We've Got Hollywood Covered

Associated Content in Bed With PayPal?

What happens when a writer for so-called content mills cannot get paid?

associated content logoThere has been much talk lately of Yahoo's acquisition of Associated Content, as well as content mills and the effects of content farming on "real" journalism (however that term may be defined these days, as even the most altruistic publications have let the occasional yellow article slip through editing).
While I maintain that the First Amendment applies to everyone, whether they hold a union card or not, what happens when the writer on these sites cannot get paid?
Associated Content does not pay as much as Demand and other brands, but it does have a user friendly interface that gives writers more options of what to write about. Although content goes through the editorial process for up-front payment, writers don't get the benefits of editorial advice like on other sites. If AC accepts your article, it makes an offer.
I have experimented with several different styles of writing at AC to see how the writing cycles go. I have written research articles, aggregated news, op-eds and creative writing. The articles sometimes go through cycles, depending on what's hot on Google Trends and what people are using for keyword searches at the time.
Therein lies the problem.
AC promises that you will get performance pay for every page that is viewed, whether your article is accepted for upfront payment or not. (Not a lot, but once you get your catalogue built up, you get consistent page views and they add up)
Enter Paypal.
Paypal is not quite a bank and not quite not a bank. Associated Content puts money into my Paypal account. Money can be used to pay online expenses, have it deposited into your bank account (If you are so inclined to give them that information). Paypal also offers debit cards that you can deposit your money onto, or they also offer to cut you a check. (All for a fee of course.)
But what happens when Paypal decides to neither pay you nor be your pal?
I recently changed addresses and when I tried to get Paypal to send me a check to the new address, it sent some type of alert signal to their security system that put a hold on my account. My account is frozen.
When I contacted Paypal about the problem, the company told me to fax a copy of my driver's license, a copy of my Social Security card and proof of my address in the form of a "qualified" piece of mail. (Remember, they also have the electronic code for my bank account).
Against my better judgement, I sent this information. I was told that I would have an answer within five days. That was almost three weeks ago, and my account is still frozen.
I have tried to call Paypal on the phone, but the number seems to have a busy signal lately. I have emailed to which the company says it will respond within 72 hours but that has been about a week ago. Meanwhile, my money stis in its bank account collecting interest…
So, I figured that since Associated Content makes its money off of content providers, perhaps there is an alternative means of payment. If there isn't, then perhaps they would be able to do something to help me out with Paypal. Here is the email exchange:

Paypal has put a hold on my account and won't give me my money. They requested that I fax them a copy of my DL, my social security card and proof of address. I did all of this 2 weeks ago and still have not heard anything from them. Does AC have a department to advocate for things like this? If not, do you have the information to the proper authorities to report them to? If I end up closing my account with paypal, how will I receive future payments from AC? I enjoy writing for AC and am beginning to make some progress in getting paid for my work, if Paypal will give me my money. Please help me to resolve this issue with them. Thanks"
Here is AC's response:
"We don’t have any interaction with PayPal regarding customer service issues on their end. We also can’t give legal advice regarding the authorities. We can only pay you via PayPal so if you want to continue to get paid by us you will need to keep an account open. Thank you."
If I want to continue to get paid by AC, I have to keep an open account with Paypal.
What happens to my "royalty" agreement if Paypal cannot work this out with me? Interesting…

Heather Ann Angel is a freelancer in the Tampa Bay area, finishing up a journalism degree. First published in the Erie Times at age 16, Angel is the author of numerous children's stories, teen novels and film scripts. Check her out at www.associatedcontent.com/heatherannangel