Tags: demand studios

Jester me, Blogger

The Content Authority & Digital Journal Win - For Now

A green leaf cup holds early June rain water; photo by ECP, a.k.a. Shamanic-Shift on Flickr.com

Does my opinion hold water? I've changed my freelancing energy-flow so often, I give a blurry picture. I'm experimenting cutting back - writing at places I feel most at home that have the fewest hassles. Also, if I can write for a site I like to visit for a read, so much the better.

Demand Media Studios is great for some writers, and I was trying to be one of them. While I do not consider the content on the company's properties to be of the lowest quality, as many claim, I have yet to find any I relish reading -- or have found useful.

Plus, with DMS...The computer-generated titles are often bogus or tricky - for example, an overview of "Idaho Stink Bugs" (when Idaho is one place this pest is NOT outbreaking); research and referencing take longer because content sites are blacklisted, and (rightly) DMS prefers .edu and .gov  to .com (but the rules get complicated and change frequently); the photo gallery (that must be used exclusively) often has no pic directly related to the subject (and while photos are optional, searching the gallery before giving up, or getting creative and hoping the CE accepts it, uses up more valuable time); and...well, what I am getting at (in this parenthetical ramble)  is how much this extra time I spend at DMS -- that adds up quickly writing $15 500-word blurbs -- is costing me (too much). I keep badgering myself to claim titles and work my way gradually to eligibility for better assignments. But...

But I find myself tossing the titles back and heading over to The Content Authority. I earn less per order there, but writing those blurbs is a simple, hassle-free business, usually. There are no reference and resource links or illustrations to fuss over. When the rare problem arises, the forum is often helpful and e-mailing the administration always brings friendly assistance within a day.

As I wrote before, the similar company Textbroker my be just as great (from what I hear), but I have not jumped in there, though I signed up. From a quick look just now, I notice most of the orders are for writers at the four- and five-star levels, that site's highest ratings (their lowest rating is two-stars). Unlike TCA's eight-hour writing window - which is provides a comfortable structure for me - I saw various deadlines, from one to four days. I just claimed my first assignment, so now I know that this is a one-at-a-time deal like TCA's system (and that is fine with me). [Update, later the same day: I have decided to stick with assignments from TCA only for a while longer and I released this order.]

What about my aspiring journalist self? Examiner.com and Digital Journal are still on my list. 

Examiner.com is going through its major overhaul, but changes to the payment system are being pushed back, month by month, so it is too soon to tell if E is a keeper. So far, I am muddling along, publishing one or two articles a week. But I do not go there to read.

In contrast, Digital Journal would be among my favorite news sources even if I had not resumed contributing there.
Jester me, Blogger

Miscellaneous freelance musings

Flowers and weeds overgrow the church garden in the 900 block of East Knapp Street, Milwaukee, WI. (Photo: by ECP, a.k.a. Shamanic-Shift on Flickr.com)

FREELANCE WRITING UPDATES 

LiveJournal: Why am I here? LJ must be one of the worst hosts for a freelancing writing and odd-jobbing weblog! I might discontinue and abandon this one, because the only reason I can think of why it's here is: This is a lifetime paid account, something I did before I knew better.

Here it is forbidden / impossible to run ads for carefully chosen affiliates to match reviews. All I can manage besides the in-house Adsense set-up is linking to Amazon from the sidebar. Content and sales go together on the best freelance writing websites I find (and list on this sidebar). 

Squidoo again: A serious drawback at Squidoo, for me, is having to update / republish lenses once a month or more for them rank in the paying tiers. I surmise Squidoo works best for content producers who create only there and open new lenses often.

But Squidoo HQ tweaks and re-tweaks the platform and rules, forcing loads of extra work on its best Squids regularly.  

Demand Media Studios: I'm still at the beginning stages of troubleshooting the editorial process and developing proficiency with the eHow format (a fill-in-the-blanks template). If I ever get comfortable there I could earn oodles.

Occasional reading on eHow convinces me DMS intends to publish useful, quality content there and on all its sites, beyond content farming for ad-revenue harvesting. Google appears to be recognizing the slightly better quality articles DMS stamps out (it seems more like a factory than a farm to me) because the algorithm updated named Panda failed to bite the site.

DMS has already started hiring their freelancers who stick it out a while (and produce hundreds of ordinary assignments successfully) to write much better paying features.  

The Content Authority: TCA is a favorite I'm counting on. It pays less than DMS -- with far less hassle and much better support. Writing rapidly about key words anonymously is the program here. (TextBroker may be similarly great, but I haven't gotten around to writing there yet.)

Examiner: There will soon be a tiered pay-scale, according to the site's news, with performance pay scaled to it, with the minimum payout dropped to only $1 (and no more local incentive dollars).

After last and this years updates, the front page still is dismal to look at, IMO -- sparse-looking, like it failed to load properly. Every visit I find myself asking same question, "Where's the news?" This site has only scratched the surface of its potential and possibilities and I keep hanging in there, gradually picking up my pace..  

Digital Journal: I resumed writing for DJ after a feature for claiming assignments and getting extra pay for completing them launched early in May. It wasn't the extra pay that drew me back, but the ability to claim stories with definite deadlines.

DJ is a great news site - usually stuffed with engaging reads and a special section for original, exclusive reporting.

Performance pay only counts for the latest 2 months of articles, with the "money-pot" getting divided among digital journalists by rank. So the pay-scheme is unique, weird and mysterious. A running earnings guesstimate shows at the top of the page when I login, rising or falling every two hours, as numbers of articles and their performances shift. 

HubPages:
I still cannot get excited about this site, though it looks better to me than Squidoo lately.

AROUND THE BLOCK

This location, in an office building on a busy city corner, has presented more security and safety challenges. The property management making an effort, but a few of the business-owners renting here seem to be lapsing into carelessness more often.  

I am considering many options for a move when this lease ends on October 31.

The church garden a block west is unkempt because this year the gardener is working at a factory full-time, because he was promoted. Imagining the perennials and weeds competing for fun, I watch the situation run rampant without intervening.

The Tortoise Cat sniffs the flowers and gnashes the grasses and does not grok the concept "weeds" -- or care.

When it comes shifting territories in October, I expect she will disapprove -- vehemently. 
Jester me, Blogger

Content farms? Maybe some are factories -- or gardens!

Turret lathe operator machining parts for tran...

Image via Wikipedia

Why call an enterprise one means to disparage a farm rather than a factory? Farms and factories produce necessities, so neither word carries pejorative connotations for me. A mill grinds grist, so even that sounds potentially helpful.

Because I earn my living producing written content as a freelancer, I choose to chalk it all up as freelance writing. Landing a job as a print media journalist is an old goal I rarely revisit, even during reflective moments. 

Still, I feel discouraged when: I come across a string of articles lumping together and dismissing under the label "content farm" many of the websites that pay me steadily. 
 
Also I feel bummed-out when so-so, sloppy or lousy writing gets published on those pages alongside my work, because I do my best to follow editorial guidelines and often add an original spin. Perusing Examiner.com, the citizen journalist site aiming to become everyone's favorite source for hyper-local news, reviews and information, I still cringe at style errors and other quality lapses I cannot get myself to overlook in otherwise useful, interesting articles.
 
But, I must quit wasting precious moments and energy mulling and moping over discouraging words and trends!

The earning potential at Examiner.com is growing steadily. Furthermore, I understand and enthuse over this company's mission, model and methods, blogged recently in detail.
 
As for Demand Media Studios (DMS), the place most often dismissed disdainfully under the content farm label: DMS offers chances at "real gigs" (as well as lucrative contests and generous grants) to writers who can produce a steady supply (or crop) of eHow blurbs up to their exacting standards -- or insane ones, depending upon the copy editor assigned randomly -- for $7.50 to $15 each for several months running. With DMS's templates and instructions, this is a fill-in-the-blanks task.
 
Citing acceptable references is the trickiest step, where I trip up (or give up) most often. Keeping up with frequent changes in procedures and policies is the second biggest challenge for me. When I visit the DMS forum to read the latest, I find myself drawn into the rants, complaints and horror stories also. The third is finding doable titles to claim quickly enough to make it worthwhile, because these are auto-generated and listed under the wrong headings, and many are simply absurd.
 
Nevertheless, I am amid switching almost all my Squidoo-ing energy over to Examiner and DMS (where I write under a pseudonym because I give up all rights to and control over the articles, yet they link back to my DMS profile). 

Afterthoughts: 
 
Last year I freelance gardened, also. I prefer smaller-scale images of me pacing myself and relaxing while working...planning, planting, and nurturing...then weeding and pruning...and appreciating...and cleaning up. Earning slightly less gardening than I have over the years on some much harder odd-jobs seemed like getting paid to have fun.
 
Earning many smaller amounts from writing the best titles -- with fun or education potential -- on carefully chosen content sites isn't such a blast for me yet. But it does seem like getting paid to avoiding overhead expenses and hassles: cold calling, selling, advertising, conferences, travel, unlimited revising, billing and collecting.

Plus: I learn wondrous facts and figures from researching, though this must be done quickly to keep the process worthwhile.  
 
Related spins:

Demand Media is still thriving post-Panda (by Freakonomics.com)...Content farms are not competing with or hurting journalism (by BusinessInsider.com)...Post-Panda SEO creates lucky losers (by SearchEnginePeople.com)...A laid-off journalist spends a week in Demand (in Columbia Journalism Review).
Jester me, Blogger

Web content production success by my 'evil' twin

Two and Three Flying As One

Image by Shamanic Shift via Flickr

By now I have signed on at so many content websites I could choose a different one to write for every day for a month. Every day of my work week I must write somewhere for four to six hours to succeed.

My freelance writing business plan has two sides: Showing my face in my blogs and columns and hiding behind pseudonymity, or plain anonymity, through content production companies and ghost-writing.

For a while I was planning to quit writing for content sites. But this 'evil twin' (or unavoidable shadow?) of my freelance writing self can pay more bills, for now.

Like a seagull, I scavenge with gusto what others have tossed away and fly away free.

Seagulls swoop to scoop opportunity where others refuse refuse. 

Anyway I have determined that, for me, content production is more than a necessary evil or ineludible shadow, and better than selling myself short. The pay rates can rise and even low rates per word or piece can work out to an ample hourly wage.

This is true when I look-again through my "clever eye" and:
  • Work quickly, allowing no more than a half hour per 300 to 600 word article 
  • Factor in reduced overhead costs (no travel, office supplies or meetings)
  • Consider the self-educational value of researching unfamiliar topics
  • Revel in the flexibility 

And I know there are more advantages I have been overlooking or underestimating.  

Yes, this is work, but it can be play, too. And I can do this fun work at home as an independent contractor, living the liberty to call anywhere I can connect to Net my home office.

When I charge local customers $.50 to $1 per-word, as a flat-rate, based upon the project's word-count, research and other tasks or expenses required, the fee includes unlimited face-to-face or phone meetings and re-writes. After the space, time, energy and matter I expend working locally are reckoned, my net gain can drop almost as low as the highest content site payments.

Next: The Content Authority

Today I received a recommendation for The Content Authority so I am signing on there next. Their rate per-word ranges from $.0007 to $.003, by four Tier levels. New writers are assigned to the lowest Tier, with a review for an upgrade after getting five articles accepted.

The Content Authority's customers can buy articles staring as low as a penny per-word.

Even at Tier 1 pricing, I could make about $15.00 per-hour completing five or six articles an hour. I believe I could do that competently soon, and produce pieces with information value (not junk). Today, this notion is re-presenting itself to me as a worthy challenge. 

According to my anonymous tipster, this company has paid reliably (through PayPal). He claims he has received very few rewrite requests while rising to Tier 4 in a few months, claiming assignments sporadically, only during cash-flow dry spells. He added that writing for them is less frustrating, by far, than dealing with Demand Studios (which has changed its name to Demand Media Studios or DMS and made many more changes recently) which helps offset the the lower pay rates.

A possible drawback: Articles are due within eight hours (with 24 hours allowed to complete re-writes).

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Jester me, Blogger

Suite101 and Demand Studios: Two experiments end...No, they pause

Updated, November 10, 2010:

I reactivated my Suite101 account on August 10. On August 17, the site published various changes. The two biggest: Any voice is acceptable now, and, for Contributing Writers, there is no longer a quota of ten articles per month.

Also, writers can contribute news articles within any of the category sections after reading and agreeing to a page of news article guidelines.

Of course, most section editors have posted their own guidelines and requirements in the writers forum and many of those appear to contradict the revised submission guidelines. 

I have several drafts ready, but I am re-reading all the instructions before I publish. 

In September, 2009, I applied eagerly for freelance writing gigs at Suite101 and Demand Studios. I was thrilled to be accepted by both almost immediately.

I sold several articles to DS and published two articles on Suite101.

It's been a while since I have thought of claiming any titles at DS, although I am still an approved writer there. I am listed at DS under a pseudonym, because errors might get edited into articles once DS owns them. I might go back and grab a few jobs someday.

Who knows if I will suddenly need cash-flow and remember that DS pays up front (via PayPal) twice a week (as well as through revenue share assignments)? There is no minimum number of articles to turn in to stay on their list.

However, this week, with only two articles published on Suite101 after a generous deadline extension in effect, I requested that my contract (to publish at least ten articles every three months as a contributing writer) be terminated. I could not get comfortable at Suite101 and blocked up. I have not figured out why yet.

Suite101 and Demand Studios both are OK to great online writing gigs for many freelancers, but -- for reasons I may never trouble myself to understand -- I have been unable to get myself to produce a significant amount of content for either one of them.


Demand Studios

I became enthused over Demand Studios while perusing FreelanceWritingGigs, a site of freelance gig-inspirations that has partnered with DS.

After glimpsing the inside of DS, I found the detailed Wired article on DS definitive. Unlike many over at DS, I did not read this investigative review as derogatory and was surprised to discover it was received that way.

For favorable reports about DS from freelance writers, read on, here and here, where I was convinced to apply.

DS has been overhauling its system for years, but I arrived during an extra-tumultuous spell. The style guides were revised, then revised again. Twice, articles vanished when I attempted to save a draft.

On one occasion I was shocked to find an article submitted for review as I attempted to save the draft. That one was finished enough to be approved without a rewrite request.

In the DS forum I read scary stories about glitches, absurd and/or rejected re-write requests and unanswered appeals. I chose  to let the couple of re-write requests I received lapse and publish those gems elsewhere. I had decided not to expend any more than one hour per piece, for those low but handy upfront payments.

The modest payments, from $3 (for 50 word tips) to $15.00 (for articles) were OK by me, as long as I stayed within the space-time boundaries I set. After all, freelance writing in meat space requires meetings, travel and other 3-D expenses, which cut into the higher rates I get, considerably.

Right before I backed away, DS began rolling out a new image gallery feature and requiring its use instead of uploads. From brand-newness it had too many bugs in it to be useful, but it must be working much better by now.

I have found the DS community to be highly helpful and supportive.

It was the bugs and glitches in the DS platform that drove me to call it quits for a while, though long-term DS writers were vouching in forum discussions that things would surely improve and get better than ever. I do believe them, so I will probably check back, later. 

To be continued...


Suite101

What was it at Suite101 that turned me off?

The blogger whose Suite101 review put a notion in my brain to sign up seems to have gone inactive there as well.

"Turned off" applies only to my writing. I have nothing unfavorable to report about Suite101, nor have I been able to  turn up many complaints through web searching.

I did find the Suite101 section and subsection tree a bit tangled and confused from overlapping. I was surprised – not pleasantly – to find that the subsection entitled Shamanism is listed under Mind & Soul > Paganism/Wicca at the discordianism subdomain.

Outdoor and Recreation, focused on activities, still overlaps with the destination focused Travel section. In the forum, many of the section editors have posted particular preferences or peeves, but the Travel editor's list was the only simple, clearly titled, easy to remember example I had found before I took my leave. Her section specific guidelines encouraged and welcomed, and read like a pep talk.

The one copy editor who gave me feedback was nothing more or less than polite. Someone from the main editorial team answered my questions about policies and procedures within a day.

Also, Suite101 Admin informed me I can email a request to be reinstated if and when I hack through the block I was experiencing there.

Though I am not writing for Suite101 now, my articles, profile and membership remain. I continue to earn (Google Adsense) revenue sharing payments from them, though it will take quite a while to reach the $10.00 minimum payout, with so few articles.

While active on Suite101 I published only two articles: The Question of Shamanism Certification and The University of California-Davis Arboretum.

To be continued...