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Citizen news site under fire for proposed ad-policy changes

Helium.com, a hub for citizen journalists and writers, draws heat for saying it wants to reward only its more active participants.

The first rule of building an active online community? Don't tell people they need to be active.

Helium.com, a hub for citizen journalists and writers, drew hundreds of heated--and sometimes snarky--comments from its membership over the weekend after the company said it wanted to change its payment system to reward the most active participants, and slough off the dead weight.

Helium pays a portion of its advertising revenue to people who write the most widely read stories on the site--popularity that is based on user reviews from members. But the company suggested that its new system would pay only those people who maintain a "single-star" rating on the site, which means that they wouldn't just write, but they also would need to review as many as 40 stories within 90 days, according to the company's original post. Anyone who fell below a single-star rating would not be paid for their stories.

While some Helium members liked the idea, others pooh-poohed it.

"Minimal requests, objectively fair, have a way of appearing onerous and even ominous when they turn into requirements," wrote one member, Ben Parris.

"No matter how much you tell about the difficulties and costs of running Helium, and no matter how true it may be, a citizen of a capitalist society will feel that you are asking them to subsidize your business," he added.

Parris ended his post by saying that he would likely return to writing stories for Helium after he finished his taxes the next day.