Oh the Poor Naked Cat

| April 12, 2010 | 7 Comments

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 adContent Mill Bashingvocate 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).

Writing/Publishing Quality

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).

Tags: , , ,

Category: Freelance, Self Employed, Working from Home, Writing

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.

Comments (7)

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  1. Robin Elizabeth Margolis says:

    Dear Felicia:

    Thank you for your kind words about the Linkedin.com “Freelance Writers Working For Internet Content Mills” group! They were much appreciated.

    And as always, enjoyed your entertaining and informative blog!


  2. Mandy says:

    I have a friend who bashes content mills and works an office job while writing on the side. Meanwhile, I can earn the same hourly rate writing for content mills as I can working an entry level office job.

    Content mills are showering me with a bunch of benefits. I get to hone my writing skills. I get feedback from editors and real clients. I get to fine tune my work process, meaning that at this stage of the game I’m still learning how to manage my time. I get to develop niches. Even the low pay is advantageous: I need to write fast, write well, and write often! Content writing is like a class I get paid to attend, rather than the other way around. Not having a college degree, I would have been shut out of many other writing venues.

    Like you, I plan on developing residual income and using my online presence to garner other writing work. One day, I’ll be raking in the residual dollars and writing stories and other creative work.

    Writers who are adaptable should love the Internet; it creates far more written pages than print ever did. Quality print magazines aren’t going anywhere. They are specially suited to in-depth writing. One article on the Internet simply cannot be as readable or informative as the recent Time article about the health care bill. If I really want to become educated on a topic, I seek print sources. The Internet is good for a sense or feel for a topic. The Internet is also great for keeping the print guys honest and unbiased.

    Bottom line, while the Internet changed everything about writing for money, Felicia, you and others are proof that it is possible to make a living wage doing so.

  3. Deborah says:


    Thank you so much for this post! No, online writing has NOT destroyed the publishing industry. People who are used to writing for magazines are getting hit hard. Now they have to do other things.

    I know two disciplines of writing that still make good money: academic writing and copywriting. You are right when you say “move with the cheese”. If freelancers want to keep earning income, they may have to learn some new styles and disciplines.

    I got out of writing only articles about three months ago when I realized that there wasn’t much money in it. However, college kids will always hate to do their homework and businesses will always need quality marketing copy.

    Decent writing will always, always make money.
    .-= Deborah´s last blog ..Making the Most of Your Home Office =-.

  4. Deanna says:

    Great post, Felicia. It’s funny to me that the supposed content mills are bashed by those who think they are above writing for them, yet I have been approached several times to write for high-paying internet sites because of the content I have on one of those “content mills”. As far as I’m concerned, if you place well-reasearched and well-written articles on any of the writing websites your work will be noticed. Writing for such sites as Associated Content, Triond and eHow hasn’t lessened my credibiltiy, but instead has brought additional work my way.

    Personally, I’d much rather write for internet sites and be paid monthly than write for print media and be paid whenever they feel like cutting the check. I’ve been down that path many times before and grew tired of waiting the 30 days past the publication date to finally be compensated for an article I wrote 6 months before.
    .-= Deanna´s last blog ..Life after eHow =-.

  5. Grandma says:

    Interesing points. Remember the author Marshall McLuhan? Back in the 1960s he wrote about the coming age of electronics and how it would affect society, with individualism suffering and eventually we go back to being tribal. He talked about the global village. Check out the Wikipedia info on him and you will see how far ahead he was (for us older folks who were in college then). Here is a couple quotes he is famous for from Wiki.
    His famous aphorism “the medium is the message” (elaborated in his 1964 book, Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man) calls attention to this intrinsic effect of communications media
    In the early 1960s, McLuhan wrote that the visual, individualistic print culture would soon be brought to an end by what he called “electronic interdependence”: when electronic media replace visual culture with aural/oral culture. In this new age, humankind will move from individualism and fragmentation to a collective identity, with a “tribal base.” McLuhan’s coinage for this new social organization is the global village
    We are so there now.

    Other factors are elminating print just as traditional news journalism has died. Costs, printing ink, paper, salaries and so on are so high the print items costs too much to buy. Look at magazines, food, etc. The government is doing it when they raise taxes and cause increases in price all down the line. The costs get passed along to society, but individuals quit buying because they no longer have jobs or money. Look at postage…used to be a penny, two cents, four cents, nickel, and now 44 cents a letter! So we turn to free email. Now our government wants to tax the Internet and as writers making money online, we will be taxed out of business. Write fast and retire.

  6. Shannon says:

    I think content mills certainly vary, not only in quality control but also in writer compensation. As for the Death of Print Media or Old School Freelance Writing (or whatever), that just seems way too complex to blame solely on content mills. Having said that, the world’s demand for information (and for access to it) is no longer conducive to print media, in my opinion.

    The people I know who still write for print media complain about not getting paid in a timely manner, if at all. They send out invoices constantly and call accounts payable every day for months on end. Honestly, I’d rather make $15 and get paid twice a week than $150 that I have to chase down … if I ever get it.

    Also, there’s the big issue of residual income. I live in New York City and haven’t yet met a writer who earns a living, residually, the old-fashioned way. But there are plenty who do so online — and I hope to be one of them.
    .-= Shannon´s last blog ..We Support NY’s Proposed Beverage Tax — and Here’s Why =-.

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