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Is Vocal Media a Good Website for Writing and Making Money?

by Michael Pitre 8 months ago in advice

What other creators won’t tell you—a brutally honest, unafraid, and data-driven review from a writer whose integrity is not for sale.

“It’s so *dreamy* here!”

After a month of writing at Vocal Media, there’s a lot to say, but I’ll begin with the indisputable facts: yes, you can make money using Vocal Media’s website. But, you’ll need to drive thousands, or hundreds of thousands of visitors to your published stories—if you want to earn a livable wage. Premium users make $6,000 per one million reads of their content.

And you’ll need to generate that traffic on your own, because Vocal Media is either incapable of doing it, or unwilling to do it for you. To date, there are no functions on the website that allow you to build a following within it. Their website’s communities, tweets and Facebook posts typically get very little attention, unless they’re advertising a big money contest.

My first contribution was chosen immediately as a Top Story and had pride of place at the top left of the home page - it doesn’t get better than that - but it still only clocked up 147 Reads, with another five since, netting me 91 cents in Reads payments so far.

—Author Jon McKnight

I’ll tell you more about the contests later—and issues the company may have with publicity—but for now, here’s the fine print:

  • You maintain ownership of everything you submit to the website, and you’re free to post the same stories on other websites. However, some Vocal Media members have said that they weren’t able to later remove their stories from the Vocal Media website.

You keep all the rights of your stories once they’re published—the copyright always stays with the creator. For all content published on our platform, Vocal also gets a limited license to do things like promote your story or share it on our social media, commonly known as “Universal Rights.” We’ll never share your story without crediting you properly, and we’ll never sell your work, or share the rights with anyone else, without your explicit written permission to do so.

Vocal Media FAQ

  • Your stories on the website are presented ad-free, as you created them.
  • As a “freemium” member of Vocal Media, you’ll currently make .0038 cents per “read” of your writing, with a $35 withdrawal minimum.
  • If you pay the monthly charge for, or otherwise obtain, a Vocal + membership, you’ll make .006 cents per “read” with a $20 withdrawal minimum. If you paid the normal cost of $9.99/month to subscribe, you would need to bring in 1,665 “reads” just to break even.
  • A “read” only counts if it’s more than just a click-through to your stories.

Reads are calculated by Vocal’s read algorithm, which takes into account things like time spent on the page, as well as how far down the page is scrolled.

Vocal Media FAQ

  • Learn about writing using Vocal Media’s editor here and how you can embed media and other links in your stories here.
  • ✅ All writing that you want to post on the website must first be reviewed by Vocal Media’s moderation team. The guidelines for acceptable content are detailed here, but the content that is rejected the most is religious content, followed by content expressing conservative views. Spelling and grammar errors are rarely a cause for rejection—which means you’ll need to check your own work, because Vocal frequently publishes poorly formatted stories. You can try their Beginner’s Style Guide to see how it should be done.
  • 🚫 Once your writing is published on the website, you cannot edit it unless you submit a request here.
  • 💸 Tips: Readers can leave $1, $2, $5, $10 or $20 tips on your stories, or your Vocal Media profile. Free users lose 7% of their tips to Vocal Media; Vocal + users lose 2.9%. ⭐️ Want to see who tipped you? Try looking in your Vocal Media wallet.
This ribbon, near the bottom of the screen, allows you to “heart” stories (if you’re a member of the website) and leave tips.
  • 💵 You will earn “bonus” money for your involvement with the website, including reading and “hearting” the stories of other authors, and for publishing certain amounts of stories—see the official explanation here.

Is Vocal Media a Website for Serious Writers? Can I Really Win Contests?

Of course, you’re going to see stories of wild success from some participants of the website’s challenges. Unfortunately, as many aspiring writers discover, Vocal Media’s primary function is not to reward great writing. There are a few reasons for this:

1. Vocal Media seems to care primarily about their relationship with high-paying clients, who come to Vocal to boost CTR (click-through-rate) to their websites. Vocal also primarily cares about their image to potential subscribers. Because stories on the website are ad-free, the revenue model for Vocal is split between gaining member subscriptions and partnering with brands.

The Vocal for Brands website describes a “creator’s” role on Vocal Media as:

  1. Being influential—having a large following
  2. Attracting readers to the website

Our communities are powered by influential creators and the stories they tell, attracting over 8 million engaged readers to the network each month.

Vocal for Brands

Because Vocal Media has demonstrated a focus on acquistion, rather than creation—of everything from assets and content to website traffic—as a member of Vocal Media, you’re valuable to the company in three ways:

  1. Generating traffic to the website
  2. Appearing to be conducive to the image of the website and its appeal to potential subscribers (attracting subscriptions)
  3. Paying for a subscription yourself

None of these things have to do with the quality of your writing, necessarily, and Vocal Media has shown itself to be quite frugal when it comes to showing creators that they have any other kind of value.

Fellow creators have found that Vocal’s moderation team doesn’t even bother to read the entirety of their submissions, often placing stories in the wrong category, or wrongly disqualifying them from contests.

❓(This may have something to do with employees being overworked in a toxic environment, but I’ll get to that later.)

In the days after the deadline for Vocal’s biggest contest, the Little Black Book challenge, author Michelle Pattison noticed that Vocal’s small moderation team—out of parent company Creatd’s Q4 2020 estimated 25-50 total employees—was supposedly reviewing thousands of stories per day:

I personally noticed on March 2nd there were about 6,500 stories published. In the next coming days, that number shot up past 12,000. I was not the only one to notice this, as a common question arose afterward as to whether all stories were able to be fully considered because of the short time frame.

Vocal claims to copy edit each submission for errors,

If it does meet all of our guidelines, they’ll copy edit your story, checking for things like punctuation, grammar, and typos.

Vocal Media FAQ

but I’ve even seen Top Stories—stories promoted by their team—left with uncomfortable errors in them. And at the rate that stories come in for review, with over 900,000 freemium members and over 20,000 Vocal + members, according to Vocal themselves, I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you think that’s really happening.

Ask Not What Vocal Media Can Do For You

Justin Maury, the President of Creatd (Vocal’s parent company) defined an ideal creator like this:

In asking, “Who is our ideal creator,” we’re really asking: Who is most likely to become a Vocal+ creator, increase their own earnings over time, participate in Challenges, work with Vocal for Brands on branded content campaigns, and ultimately attract new readers and potential creators to the platform?

Shareholder meeting, 2020

Let’s count the ways that Vocal is interested in what you can do for them, here:

  1. Who is most likely to become a Vocal + creator?” —who will pay for membership? First thing on the list.
  2. “...participate in Challenges, work with Vocal for Brands on branded content campaigns” —both the same as partnering with brands.
  3. “...increase their own earnings over time” —generate traffic to the website.
  4. “...and ultimately attract new readers and potential creators to the platform?” —generate traffic and give them a bigger number of creators to throw at investors.

He never said he was looking for fresh voices in science fiction, or the next Stephen King. The message is clear.

So, maybe you think, “That’s not so bad. I want to generate traffic to my stories, and win challenges too!” And it is, undoubtedly, an opportunity to get paid for reads.

And the challenges—well, Vocal Media has done some things they’re not proud of, and they’re gonna need you to look the other way and get your pom-poms out, because, most of the time, cheerleaders win challenges.

Seeking Influential PR Experts to Beautify Our Dirt

Vocal Media has attempted to signal an anti-Trump stance through such contests as “Goodbye Donald,” where the former president is depicted as a clown.

Vocal Media’s CEO, Jeremy Frommer, has also called Trump “a naive fool” in a NSFW story here on Vocal Media.

However, respected independent investigative journalist Murray Waas reported on the company’s involvement with former Trump allies like David Pecker and Michael Cohen, which only after—according to inside sources—failing to coerce a business deal with Pecker, did Frommer then write the article in which he chastized Trump.

According to Waas, Frommer also tried to suppress his reporting of the story, which involved Frommer seeking financial inducements from Cohen and Pecker in exhange for a Trump photo. “Wow,” I thought, “what kind of person does that?”

A business model that relies on coercion and deception isn’t intelligent. But then, they did it some more.

They Really Thought They’d Get Away With It

The website address omnireboot.com isn’t supposed to go to Vocal Media’s “Futurism” community. It was supposed to go to Omni magazine, a trademark, along with Penthouse, that Frommer told the world he’d acquired in a purchase of “Bob Guccione’s estate.”

The Penthouse trademark Frommer claimed to have acquired was to be associated with a web domain called filthygorgeousmedia.com. And that’s how you get Vocal’s “Filthy” community.

The only problem was that Frommer never purchased Guccione’s estate—he’d only bought the contents of a storage unit that happened to contain some of Guccione’s belongings.

The real owner of the trademarks, Kelly Holland, Chief Executive of Penthouse Media, described it this way:

“It is as if I went to a garage sale and bought a DC Comic for a dime and thought I can make 'Wonder Woman,'” said Holland. "He thinks he owns the IP for these things.”

Orlando Sentinel; Penthouse Battles Over Rights to ‘Caligula’ and Omni Magazine

Frommer was so adamant about his imagined purchase of the “Guccione estate” that actor and musician Jared Leto was convinced to get in on the deal, only to find himself the target of a lawsuit, along with Frommer.

The 24-page lawsuit accuses Leto of working with named defendant Jerrick Media to create content using marks established when Guccione created the science fiction magazine Omni.

Courthouse News: Penthouse Sues Jared Leto on Copyright Claims

When OmniReboot.com Was Up, They Treated Freelancers the Same Way

Creatd/Jerrick’s ‘Omni Reboot’ tries to make excuses for claiming copyright on stories that didn’t belong to them.

Author Joshua Foust describes his experience with Frommer’s Omni Reboot:

...when I saw Omni Reboot had not only published my story without seeking my permission for it, but had been promoting it on their twitter feed no less, I was taken aback. It is a fundamentally unethical thing to do. The story itself was loaded with links someone added to their Amazon Affiliates page, so they were gathering advertising revenue and royalties from the link behavior. However small in amount, they were profiting from posting my work without my consent. Someone there made a deliberate decision to publish my work, after breaking it into two separate pieces for better pagination (and thus ad buys), and never thought to tell me about it or get me to sign over my rights to them.

JoshuaFoust.com; Omni Reboot Needs to Fess Up

Foust was only one among many that were victims of Vocal Media’s “business strategy,” and today, that unethical platform has cost the company their “legacy assets” and their reputation.

Behind Closed Doors

Vocal Media’s pattern of behavior appears to manifest in the workplace culture at their physical location in Fort Lee, NJ. Former employees stated they received no benefits, and were not allowed to take breaks—if they did, they would soon be fired. According to Glassdoor reviews of the company (listed as Jerrick Media), a former employee says,

No one was happy and 3 people quit in 3 months. Ask anyone and read the reviews. This place was horrible and made me cry every single day.

Another former employee described the work environment as “unprofessional” and “abusive,” and yet another called it “miserable, awful, toxic,” and alleged “wage theft,” continuing,

Toxic environment. Constant shouting and abuse from the CEO. Vocal is a horrible product, and every suggested improvement will be ignored... I regularly worked more than 40 hours/week and was never paid my overtime even though it was in the hiring agreement.

Sound consistent? Another former employee praised their co-workers for being “friendly” and “charismatic,” squarely placing blame on the CEO, saying,

The biggest problem you’ll face working here is the CEO. The office is small, so he’ll make his presence known. He is extremely pompous, and I’ve seen him degrade/belittle his fellow management. He has also thrown temper tantrums reminiscent of a child in the middle of the office...

According to another employee, even Vocal Media’s departmental managers see the CEO as a problem:

Get rid of the CEO. I have been told by departmental managers that his meddling has directly lead to the loss of major revenue streams.

If you write for Vocal Media, now you know that your submissions travel through a world of understaffed chaos, and those on the other side may not be in a position to truly appreciate your work.

My respect and sympathy go out to any such Vocal Media employees that may be reading this. ♥️

Awkward

The question, “Is Vocal Media a good website for writing?” becomes an awkward one for conscientious individuals. The website itself is certainly functional for monetizing content, but finds itself bankrupt of goodness.

Because of how valuable spindoctors are to its disintegrating reputation, Vocal Media places its writers in an awkward competition of “who can grovel the most? in online forums, and in their stories—a scenario like that of The Stepford Wives, where only the most positive things can be said about Vocal Media, and wrongdoing is swept under the rug with a joyous smile.

“Jeremy’s Gang of Women”

Still another former employee makes reference to the CEO’s “...gang of women that enforce his crazy rules.” Well, okay—I may not know exactly what they mean, but I can tell you about Vocal Media’s relationship with women:

Statistically, if you aren’t a female, your chances of placing first in a Vocal Media challenge are less than 1/4 that of female competitors.

Out of 3o challenge contests conducted by Vocal Media, going back sequentially from the Zen Playlist challenge, 77% of first place winners were female, while 23% were male.

The female winners took home a total of $60,000 in cash prizes. The male winners took home a total of $16,500 in cash prizes.

Don’t take this wrong way—the data only shows that Vocal Media is looking for influencers, not writers. An analysis done in 2019 by Statista Research Department looked at over three million #ad sponsored Instagram posts, and found that 84% of them were created by women.

These Instagram statistics correlate with the ratio of female-to-male first place winners at Vocal Media. Consider this: how else is Vocal Media going to boost CTR for their clients? It makes sense to award big prizes to more influential participants, when you can. Not every winner is going to be a big influencer, due to issues Vocal Media may have with appealing to them.

If you’re thinking, “Hey! That contradicts how Vocal said the challenges are judged!” there’s a few things to keep in mind:

  1. As shown previously in this article, the people in charge have a history of disregarding rules and making false claims.
  2. The official judgement process encourages you to get as many “likes” on your entry as you can, because that will supposedly determine a tie-breaker—not true. The text specifically states that likes “may” determine the winner, and that’s a big out (emphasis mine, here)

...if two stories have received perfect scores from our judges and are vying for the grand prize, the one with the higher engagement or number of likes may win.

Let’s break down what this really is:

  • You have to become a member of Vocal Media to leave “likes” or “hearts.” Maybe you encourage friends to join Vocal Media so they can leave hearts.
  • You believe that getting more likes will help you win, so you end up generating more traffic to the website.
  • Vocal Media benefits from both of these things, but isn’t obligated to do anything for you.
  • Unfortunately, we’ll probably never have transparency from the company about the true dynamics of these contests.

    What I’ve Achieved Through Vocal Media

    ✖️🏴‍☠️✖️I should point out that I’m most likely blacklisted on Vocal Media for writing articles like this one, but I value my integrity more than any prize they could give me.

    At the time of writing this article, I have:

    • 511 total reads; 347 from the last 30 days.
    • $13.07 in earnings from reads and bonuses. 💵
    • $66.00 in tips. 💸

    My most read story at 85 reads:

    I’ve also had my review of the novel Hummingbird Salamander appreciated and retweeted on Twitter by the author (my favorite author)

    I write here for the convenience of it—making these articles happen on my iPhone, wherever I go. I’m focused on challenging myself to write stories that I’m genuinely interested in, but with diverse subject matter. I see generating traffic for myself as something that grows with time. Right now-and always—the most vital point of focus is the quality of my work.

    But really, what keeps me here is the community. I’ve met so many wonderful writers at ⭐️The Vocal Creators Lounge⭐️ on Facebook, it’s almost like a service itself—shame that Vocal Media doesn’t have groups integrated into this website, because traffic would probably grow exponentially.

    If You Feel the Same Way About Vocal Media

    Be sure to join us at ⭐️The Vocal Creators Lounge⭐️, because, while there are “Stepford wives” there, there are also writers like me—and the very best stories, that you’ll never see on Vocal Media’s front page, make appearances in the Facebook group.

    Thank You for Reading

    If you’d like to support ethical and integrity-based writing on Vocal Media, feel free to read my other stories and connect with my socials at my profile page, or leave a tip if you’re feeling wild!

    advice

    Michael Pitre

    Instagram: @writer_ops

    Twitter: @Trizenic

    Tumblr: @Trizenic

    There’s a vague possibility that I might write here again.

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