still ON the platform, but I’m not able to load the platform. I’m guessing the company that admins the program doesn’t have an easy way to suppress authorised users. So today, when I try to load the contributor platform it goes into some broken load/reload sequence and never escapes until I quit the browser.

Here’s what that looks like:

If you go look, my new contributor page is still online: John McElhenney on The Huffington Post. You’ll notice the last four posts, if you try to load them will result in the following screen.

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Okay, so what can be going on here? Why won’t the Huffington Post Blog Team, the divorce editor Brittany Wong, or Arianna herself answer my question about why I would be banned from publishing on the new contributor platform.

Well, the entire idea of “contributor” only holds together if you look at their community statement. Here’s the little part they put in about removing posts from the new platform.

We reserve our right to remove posts that abuse that spirit of community, such as hate speech, anything overtly commercial in nature and posts that we believe may be attempting to mislead the public in some way. There may be other times when we will remove a post that has been flagged by our community for other reasons, including matters of professionalism and taste. We hope and expect those times to be rare and we will not take these decisions lightly. But in building this community, we respect the right of its members to be vocal about their objections. When those objections arise, we will leverage the sound judgement of our editors to determine what is best for the spirit of the space we’re trying to create.

That’s all fine and dandy, but if there is no recourse, no way to ask “What happened?” then they have violated the true spirit of an open community. Apparently the blog team has oversight on the new platform. So if ONE of my posts was flagged, why were all four of them taken down? If I was given publishing credentials, why were they taken away within hours of my first post? If I had a successful post on The Huffington Post why would you suppress that post, especially if there were no clear violations of your trust agreement?

Dear Arianna,

I know you are no longer involved in the day-to-day execution of the Huffington Post. While I applaud your opening the new Contributor Platform, and even your grand gesture in the Statement of Community that surrounds and empowers the new system, I am sorry to say, the lack of transparency is death to openness. An open community means there are channels for communication when things go wrong. If your blog team never responds to a contributor and yet continues to suppress that contributor’s writing, isn’t that a violation of your own statement of community?

When you say “we will leverage the sound judgement of our editors to determine what is best for the spirit of the place we are trying to create” don’t you think that information should also be made public? If the blog team suppresses material, shouldn’t they also answer requests for information about why?

If the Huffington Post wants to create an open community bounded by ethics and moral inclusiveness, they should not also engage in hidden and unfounded suppression of valuable and reasonable material.

I am optimistic that you will answer my question about why four of my posts were accepted, published, and then suppressed in a matter of hours. I am also optimistic that you will reinstate my publishing privileges, as you so warmly welcomed me to the Huffington Post publishing family over three years ago.

Yours Respectfully,

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Catch up on the entire Huffington Post story

Huffington Post’s New Contributor Platform

Here’s the statement of community from the New Huffington Post Contributor Platform.

Statement of Community

The Huffington Post’s Contributor Network is a forum for ideas, discussion and diverse viewpoints. We offer a state-of-the-art platform that can help you bring your work to one of the internet’s largest audiences.

Be interesting, be entertaining, be provocative, have a point of view – but do it with a great respect for the readers and writers who join you on these pages. The community we are working to build here is one where diverse, vibrant and original ideas are celebrated and elevated. We welcome posts that embody that free-speech ethos, even when those viewpoints differ from our own.

We reserve our right to remove posts that abuse that spirit of community, such as hate speech, anything overtly commercial in nature and and posts that we believe may be attempting to mislead the public in some way. There may be other times when we will remove a post that has been flagged by our community for other reasons, including matters of professionalism and taste. We hope and expect those times to be rare and we will not take these decisions lightly. But in building this community, we respect the right of its members to be vocal about their objections. When those objections arise, we will leverage the sound judgement of our editors to determine what is best for the spirit of the space we’re trying to create.

All good and fine until you cross some invisible boundary and are silenced without so much as a peep about why, how you can get reinstated, or what the fuck happened. For over a year now, The Huffington Post has allowed me to POST on their internal publishing platform, but then have refused to go live with any of my content. This is while 75 or so posts are live and gaining traffic for the site on my profile page. I still get traffic from The Huffington Post every day.

But then HuffPo moved to a new platform.screen-shot-2016-10-11-at-1-50-32-pm

And the Contributor Platform was born. And last week, I used my credentials in the form above and was promptly given access and publishing rights to once again go-live on The Huffington Post.

Here’s my new contributor page: John McElhenney on The Huffington Post

There’s only one problem. When you go to the first four posts…

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So my question is this. What happened the first time and why didn’t the blog team respond to my 10, or so, requests for further information? What happened this time and why was my account suspended just as one of my posts was generating significant traffic? I’ve asked Brittany Wong, my old Divorce editor, as well as the blogteam@huffingtonpost.com to explain what’s happened, and to help me correct the problems so I can get back to publishing on The Huffington Post. My guess is I’ve fallen into some “contributor” slush pile and they simply ignore all requests from these “former” contributors. But why wouldn’t they come out and say that?

The statement above gives them the right to take down anything that is found too offensive or commercial. But none of my posts were self serving.

It seems to me that someone on The Blog Team at the Huffington Post has suppressed my publishing rights. Then in jumping to the new contributor platform my credentials slipped through the cracks until that same someone noticed a post of mine going viral. Someone shut my posts off, all four of them, and they have never given me cause or reason for doing so. And in the spirit of community I would think that would be the least they could do. If you’re going to have a spirit of community, you need to be transparent about the rules and allow for questions. Then you answer the questions so the entire community can read them and abide by the updated marching orders. When the information is suppressed everyone suffers.

I’m going to continue to ask the “team” what’s up with my contributions. But I may eventually have to sue The Huffington Post to get an escalation that will get me an actual answer. But I don’t want an answer, I just want to have my publishing turned back on so I can add to my HuffPo archive. Doesn’t seem like too much to ask, in the spirit of community.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth

Catch up on the entire Huffington Post story

Huffington Post SNAFU, Again?

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981 in one hour. That was a big hour.

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my stats are still growing

Today was a great day. Today I logged into the old Huffington Post publishing platform and was given the opportunity to open a publishing account on the new platform. I jumped at the chance and spaced my four posts out over the morning. Putting one in each of my main categories. Single Parenting, Divorce, and Health. And everything looked great until after lunch.

At that time one of my posts started to take off. I was like a kid in a candy store. I was so excited I took this screencast video of my stats going wild.

And just as I was getting excited about it. I was blocked again. Shut down. Killed. And the post that was trending showed (shows) this.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/57f65846e4b087a29a5487bc

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I’m concerned mainly because I had been shut out of publishing on the HuffPo platform for over a year without any explanation. I tried sending emails to blogteam@huffingtonpost.com and even the Divorce editor brittany.wong@huffingtonpost.com but never got a single response. What gives? So today I’m back ON and I start to show results and I’m banned again? I sent this letter to the blogteam.

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And while I don’t ever expect a response, my posts are still showing as LIVE on my HuffPo author’s page.

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I’m sure we’ll get to the bottom of it. I’m not sure we will ever be told what happened, or why I’ve been banned and am now apparently banned again. For legal reasons (that’s got to be it, right) they are not telling me anything. I’m holding my breath, however, because the thrill of seeing my blog blow up was very nice.

And now my Facebook shares look like this:

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I’m sad, but not surprised. I’ll be surprised if I get ANY response out of Brittany or the Blog Team.

UPDATE: This evening I’m afraid to even try and login. My account is in some sort of unstable mode where the site flashes on and off. Here’s the log-in screen.

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And what the “Statement of Community” says:

Statement of Community

The Huffington Post’s Contributor Network is a forum for ideas, discussion and diverse viewpoints. We offer a state-of-the-art platform that can help you bring your work to one of the internet’s largest audiences.

Be interesting, be entertaining, be provocative, have a point of view – but do it with a great respect for the readers and writers who join you on these pages. The community we are working to build here is one where diverse, vibrant and original ideas are celebrated and elevated. We welcome posts that embody that free-speech ethos, even when those viewpoints differ from our own.

We reserve our right to remove posts that abuse that spirit of community, such as hate speech, anything overtly commercial in nature and and posts that we believe may be attempting to mislead the public in some way. There may be other times when we will remove a post that has been flagged by our community for other reasons, including matters of professionalism and taste. We hope and expect those times to be rare and we will not take these decisions lightly. But in building this community, we respect the right of its members to be vocal about their objections. When those objections arise, we will leverage the sound judgement of our editors to determine what is best for the spirit of the space we’re trying to create.

Let’s see if the community will respond with an answer to my entire set of posts being taken down.

UPDATE: The mystery continues. This morning when I log-in my account is in some possessed form of code hell. As if they were blocking my account, but didn’t do it correctly.

John McElhenney
@jmacofearth (also seen on Google+: jmacofearth)

Catch up on the entire Huffington Post story

Sorting through the Marketing Data

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We’ve just gotten started and we’re averaging 300 hits a day. That’s good. We’re going to get better. Right now we are sorting through all of the marketing data and posts of the last 7 years. We’re building indexes to help you find what you’re looking for. Again, thanks for your patience, we understand it’s hard to find what you need in our current state.

The plan is to keep refining the Active Media Academy for the month of October and then go to a paywall system of $2 per month for all you can eat. We hope you enjoy the free month of October, and we are open to any questions or suggestions about how we can make this site better.

Stay the course.

JMac – Oct. 1, 2016.