David Carr’s New York Times‘ piece yesterday about Demand Media hit home: As someone who has spent their post-collegiate years looking for writing jobs – any kind of writing jobs – seeing Demand’s Craigslist posts are unavoidable, and appealing. Not only do they promise the blogger’s dream of making by writing about whatever you want, but a chance to work for a completely different type of organization, one that “solves problems, answers questions, saves money, saves time and makes people laugh.” Do all that and get paid? Sounds too good to be true. And it is.
As Carr pointed out in his article, rarely do these writers see much money, “The average article pays $15 to $20 – videos pay about $30 – but the company has had no trouble signing up 7,000 steady contributors to bid for the work. (Copy editors make about $3.50 for editing a story.)” So far the company — founded by Richard Rosenblatt and Shawn Colo — has managed produce over 1,000,000 articles and YouTube videos that are streamed 2.5 million times daily. Yet unlike say Examiner.com a similar system whereby writers get traffic bonuses that usually pay out in pennies, Demand isn’t looking for relevant news content.
News is expensive to produce and not really a part of the formula because the company is looking for durable content, so “How to avoid a tiger attack” will have more value than, say, “Tiger’s not out of the woods, yet.”
Demand creators would probably argue that their objective isn’t to create news; that there are enough print and Internet outlets for that as is. The fact remains though that “seeding” web traffic is the entire goal of Demand’s pieces, and whether or not an article is “relevant”, “factual”, or even “well-written” is only the point secondarily to how many clicks it will get (for both the writers and the site owners). And considering the difference in pay, this may be too steep a price to pay for even the most starving freelance writer.