Newspapers Turn to Content Farms for Copy

Increasingly it appears that newspapers are outsourcing content — good old fashioned writing — to content farms. Associated Content, just acquired by Yahoo! for about $100 million, has online newspaper deals. And so does rival Demand Media. According to a BNET article appearing last week:

Demand Media has just announced to its freelance writers and editors two new content deals that further its reach into traditional media. The company is about to partner with Hearst Newspapers to produce content for two web sites run by two Hearst papers: the San Francisco Chronicle and the Houston Chronicle . . .

For its normal web pieces, a typical Demand Media rate for an article of a few hundred words is $7.50, with copy editing paying about $3.50 an article, according to many freelancers I’ve communicated with who work for Demand. To make a reasonable amount of money per hour, writers have to research and compose multiple articles an hour, setting a difficult pace.

Content Farms are being used as a kind of back-door SEO strategy but also to perform core writing functions (now) that used to be done by staff writers. The chief attraction is the low cost of these services as well as the volume of content they create.

The writers are (self) exploited. Many of them may be competent and know something about which they’re writing but the system, with its low payments, rewards speed — not quality.

This is lamentable and will tarnish the newspaper brands using services like Demand to turn out the mediocre copy — intended to capture and generate display ad page views. If this is the mindset now and what newspaper publishing has become about then let them crash and burn.

In the end Google will be compelled to deal with content farms — the new spam — and everyone relying upon them will be punished in one way or another. In retrospect these strategies will look penny wise, pound foolish.

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7 Responses to “Newspapers Turn to Content Farms for Copy”

  1. troy Says:

    Content farm is like fast food, it is cheap and fast but ultimately not good for you.

  2. Abby Says:

    I don’t know who the Demand contributors you spoke to are, but the average rate paid for a piece at DS is not $7.50. Fact sheets are paid at a rate of $7.50 because they are only 150 to 200 words. Regular articles are paid at anywhere from $15 to $30 for regular articles and $80 for premium articles.

    Additionally, no one is exploiting me at DS. I make anywhere from $60 to 75 per hour doing work I enjoy, from the comfort of my own home. Around here, you’re lucky to get $9/hour at a brick and mortar job. No more long commute, stuffy business suits, or office politics for me.

  3. Greg Sterling Says:

    The rates were part of the piece I excerpted. I didn’t interview anyone directly. Where are you located?

    I’ll acknowledge that in some areas the rates you quote (assuming they’re accurate) would be attractive. However it doesn’t change my view of the whole system — mostly mediocre and quickly produced content replacing more expensively written articles by staffers.

  4. Josie Says:

    The rates quoted are accurate. Most articles are $15. Some are $20 and $25. Some of us write for the highest paying project, Ancestry.com at $30 a pop. The $80 articles are for just a few writers who were chosen to do the Ehow of The Day.

    Wave of the future, baby. Catch it. . .beats sittin’ on the beach.

  5. Life Is What Happens When You’re Busy Making Plans! Says:

    [...] Newspapers Turn to Content Farms for Copy « Screenwerk [...]

  6. Anne Says:

    I have written for Demand Studios, and they pay $7.50 to $15.00 for an article. The $15 articles tend to be for how to articles. I have yet to see a $30 to $80 article. If there are any, please point me in that direction. Also the topics are limited. These content mills do exploit the writer, don’t kid yourself. A writer should make at least $30 to $40 an hour because he or she has a high level skill. Because of technology, writing has essentially been outsourced, so now the labor pool has been watered down.

  7. Rhonda Says:

    I write for DS and have for over six months. I’m tired of hearing about this $30 to $40 per hour crap. Most writers on DS aren’t very good. Don’t get me wrong, a lot of them are great and should be working elsewhere for a minimum of $40/hour. However, most admit they don’t have any or much writing experience before DS. When they complain about rewrites and post the article that needs revision, that article is god-awful.

    I’m happy with the job because I can make $15 an hour. Being fresh out of high school and living on my own for the first time in a state where minimum wage is less than $8, this is awesome. But please, for everyone’s sake, stop implying all or even most DS writers are good.

    And yes, Anne, there are $30 to $100 articles. You could look at the special assignment folder on the forums, but don’t waste your time. Those jobs are often for people with 3+ years of experience in writing, and sometimes you have to live in a certain state, have medical experience, etc. It’s very limited.

    PS: Guys, it should set off warning bells if a teenager with absolutely no writing skills can get this job. :(

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