Content Sites – Why Some Work and Why Some, Well…


If you’re a regular reader of my blog, then you know that I wrote for quite a few content sites (or content mills as their detractors referred to them). For over a year, I provided content for DemandMedia, BrightHub, SEED, BreakStudios, WiseGEEK, Interact Media, Writer Access, and Textbroker. I was busy, my schedule was crazy and I was making just enough to get by.

Then — enter the Panda, Google’s pet name for its new algorithm. Suddenly, sites that were begging for writers didn’t have work for the writers they had. Some sites were more upfront about the issues than others (I won’t beat that horse anymore, I’ll let it R.I.P.), but ultimately, Panda was too much to overcome.

First, I noticed there were never any new titles for BreakStudios. That was a bummer because I wrote some of my more, shall we say, fun and colorful articles for them. SEED was always a crap shoot, so no real loss there, though I did write one of my most favorite pieces for them.

Then BrightHub went away, and with it, so went my rev share. I had a couple of articles that returned a nice chuck of change every month, on top of the upfront money I got to write them. And finally, DMS, in true DMS fashion, basically said, “Thanks, but you might want to write for someone else…at least for now. Oh, and for the foreseeable future, too.

Now, luckily, I had seen a lot of this coming, and had been transitioning myself away from the content sites such as DMS and BrightHub. But I kept writing for sites such as Interact Media, Writer Access and Textbroker.

Why?

Simple. I quickly figured out that, although I was making less per article at these sites, I could write the articles quicker and make as much, if not more writing for them than I did slaving over a 500-word article that may or may not get past a CE, depending on what side of the bed s/he got up on, whether their coffee was to their liking or if they had been chewed out by someone five minutes before they pulled my article from their queue. To me it made sense, but a lot of people refused to write for these sites because the upfront pay was so low, and opted to stick with the higher-paying quick cash of DMS, BrightHub, etc. Now many are regretting that approach.

But there was another reason I stuck with these sites when I backed away from the others — it seemed they were less affected by Panda, and for one important reason: They weren’t guessing about what their clients/readers wanted. They took orders FROM their clients and used freelance writers to fill them. So Panda changing the algorithm didn’t really have an effect on them because they weren’t dependent on the search engines to tell them what to write, their clients were propelling the search engines.

So, I guess, if you take nothing else away from this post, remember this: research your market and pay close attention to the signs. Figure out which sites are catering to clients, and which are catering to themselves, and then decide for whose team you want to play. Me personally, I’m glad I switched sides.

How have you all fared in the days since the Panda? Are you still writing away, or are you scrambling to find new places to write?

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4 thoughts on “Content Sites – Why Some Work and Why Some, Well…

  1. Ken says:

    Great article Kim. I like your thoughts about places such as Textbroker. Interact Media and Writer Access. Definitely the pay scale is lower, at least straight from the site opportunities. But you also develop a relationship with certain people you write for directly through these sites. Eventually the word-of-mouth advertising gets out there and you find yourself getting requests in your email from people you have never heard of before.

    The content sites were a way to bring in income while looking for other avenues of creating income with writing. But the entire key was and IS diversification. Even if it means sometimes writing for less than what you are truly worth. In time, the trenches lead to the mountaintop.

  2. Thanks for your comments, Ken.

    I’ve been preaching the benefits of writing for WA, IM and TB for a while now, making the exact point that you brought up. The initial up-front payments are low, but if you develop relationships with the clients, they will eventually lead to much better paying assignments. I’ve had it happen on all three sites. Also, if the clients love you, the sites themselves will hire you to do specialized writing for them. I’ve written guest blog posts for both WA and IM and the pay was more than decent. So, although I rarely take projects from the job boards, my private clients through those sites keep me pretty busy, and supply a nice revenue each month.

  3. I’m looking to enter into the freelance market and change from a SAHM to a WAHM. Thanks for the info on the writing companies that you have joined. I haven’t heard some of those which you mentioned. Visiting from UBS.

  4. Thanks for stopping by, Dominique.

    You’re entering the market at an interesting time. Some sites are flourishing, while others are crashing and burning. I’ll offer you a piece of advice: don’t depend on just content sites, branch out and attain private clients as well. You can never have too many options when you’re a freelancer.

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