Demand media- content farm or decent way for a writer to pay the bill?
April 24, 2010 6:42 AM   Subscribe

Freelance writer interested in working for Demand Media. I've heard good and bad things. Has anybody on askmefi ever written for them? Tips, suggestions, warnings would be helpful.

I'm in the initial stages of building up a freelance writing career. I write consistently for a website, but I need some additional gigs to make ends meet.

Some folks I work with have suggested I look into Demand Media, though to go into it with a bit of caution. The phrase "it's a content farm but an OK way to pay the bills" has been iterated.

I'm a pretty fast writer/blogger, so I'm sure I can turn in material fairly quickly. I'm certainly not above working for a content farm to build up a CV and a writing portfolio of some kind. However, I don't want to invest huge amounts of time and energy if I'm not going to be getting paid.

Does anyone have experience working for Demand Media? Is is worth the time and energy-monetarily speaking- or would I fare better looking elsewhere?
posted by Rocket26 to Work & Money (12 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
I am interested in this, too, and was going to ask about it soon. I'll be following this with interest.

If you google it, there are message boards that talk about it, which of course should be taken with many grains of salt. One thing that stood out for me, though, was the suggestion that people use a pseudonym for their content-farm writing, especially if job-hunting or sending out a lot of queries.
posted by jgirl at 7:12 AM on April 24, 2010

You will get paid for your writing on Damand Studios. One reason why some people like them is they pay people and you don't have to wait for payments based on clicks that never happen. That said, nobody legitimate is impressed by writing for content mills, and it may work against you in that a lot of writers place some blame for the pitiful rates many people are offering for writing work these days, and will look down on you for contributing to that.

So the advice to use a pseudonym is sound.
posted by cmgonzalez at 8:02 AM on April 24, 2010

Whenever one of my students asks whether he or she should write for Demand Studios, Helium,, Associated Content, or any of the other content farms, my only piece of advice is to read the terms and conditions of the contract that you're entering into... and think hard about whether the benefits you get are a fair trade for what you give up.

It seems that Demand Media's terms and conditions are here... if this isn't it, depending on which site you contribute to, I'm sure that the correct terms are something close.

IANAL. However, whenever I look at a contract, I pay special attention to indemnities and warranties and rights granted, as these are the most important elements of what you give up when you agree to write for someone.

Check out section 6.2, section 10, section 11, section 12, and, heck, throw in section 13.

For me, any of these terms would be a deal-breaker under most circumstances; if I were dealing with an editor, I'd work hard to renegotiate those terms.

Your calculus might be different. But go in with your eyes open -- and ask yourself whether you're receiving something that's worth as much as what you're giving up.
posted by cgs06 at 8:39 AM on April 24, 2010

I have never written for them, but I know and do business with many of the senior leadership at Demand. I've only met Rosenblatt at a party so I can't really say much on or about him but I am more familiar with Shawn Colo and Michael Blend and a couple of other folks there. I like them all. Good people. If I were a writing looking for a way to make a few bucks I think I could do *a lot* worse.

cgs06 - I understand your hesitancy with section 6.2, but that totally makes sense to me. They are paying you to write content for them. As for the others? Those are more or less completely standard terms today.

My vote: Give it a shot. If you don't groove on it you're not locked in.
posted by FlamingBore at 9:07 AM on April 24, 2010

Demand Studios pays
poor freelancers paltry wages to write up stories on computer-generated Google-trending topics like, oh, I don't know, "How to pick the lock of the Jersey Shore house with a Swiss Army brand pocketknife." Carr notes that after spending 20 hours on his story, "At Demand's current pay rate, I'd be making almost a buck an hour."
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 9:21 AM on April 24, 2010 [2 favorites]

Those terms are standard for content mills. They're not standard for lots of other outlets. And while many outlets do have indemnity clauses, they're usually not as draconian -- and you can usually either get them to eliminate or modify the offending sentences.

But, hey, if you feel comfortable promising to pay for their lawyers or signing away your right to sue them even when they're negligent, go right ahead.
posted by cgs06 at 9:54 AM on April 24, 2010

I like them all. Good people.

I’m sure they are. But one of the saddest things about content mills is how much execs like your friends are raising in capital, and how little they pay the talent. In the old days, the dot-commers got rich for no good reason, but still paid real money. Now they treat writers like people making garments for Old Navy.
posted by thelastenglishmajor at 10:05 AM on April 24, 2010 [3 favorites]

poor freelancers paltry wages to write up stories on computer-generated Google-trending topics like, oh, I don't know, "How to pick the lock of the Jersey Shore house with a Swiss Army brand pocketknife." Carr notes that after spending 20 hours on his story, "At Demand's current pay rate, I'd be making almost a buck an hour."
If you're spending this much time on a demand article, you're doing it wrong. The only way to make money is to choose a bunch of topics you can chunk articles on, and then just churn and churn. Not to do investigative reporting.
posted by wooh at 10:15 AM on April 24, 2010

I guess it depends where you're at and what you're looking for.

My boyfriend quit his shitty, minimum wage porn store job in November to work for Demand full time. I will again iterate the "it's a content farm but an OK way to pay the bills" statement. He can crank out an article or two per hour (which is more than double/triple his previous hourly wage), doesn't have to commute, and can work whenever he chooses. He's obviously not going to get rich doing this, but it beats the heck out of being a jizz mopper.
posted by MiaWallace at 1:13 PM on April 24, 2010

Oh, and I forgot to add- pay is never a problem. He's reliably paid twice a week via Paypal. It'll take you a little while to get into the swing of things and understand exactly what the copy editors are/are not looking for, and you'll occasionally get articles back for rewrites, but outright rejections of articles are rare.
posted by MiaWallace at 1:18 PM on April 24, 2010

Some of those terms and conditions are pretty harsh. It may be part of these people's business model to not be complete raging tools when you meet them in person, but the indemnification plus mandatory arbitration clauses are pretty much a great big "fuck you" to anyone who signs up.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:38 PM on April 24, 2010

i've written for them -- you do get paid, but you won't get paid like you do in a real freelance gig. an average, longish article pays about $15 -- but it might take you 3 hours to research and write the piece.

others write really quickly -- it all depends on what you pick and how fast you research/write.

i personally have not found it to be a good way to make money, in comparison to other freelance gigs out there.
posted by unlucky.lisp at 4:36 PM on April 25, 2010

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