Vezeo.com, a recently-launched ezine/blog focusing on reviews of retaurants and hotels, describes itself thus:
Ve - ze - o (veh-zee-oh)
1. a passion for living well.
2. an online magazine focused on international dining and travel.
Based in beautiful San Francisco, Vezeo features articles about superior restaurants, hotels and resorts. Our readers know that if it’s on Vezeo, it’s worth visiting.
Vezeo touts itself as "a modern day Michelin" and claims to be planning an eventual transition to print as a "high-end, glossy magazine." It's also actively seeking contributors. Its press releases invite submissions, and it is advertising on Craigslist, promising compensation of $25-$100 for articles with a 500-word minimum.
Sound interesting? There's a catch. According to Vezeo's FAQ,
One of the primary goals of Vezeo is to give aspiring writers a place to start. Your work will be read by thousands of people, including key players in the publishing industry. Developing a byline is a very important part of the process and we want to reward you with one. Those who are accepted as contributing writers for Vezeo will receive extensive information about how to maximize this exceptional opportunity. You will not be paid for your initial interview article.
That's right. Your first article for Vezeo is a freebie.
The FAQ goes on to claim that writers who are chosen as regular Vezeo contributors will be paid "our freelance rate." Puzzlingly (or maybe not), there's nothing on the Vezeo website to indicate what that rate is. The Craigslist ads provide a clue--maybe. There are several comments at Deborah Ng's Freelance Writing Jobs blog from writers who say they were told they'd receive a portion of Vezeo's ad revenue. (The folks who write for Helium can provide some pointers on how well that works out.)
Either way, it's pretty poor compensation--especially given that Vezeo wants reviews of "high-end" restaurants and hotels, and doesn't cover expenses. Your fancy meal could wind up costing a good deal more than whatever you were paid for your review.
If, of course, Vezeo intends to pay at all. How's this for a lovely way to get free content? Advertise heavily for writers. Require them to submit an "interview" article for free, with the promise of pay if they're chosen as a contributor. Accept their audition article...and never contact them again.
A few interesting facts about Vezeo:
- Timothy White, whose title on the Vezeo website is Publisher, was trying to sell the domain name last June.
- Since June, according to his LinkedIn profile, Mason Hibbard, Vezeo's President, has been "owner at Vezeo." Did he buy the domain from White? Maybe, but...
- White and Hibbard have been partners in at least two other ventures--a pair of nonfunctional hotel review blogs.
- According to the Internet Archive, between April and December 2006, the Vezeo.com URL defaulted to a home listing search website. That website leads to Assured Marketing, a lead generating service. And...
- A second LinkedIn profile for Mason Hibbard indicates that he's a Sales Manager at Assured Marketing.
Whatever all of the above may mean, there doesn't appear to be an abundance of publishing experience at Vezeo. Inexperience might possibly explain the unorthodox "interview article" arrangement, as well as the emphasis on aspiring writers (professional publications tend to rely on professional writers). On the other hand...aspiring writers are less likely to recognize (or protest) an exploitive situation when they encounter one. There's nothing wrong with a magazine that provides writers with only a byline, as long as it's upfront about it--but enticing writers to write for free by dangling the promise of money is exploitive, in my opinion--even if Vezeo really does intend to pay some of them.