Helium is pleased to say that our Fact-Checking Program is stronger than ever and having great success in the second half of 2009.

From Helium’s Lead Fact-checker, Amanda Fox:

The Helium fact checking program has recently reached its six month anniversary, and in that time many things have changed. Slowly but surely the “verified” icon is appearing on site to denote articles which have been vetted for accuracy. In a likewise manner some articles which failed to meet standards for accuracy have been upgraged to do so or removed from site to help raise the level of quality content on site.

Contrary to popular belief, fact checking is a true community initiative in which every Heliumite plays a role. It begins with authors who provide good quality content to be displayed. Those who take the time to do their research and provide solid knowledge articles are the key. The next link in the chain are all the Helium members who take the time to provide good flags for the fact checking team to help identify information on site which may not be correct. The final link is the fact checking team which then investigates each flag and pools their resources to determine the validity of the information presented.

Receiving a notice that your article has failed a fact check can be for some an unnerving experience, however there is no need to feel that way. Each notice will detail what information is in question, and provide an online resource to allow the author to investigate this as well so they can make a determination of what steps they will take regarding their article. An author may agree with the findings of the fact check team and make the noted correction. In some cases an author may disagree and chosse to contest the failure notice.

If an author chooses to contest a failure by contacting content@helium.com, they should forward the entire notice they were sent along with the reason why they feel their information is correct and any supporting sources. The information is then reviewed again by a third party and a determination is made along with an explanation to the author for the decision reached. The key to the entire process is communication between the author and the fact checking team.

As an entire community this is a program which can grow and thrive and be a major factor in what helps set Helium apart from all other writing sites on the web. Solid information people can depend on elevates the profile of Helium as a whole which benefits each of us as members and the visitors we attract. With each member doing their share of providing accurate content, taking time to flag incorrect information, and enlisting in the fact checking corps to help verify iformation, we all reap rewards.

Amanda and the rest of the fact-checking team have taken on a Herculean endeavor on Helium and the appreciation, as well as the angry emails, means the program is certainly working as planned.

Helium also recently heard from a member of a reputable journalism organization (we’re not able to say who and where at this time) who was amazed and delighted to hear that Helium was actually fact-checking articles like a reputable newspaper or magazine. The value added here, especially for the Marketplace and stock content program, is huge.

Couple this with the fact that Wikipedia recently started using a color-code system to convey how reputable the online editor/source is. According to Daniel Ionescu at PC World, “Starting this fall, text from new or questionable sources will be signalled with a bright orange background, while trusted authors will get a lighter shade … the more people view and edit new text on Wikipedia, the more “trust” the initial edits get, turning from orange to white.”

Helium is leading the pack of community-sourcing content publishers when it comes to creating a solution that verifies the content being sold is reputable and factually correct.

Here’s to another six months of fact-checking success!

Fact checking tip: If you see an article that is factually incorrect, please flag it for “Incorrect Information” and don’t forget to be specific about what informaiton is wrong within the article.

(Do you have editing or fact-checking experience? Are you a young magazine or newspaper writer looking for more experience? Maybe you’re a journalism student looking to get your foot in the door. If you want to become part of the fact-checking team, sign up today.)

So many sites, so many choices for writers…But what is the best writing site to share your time and talents? How do you choose. Here are some guidelines to help you decide.

The Internet has been the platform for change, but — even on the web — some writer websites remain behind the times: Their virtual fortresses hold writers back. Some distinguishing features that make Helium unique provide guidelines to help a writer answer the question: Where should I publish my articles?

  1. Are the benefits advertised to new writers just inflated promotional rates or earnings you can rely on even after you’ve been a long-standing member? You should expect your earnings to increase as you contribute more, not to decrease when you are no longer the new writer to recruit. Many sites offer promotional teases, but these dwindle after you get roped in.

  1. Is the site an attractive platform to display your photo, bio and online portfolio, or is your image cheapened by association with lousy graphics and site organization? Just like dressing for success makes a difference with first impressions, so wearing a professional looking site can enhance your writer’s portfolio.

  1. Does the site offer a supportive writing community and model responsiveness in the staff, or are you left on your own to try and make it? A supportive writing community and responsive staff add to your chances for success. You want to join a writing community and not just a group of writers dumping their content in a cold Internet cubicle. “It takes a village”…or — at least — others can help.

  1. Is the site structured and vested in promoting your writing, or will it simply warehouse your work? Having your work stuck in an Internet warehouse is nearly worthless. Finding a site with a strong enough page rank and energetic staff focused on maximizing SEO is your ticket to success. And does the staff share this knowledge to help its writers succeed? Research suggests that focusing on one site for publishing (or two at most) is sufficient. Publishing your work on too many sites can undermine your search engine rank placement. Choose wisely and don’t spread yourself too thinly!

  1. Does the site offer empowering opportunities to writers, or are you merely a servant to the “big house” editors? Look for a site where your expertise is valued, and where you can take ownership to develop content areas which match your knowledge/passion? Make sure you are not limited in the number of articles you can share, and that you do not have to suffer waiting periods.

  1. Does the site attract other publishers, partners and non-profit organizations so you have a broader set of choices for higher earnings and exposure? For example, Helium’s Freelance Marketplace (http://www.helium.com/marketplace?placement=13060) attracts 100s of magazine, newspaper and web publishers who contract with their members for articles they need, paying $35 to $200 per article. Helium.com also has exclusive partnerships with the Pulitzer Center for Crisis Reporting and One World, paying $125 per article. One World also features Yahoo exposure. Helium’s five star writers are the only citizen journalists who can apply for National Press Club membership. Members can also donate earnings to charities partnered with Helium.

As a writer, choosing a site as your publishing platform can be as confusing as choosing a cereal among the hundred brands lined up in a grocer’s aisle. Which one is best for you? Look for a site which heralds this new age — replete with complex carbohydrates and soluble fiber! Avoid quick sugar fixes that leave you depleted. Pick a writing site with lasting value.

Sites with heavy handed editors reduce your publishing freedom as a writer. Internally focused sites limit your exposure, whereas externally-focused sites with broader partnerships expand your exposure and earning opportunities. Sites with a vibrant and empowered writing community reflect well on the staff which supports it. A visually appealing site enhances your writer presentation. Make sure you earn more as you share more of your content, so you do not get stuck in a rut, leaving your valuable work on some isolated web island.

Choose the site which offers you a strong support to your writing and earning goals, one which does not erect fortresses to limit you.

If you’d like more information about joining Helium.com, email me directly: bwhitlock@helium.com.

Barbara Whitlock

Community Development Manager