Content writing and “real” journalism can co-exist

April 8, 2009
Ever feel tied to your work? I know I do

Ever feel tied to your work? I know I do

At the beginning of this year, as I watched an alarming number of my print clients shut their doors or slash their freelance-writing budgets, I made a decision: I was going to try something new.

So I signed up for Associated Content, Demand Studios, Suite 101 and

But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t going to pursue print opportunities at the same time. So, it’s been a busy first part of the year, with me juggling content writing, blogging for business clients and drumming up new print assignments. I’m also continuing to pursue my dream job of writing comic-book scripts. (We all need something fun to write to keep us sane.)

And how are things going so far? Pretty good on some fronts, a little below average on others.

First, the content sites: I’ve ditched Associated Content. There seemed to be little respect for writers there. I’ve never gotten started with Demand Studios. Again, though I can’t put my finger on it, there’s something depressing about the topics they have available for writers. I’ve written 26 stories for Suite 101, the vast majority of them in the first three weeks after I signed up. In March, while doing very little actual writing for the site, I earned $28 for those stories. At Examiner, where I write about telecommuting, I’ve gotten off to a slow start. But I do see hope here: My page views are steadily growing. (Though my craven attempt to generate extra page views by putting the words “American Idol” in the headline of a recent post did not bear fruit. Serves me right, though.)

On the “real” journalism side, my income for the first three months of the year is up about 20 percent from last year. So that’s good news. The bad news is that I’m sending out more pitches, and writing more stories, to get that income. The other bad news is that two of my highest-paying print clients are cutting back significantly on freelance stories this year. One editor even told me that her publisher had put a moratorium on any stories having to do with solar energy, because that’s not where their concentration of advertisers are.

My business blogging is holding steady. I thought I lost one client — an insurance company — but he came back the next day and changed his mind. He wants to continue his blog. That’s good. The two blogs I write for real estate companies are holding steady. And the one blogging-network job I’ve kept is doing OK, too, though my page views haven’t risen much since the start of the year. This is the one part of my business I’d like to grow the most. But I’ve had a difficult time finding new clients since the start of the year. I suspect I need to do more marketing.

Finally, my comic-book writing is doing well. I’ve teamed up with a wonderful artist, and together we’ve produced short graphic stories that will appear shortly in three different anthologies. I’ve also been assigned by another publisher to write a comic-book biography of Nancy Pelosi. (Weird, I know. But apparently these kind of comic biographies have become quite popular.)

So, there you have it. That’s my busy writing life right now. I’m hoping by the end of this year the content sites and the business blogging begin to produce more income. But you never know.


Why are writers turning to content sites?

March 31, 2009

Why are the content sites, places like Associated Content, Suite 101 and Demand Studios, suddenly so popular? Why are writers flocking to these sites to make a measly few dollars per story?

That’s a good question. It’s one I’ve asked myself, too. I mean, I’m doing the same thing. I’ve made less than $40 at Suite 101 for 26 stories. The saddest part is, I don’t think that’s too bad, either.

I suppose two factors are at work here: First, the economic downturn has caused so many print magazines — which pay far better than do online content sites — to go out of business. There are fewer places now for freelance writers to submit their work. This is why I’m experimenting with the content sites. If I have a few moments between sending out pitches, I’ll write up a quick post for or begin working on an easy Suite 101 story. At least these posts provide some money.

The second reason, I suspect, is even more important: Places like Associated Content, Demand Studios or aren’t exactly picky when it comes to approving writers. I briefly wrote for, a popular blogging network, and that organization would accept anyone who could string three words together.

So it’s easy to get approved by the content sites. And being approved makes people feel like “real” professional writers. It’s far harder to get an editor at a trade or consumer magazine to assign you a story. At, you can be hired quickly and then write whatever bland, boring story you want. At magazines, editors demand stories that are interesting, informative and clever. That’s not the case at the content sites.

I’m glad the content sites are out there, though. They’re easy writing. And maybe some day, they’ll actually generate some decent money. I just don’t think of them as “important” writing. They’re junkfood, basically, that clutters the Internet.


March 31, 2009

This is a newspaper. is not

This is a newspaper. is not certainly seems popular among writers. If you don’t believe me, check out this thread at the forums of Absolute Write.  You’ll see that a ton of writers there have signed up to work as Examiners.

Well, I have, too, of course. And what have I learned? Writing for is easy. Really easy. But lucrative? Not yet, at least not for me.

If you don’t know, touts itself as an online newspaper. I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a newspaper, though. There’s precious little “news” being reported on here. I’d call it more of a collection of bloggers from around the country.

Each Examiner is assigned a particular topic. For instance, I write about telcommuting from my home city. Others write about traveling to Orlando. Others write about raising autistic children. The list is pretty endless.

For me, the telecommuting site made sense. I’ve telecommuted for about eight years now. I know the subject. That means I don’t have to waste much time on research. I can write about my own experiences, and hammer out a 200- to 300-word post in about 20 minutes tops.

Examiner pays by page views, not ad clicks. That’s one benefit over sites such as Suite 101, where you can have thousands of visitors who don’t click on your page’s ads. Unfortunately, Examiner pays a cent per page view. That’s fine if you’re bringing in loads of visitors. I’m not, and my pay has been rather paltry.

I began writing for on Feb. 21. I’ve since posted 20 times — again, none of these posts took me too long to write. Some of them I even enjoyed writing — and generated 777 page views. That comes out to a grand total of $7.77. Wow!

To be fair, the last two weeks I’ve generated far more page views. I feel kind of foolish for saying this, but if I can generate 100 visits a day — or $1 a day — I think I’d be happy with Examiner. I’m not sure where else I’d be able to post my telecommuting complaints and whinings and get paid even a dollar for them.

Much like Suite 101, pays investigation. There’s little guarantee that it’ll result in big bucks anytime soon. But you never know what’ll happen.

A little about me. (And, yes, you’re right: I’m not that fascinating)

March 29, 2009

I won’t give you my real name. I’m sure to be a bit negative when discussing the content sites and blogging networks I’m writing for.  But everyone needs some name, even if it’s not real. How about this one: Dwrite. It’s a handle I use on forums across the Internet. Should work well here.

Here are some of my credentials. I’ve worked as a freelance writer since the early 1990s. When I started in this business, I couldn’t Google anything. I had to find information the old-fashioned way: by digging  it up. Today, I honestly think I’ve forgotten how to do that.

My stories have appeared in the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Business 2.0 Magazine, Phoenix Magazine, the Chicago Reader, BusinessWeek Online, CareerJournal, Home Magazine and a countless stream of trade magazines. Today, unfortunately, many of my favorite places to write for have gone belly up. Many others have put a temporary freeze on their freelance budgets.

I have turned, too, to online writing. As a freelancer today you have to. There’s a lot about it I don’t like. Mostly, it’s the pay. Why does online writing fetch such dismal fees? Can it be because online writing is usually horrid, rehashed garbage that’s been floating aroun

This photo just says "writer," doesn't it?

This photo just says "writer," doesn't it?

d the Web ever since Yahoo! took the world by storm?

I’m sure there’s a relation there.

I blog regularly today, for both blogging networks and for business owners who want blogs but don’t want to write them. The second group pays far more than the first. But this blog, Content Writing Madness, focuses on the first group, the blogging networks, along with the content sites, places like Suite 101, Associated Content, Demand Studios, and the like. (And don’t tell me that is an online newspaper and not a content site. It’s a content site. Believe me.)

My goal is to share my frustrations, rewards (I hope!) and challenges as I try to master the world of online content writing. I hope, too, that the readers of this blog — and I hope to get readers soon! — will chime in with their own experiences and, yes, success strategies for making actual money at places like Suite 101 and Constant Content.

Check back tomorrow. I’ll start my online adventures with my experiences at Suite 101. Then there’s the suddenly popular to tackle.

Content writing, huh?

March 29, 2009

I’ve worked as a freelance writer since 1991. That’s a long time. But never have I felt as challenged, and frequently frustrated, as I do today. Since mid-2008, seven of my regular print-magazine clients have gone out of business. Several more have gone solely to in-house writers as they struggle through this horrible economy. I’m surviving, but I’m juggling more assignments than I ever have to meet my monthly income goals.

I’ve also dipped my toe into the largely unsatisfying world of online content writing. You know what I mean: places like Associated Content, Suite 101,, Demand Studios, b5 Media and the rest. They’re content mills that place greater value on quantity than they do on qukeyboardality. Writing for them is a bit brain-numbing, I admit. But a writer’s gotta’ do … well, you know.

I have one advantage in this strange new world: I can write fast, really fast. And when I’m writing for content sites I can write especially fast.

‘Course, that doesn’t mean I necessarily enjoy content writing. And I am still learning as I go. I’ve found content-mill writing to be extremely frustrating at times, especially when it comes to search engine optimization.  I also find myself getting overly excited when one of my online stories earns even the smallest amount of revenue. I wouldn’t touch a print-magazine story for anywhere near the same amount of money. I’d consider it an insult.

I set up this blog to share my journey through the content-writing landscape with my fellow freelance writers. Three times a week — at least — I’ll post my experiences with content sites. I’ll let you know how much I’m earning, how quickly I’m doing it and whether I enjoy what I’m doing even the tiniest bit.

And I hope you’ll share your thoughts with me, too, on whatever content writing you’re doing. Maybe you love it. Maybe you hate it. Maybe you recognize that in the world of online writing, speed is king, quality is  not necessarily a priority and earnings are small.

But, again, if you’re fast enough, if you can really pound away at that keyboard, those small earnings just might add up.

Or maybe they won’t. I’ll let you know.