I’m going to have to come up with another phrase instead of my usual “There’s more than one way of skinning a cat.” I’m sure PETA probably has me in their cross hairs by now.
Anyway, I wrote this post because I read Robin’s comment on her Linked In group Freelance Writers Working for Content Mills. It’s a nice group of freelance writers looking to earn money online. Although I’m not very active on the forum, I do get email updates on one or two of the threads.
Why all the Fuss
I tend to stay away from political bashing and passing judgment, because I like to walk a mile in the other person’s shoes before I give an opinion or pass judgment. Enough of my intro, here’s the point.
There is a lot of content mill bashing on the internet. Folks are up in arms about the fact that content mills like Suite 101, Demand Studios, Examiner and just about any online writing site is pulling the wool over writers eyes by encouraging them to write a large portfolio of articles and paying a mere pittance. On top of that, content mills seem to be solely responsible for the decline in online writing quality and have single handedly pulled the bacon from the previously lucrative freelance writing field.
Oh Man What a Bad Rap
My feelings about this pretty much mirror my feelings about the eHow/Demand Studio changes. What ever the reason, the facts are the facts. Off line publishers are folding while online publishers are flourishing. Are content mills to blame? They may have an affect on the offline publishing community, but I don’t think they are the sole reason for the publishing decline.
Let’s play devils advocate for a minute.
Let’s say that content mills ARE to blame for the decline in off line publications and has eroded the freelance writing community’s ability to earn money. OK. What now. Is it possible to force every online freelance writer stop writing? And, if they do, will print publications suddenly make a turn around? I don’t know about you, but I have much less paper to recycle if I read my information online. Additionally, these content mills are providing me a few grand each and every month. You think I’m going to give that up?
Back in the day, my dad taught me how to read the NY Times on the subway by folding it just so, in order to hold the massively huge newspaper in such a way to avoid whacking my subway mate with a section of the paper. It took skill and precision. I don’t know about you, but I’d prefer to pull up the most recent news on a small electronic device to avoid an argument on the subway caused by my NY Times giving my neighbor a paper cut.
Old School/New School
How do young people like to get their news? They prefer online videos and maybe an article or two. I watch how my kids and their friends “read” their information. They much prefer getting it online. If the people want their information online, a wise business person will satisfy the public demand for online information by providing online information (makes logical sense).
There are rags everywhere. There are some print publications that aren’t even worthy of being used for kitty litter, while there other publications that are so jam packed with quality information, I can’t throw them away. Similarly, there are online publications that I subscribe to and others that are just ill written, factually incorrect, inflammatory drivel written solely to have a place to insert Google AdSense or other advertisements.
I purchased a book a few months ago written by a person I respected. I barely got though the first chapter of the book because of the grammatical errors and improper word usage. I believe the author’s editor must have had it in for him to allow the book to be published with so many errors.
We all make mistakes, and with the immediate nature of online publishing, more and more of the mistakes are making it to the final print. Yes, that’s a downside, but it’s the nature of the new internet beast. Every newspaper and magazine has an “apology” section. You know that section where they correct either typographical or factual errors that were released in an earlier publication. Mistakes happen.
Online Writing – Good and Bad
There are pros and cons to writing for content mills. I can understand why some folks don’t want to write for content mills, and choose not to. There are other folks (like me) who enjoy writing for content mills. For me, content mills are the solution to my work allergy (if it feels like work, I get a severe allergic reaction).
Some of my articles are well researched, because the topic requires the research (such as analyzing Medigap supplemental insurance options). Other articles require less research and more experience. After all, if I’m writing a How to on How to install a toilet (which is not a very pleasant process – especially when hubby and son refuse to read directions of any sort), my hands on experience comes in handy.
The subject of content mills isn’t a black or white issue. There’s a lot of gray in between, just like there’s more than one way of skinning a cat (gotta find a new phrase).
Just my 2 cents (hmmm, by the length of this post, I think I’ve given a nickel’s worth of opinion).
About the Author: Felicia A. Williams is a freelance writer and blogger. She spends the majority of her time with her family and writing. If she's not writing or commenting on NJFM, she's either outside smelling the roses or writing articles for one of her other sites which include Tidbits and Stuff, BLULOW, A Dose of Health and a few other sites/blogs scattered around the internet.