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Fired From a Content Mill: A True Story

Demand Studios Sucks

Richard Head

Wanted to give a shout out to lurker “Ravis”. He shares a story about writing for Demand back in the early days. This pretty much hits the nail on the head:

Over time, the pay went from from $15 to $25, so I wrote a little more often. In the words of the wise and sage-like Todd Snider, it was all about that easy money, and I was just looking for the most I could get for the least I could do. And man, was it easy. The best part was, you could often write variations of another article you’d written previously. For example, I would write How to Shave a Honey Badger’s Balls one day, How to Hold a Honey Badger Sideways and Shave Its Balls and How to Dance the Macarena While Shaving a Honey Badger’s Balls.

Read the rest of the article here.

PS: “Ravis” – you can tell your wife you can’t get sued for voicing your opinion. Believe me, we’ve been doing it for 4 years now. It’s called freedom of speech.

Yep. Those were the golden days indeed. I think the most I ever managed in a 8 hour day was about 10 articles. I’ve heard tales of much more. What were some of your numbers?

On another note, looks like the Demand Stock has been in turnaround of late, shooting up to 11.00 per share. They’ve got an earnings call that they’re going to announce in a week or so, maybe something to do with that?

And to the anonymous commenter – sorry to say that both Richard and myself, believe it or not, still have writing privileges. It’s just not even worth the bother anymore.

16 comments to Fired From a Content Mill: A True Story

  • ArticlesArticlesArticles

    My record was 10 articles in less than 2 hours during the $15 glory days. They were all on very similar topics, which is why I was able to knock them out so quickly. Needless to say, those days are gone.

    There are almost no titles in my sections. I’m lucky to see 20 or 30 at a time, and usually, 0.

    All of my articles come back for rewrites now. This is often because CEs format things differently or because they believe 10 references are necessary for a 400-word article. I’ve also had some who are recently obsessed with “You must use the actual study as a reference!” instead of the study author’s own brief about the design and results.

    If I do that, it’s complaining, “I can only see the abstract! What do you mean I probably need to pay for an academic database to see the whole study? REJECTION!”

    I always go back and for whatever reason, I’m always surprised in new ways at how difficult it is to actually get articles pushed through the machine. My ratings have always been high. But all of the stress of trying to predict what this CE will want versus that one is amazing.

    As far as Ravis, buddy, I know what you mean about kissing CE ass to try and get an article approved (while biting your tongue — err, holding your fingers?).

    I’m finally just done. I have 3 rewrites that I’m abandoning. I just don’t have the time to work on articles like that anymore…then spend forever long dancing with the requests…then submitting it and possibly having it rejected.

  • Julia

    CLEAN SWEEP OF THE TECH SECTION:

    Everybody who has the slightest bit of Tech expertise including people with Masters degrees, people who write for Microsoft and IBM etc are being fired because their work is not up to snuff – apparently.

    In other words, any one with any sort of tech talent is being fired.

    Nobody on the forums is saying they made the cut. What do you reckon that little weasel Jason did some of the evaluations? You know, that guy that probably still writes on his Radioshack Tandy and doesn’t know shit about technology?

    • Chumbawumba

      They got rid of almost everyone and now the CE’s report they have nothing left to edit with the Tech queue consistently on “zero.” LOL

  • Oh Hells Yes

    I’m one of those writers who applied for all but two of the sections, just to see what would happen. I have a master’s in education and got turned down. I have no experience whatsoever in home improvement and got approved. I’d see education writers talking about articles I could have written in my sleep, while I had access to titles like How to Install a Toilet.

    Whenever I saw easy articles about cleaning, I claimed them. I don’t know how to install a toilet, but I do know how to clean one, because I have expertise using the bathroom. Of course, I couldn’t just say “scrub it with Comet” for every toilet article that came up, and sometimes there would be 10 or more in the queue, so I’d attempt to name different cleansers. (No brand names, of course — “blue, bleach-based, powdered cleanser” all the way.) There was an editor in the home section, however, who regularly returned articles with comments like, “In my 60 years of life, I’ve never heard of cleaning a toilet with blue, bleach-based, powdered cleanser.”

    Sure enough, I got the email saying my content had been reviewed, and my toilet-cleaning articles had been found (eff you, passive voice) to have factual errors. A couple of weeks later, I was told my beauty article about steaming wrinkles out of a garment by hanging it in the bathroom while you shower had factual errors (because I couldn’t say in more than one article to use a damn clothing steamer), so I was being let go. I have no experience in beauty either, by the way, but I enjoyed the $14k I made writing the articles.

    TL;DR: May your toilets and clothing not explode if you read my eHow content. Sorry, interwebz.

  • Pamela

    Writing for DMS? Waste of time these days. They have little to no work available in many of their sections. I just got my first query to a national magazine publication accepted, and I now write for quick income on a site that provides a steady stream of work to earn a full time paycheck for only about 24 hours a day if writing, The site also allows me to write about any topic that I am knowledgeable about and willing to research, and, yes, I am most certainly qualified. Sorry, not interested in DMS’s arrogance, their payday glitches, lack of communication, disrespect of writers and lack of work flow. All together now: demand studios sucks!

    • GN

      “about 24 hours a day if writing.”

      All together now: The prose of a DMS writer who fancies herself a professional (Wow! A first query to a national “magazine publication”) and bitches about copyeditors.

      Hope that 24-hour-a-day schedule works for you. Maybe you can be professional journalist in your next life.

  • alan greenspan

    You do realize that $11 (now below $10) is apparently in some way reverse-split-adjusted after the spinoff of Rightside? DMD’s 52-week low is in the $7s, while the stock was selling for $3 and change a few weeks ago (do the math). So the stock, while seeming higher, is still apparently hovering around the equivalent of $5, if you owned it before. Presumably now you’d just own fewer shares of a higher-priced stock.

  • Julia

    They’re experiencing a problem with Friday’s payment y’all.

    Paypal glitch? How many times in a row has this happened?

  • Cincinattus C

    This comment will look familiar. I just wonder if the people creating posts like this understand how they are branding themselves to the world. You are basically saying that when Demand first got started, basically anyone could create content for them, which is what happened. Very slowly, their standards started to rise. So all of your people who are complaining – your entry point was somewhere between inception and the point where Demand started thinking more seriously about the quality of the content.

    When Demand made the decision to hire people with some level of expertise, they fired a lot of writers under the premise that it wasn’t good enough just to be able to write. You had to know what you were writing about. It wasn’t enough to be able to research topics on the web. I totally agree with Demand on this point.

    Here’s why. In Ravis’ blog, towards the end, he apologizes to readers for being a part of the process for creating low-quality content.

    Well, as one of the new writers with actual expertise (Business and Finance), I’m here to say, Apology 100% Accepted. You make me look excellent, and I appreciate this. And I swear I’m not being facetious, just honest. The garbage you guys produced was shameful. This tells us that it is NOT enough just to be a decent writer. You have to have category know-how, at a minimum, but should have expertise, although I acknowledge not everyone writing qualified as an expert.

    But I’m having fun making easy money..it comes out to an annualized salary of around $70,000/year…keep in mind I said annualized here. Your complaints really only serve to make you look bad. On top of that, it makes you look like whiners.

    So let’s see, Patrick (or Ravis), if you will address me directly, or you will do what you do with comments you don’t like. That is, hide them for allegedly being low-rated comments.

    I’ve never seen this before. It’s clearly an excuse to control your own site’s content via a form of censorship. This makes you look even worse. Why don’t you address dissenters like a man?

    • I dunno

      Based on the number of titles available in Business & Finance (many at $11.50 each), it’s not possible to make $7,000 per year, much less $70,000. Many of the titles recently “dropped” are simply titles no writers would touch, changed from How-To to TV formats or vice versa.

      Maybe you can claim 50 articles per month … if you’re writing on topics in which you don’t have expertise. I guess you’re an expert in these areas:

      How to Start a Laundry Business in the Philippines
      How to Start a Bricklaying Business
      Goals & Objectives of Casino Management
      How to Start a VoIP Business
      How to Start a Cricket Business
      How to Make a Fuel Surcharge Chart
      How to Set Up a Pediatric Dental Practice

    • Not quite as "through" as I want to be

      One aspect you’re overlooking–which is made abundantly clear not only here but in comments on their own forums–is that DMS’ criteria for determining whether a writer is “expert” are arbitrary and inexplicable. I’ve read multiple comments by people with very strong credentials, such as PhDs and years of writing experience in relevant areas, being rejected to write for those sections. I’ve read stories of people who apply, just for the heck of it, to sections for which they admittedly have no qualifications and are approved. If DMS’ definition of “expert” made sense, or if DMS even appeared to have a consistent standard for “expert,” your argument would be much stronger.

      There also is overwhelming evidence that CEs often are NOT experts in the subject matter they evaluate (see comments on the “CE blacklist” post here for examples). This drives away writers who truly do know their subject matter. I still write for DMS occasionally, but I stopped doing articles about a subtopic for which I’m extremely qualified, because a single CE (who has been mentioned on the blacklist post) reviews every article about that subtopic. And she has sent back every article of mine that she’s read, which is far higher than my typical rewrite percentage. Her “edits” range from asinine to impossible. For example, she thought one of my sources’ websites had inaccurate information **about their own program** because she simply couldn’t imagine that they would actually do what they claimed. I’m sure it took more time for her to write a comment asking me to call the source and verify than it would have taken her to simply make the call herself. Instead she sent me a rewrite, which hurt my percentage (and of course the source verified the info from the website). This is just one example of the ridiculous, time-wasting hoops through which this woman regularly asks writers to jump. So DMS has lost my expertise in this area (and I’ve noticed that articles on that subtopic, even writable ones, sit in the queue for weeks, so evidently I’m not the only writer who has decided not to play in this particular CE’s sandbox anymore). I’ve read many similar stories from other writers. The DMS environment is no more supportive to “experts” now than it was to writers who churned out crappy articles for $15 in the old days.

      And I call BS on your “annualized 70K.” At the $25/article rate, that would be approx 233 articles/month, or an average of eight per day, with no time off. So…you wrote eight articles in a single day one time and you’re “annualizing” an income from that?

      • wakeup call

        Copyeditors needn’t be subject experts, but they should know when to stay out of a subject expert’s way.

        DMS has too many writers with multiple graduate degrees and alleged writing experience who can’t make themselves understood in a 400- to 500-word article. Being a subject expert is irrelevant for a writer who can’t discuss the subject itself without 250 words of filler and the rest jammed with regurgitated academic garbage.

        • Regurgitated Academic Garbage

          Regurgitated academic garbage…said the baboon-brained idiot. At least regarding human biology, DMS has no subject experts. That is why they publish nonsense that non-expert writers manufacture, and that is why Livestrong has little credibility.

    • The Sane One

      Trollbait. Obvious trollbait. No one who could pull in $70K a year on Demand Media would try to do so there. If you are that tight, that efficient, and that skilled and maneuvering through bullshit, you shouldn’t have to.

  • Thanks for sharing, Patrick. The most I ever cranked out was five in an hour a few times. I’m glad there’s not the temptation to write articles that feel like an easy $25. I’ve also enjoyed watching the stock price plummet. I think their domain business is propping them up.

    I’ll keep lurking. Thanks again.

    FDMS,

    Ravis

  • Thanks for sharing, Patrick. I knocked out five in an hour a couple times. I’d go for months sometimes without doing it, and then I’d go in and see some cake articles that were an easy $25 and be sucked in again. Glad the temptation to write that junk isn’t even there anymore.

    FDMS,

    Ravis

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