Does using spun articles for backlinks still work on 2012? Yes and no. Content generated by an article spinner can vary a lot in quality, so any general statement would be false. Article directories have certainly lost a part of their effectiveness, especially since they are often heavily spammed by submitter programs. The classic article directory will certainly survive, but building your own target lists for the submission software you use will be in order.
Statistics show the the indexing rates for article directory articles are steadily declining, since the number of articles indexed on a certain site is related to it’s strength and pagerank. A PR2 article directory won’t get tens or hundreds of thousands of pages into the Google index. Does this mean you should stop submitting? No, but more effort is required for the same results.The white knight saving you and your article spinner generated articles in 2012 is: The blog network. There are a multitude of private, semi-private and public networks like the ALN blog network which allow users to publish rewritten articles in spintax format with backlinks to their websites - usually 1 to 3 links per article. Since Google is smart and knows about these techniques, don’t be surprised to see some blogs from these networks getting de-indexed from time to time. Private networks are especially vulnerable since they often lack a variety of hosting, shared and dedicated IPs, shared and dedicated nameservers, different whois data behind the privacy, just to name a few huge footprints easily detectable by the search engines.
On some forums people report that their $10k investment in expired domains was eradicated from the Google index in a single strike. That’s the advantage of public networks that give you access for a fee and/or require you to add your own sites to the network. They keep the footprints close to non-existent, something a single owner could barely achieve without enormous effort and decent knowledge about the spam detection algorithms.
Never put all your eggs in one basket, the most stable link building is links from all different kinds of sources. Content links from article directories and blogs are extremely effective, but don’t skip the usual lower level links like bookmarks, comments, profiles, web 2.0 properties, layered link building and so on. The day when automatically spun content is detected as spam and all links from it are de-valued will probably never come, but being prepared for this day won’t hurt.