Ever since Google struck with Panda, lots of content mills and other sites using Adsense for a business model have been the target of, I’ve heard a lot of attacks on people that put up sites just for ad revenue. I gotta tell ya people, this type of business model isn’t new – not at all.
The idea behind the MFA (made for adsense) sites is simple; provide a platform, fill it with enough content to be engaging or at least something that people stay around for, put as many ads as possible on the platform to support yourself and make a profit. Now, go to the local newsstand, library or office with a waiting room. Look for the magazines. Pick one up, and flip through the pages. Surprise! You see more ads than content.
I realized this when I was flipping through magazines at a doctors office. The available magazines of choice were Vanity Fair, People and Us Weekly. The first thing that struck me was number of ads I found before even reading one word of content. Then I noticed the ratio of ads to content. As an example, out of say 50 pages, at least 30 were full page ads. The remaining pages were snippets of content that were meant for quick reading – no real thought required. Anything sound familiar yet? Yep, the MFA sites are the same damn thing; so are the content mills.
The only difference is that you pay $10 for the magazine. They haven’t found a way to do that online yet.
There are those who consider freelance content writing a business and those who consider it a hobby. There are also those who act as if their freelance writing is a business but work it as a hobby or job. I know writers who want to be six figure freelancers and others who want to make a few extra bucks. Both are fine and good for the individual. Most freelance writers get into content writing to break free of the job mentality.
I just want enough to support myself without needing to worry about a “paycheck”. I want to be able to tell people how I don’t have to fit myself into the “paystub” mentality and earn my own income with my own hands at my own pace. If I succeed or fail, it will be because I did or did not make it work – not because someone paid me to show up and perform a set function.
How many people working for content mills started out with the intention of being a freelance writer – only to have the writing become another “paystub”. I remember the writer forums on two large content sites were full of people who use them to “get by” and “pay the bills”. Yes, they do work somewhat independently; but at the same time, they do still rely on one maybe two major providers to earn income. One of those sites, and both forums are long gone. That, to me, is way too close to having a job. Should a content mill fail to pay on time, or at all, you are as stuck without money, as you would be if you were told your boss was unable to pay you and the business is having difficulties.
Demand Media had a couple of situations like this in the past when Friday pay didn’t show up for many until Saturday due to issues with PayPal. They tried to pay too many people too much money at one time and it stalled. On the forums there were, as there always are, those who panic when money isn’t there on time.
Allow me to let those of you working for content mills in on the joke here. If you are using sites like DMS or Textbroker as your sole income, you are a contract worker – in other words, an employee without the tax headache for the site.
What is a “ghost article”? Simply put, a ghost article is one where there is no by-line anywhere on the page and no way of knowing who wrote it. There are lots of sites out there which do this; most of these are general information sites or marketing sites. Many are content driven and need new subject matter almost daily to keep growing. All of these sites use paid freelancers to get the content they need.
If you are looking for some quick easy money, writing ghost articles is a way for a freelancer to do it. This is especially true if you know anything about SEO (search engine optimization) and the use of keyword placement. Pick up some jobs from the writing boards, most of the time the provider will hand you a topic or list of topics. Your job is to do the basic research and write up an article with the specified word count and topic.
The advantage – it’s really simple work. It’s also a great way to get into writing each day and make a few bucks while doing it. The disadvantage – you usually don’t get the by-line and most often work for one tenth of what you should actually be making to write the articles.
Another advantage to writing ghost articles is that you don’t need to worry about coming up with the ideas to write about. If you get a topic or keyword you know about, research for the article is almost none and should only take up to about a half hour of your time. The huge disadvantage is that if you ever get an idea off of that topic, you must watch the way you write it so that you are not repeating the article you just sold off for pennies. I did a check recently for some of my old work and was surprised at where some things ended up.
But, like I said earlier, if you are simply out for a quick dollar and really don’t want the recognition then writing ghost articles is not a bad way to go. And yes, before anyone asks, there are people out there who are making a living off of doing this. It takes practice just like any other form of writing but it is possible.
Sometime last Wednesday I decided to treat myself to lunch. I grabbed my notebook and a pen to go with me just in case any ideas wanted to come along. Its a small notebook, the kind that fits in a pocket. I hiked the 15 minutes up to Kmart where they still have a restaraunt for lunch. Yes, our Kmart still has one of those old family diners attached to it. And while it has come to look more generic and cookie cutter over the years, I hope they never close it either.
Anyhow, back on topic. While I was sitting at my booth, after ordering a Reuben and fries, I started looking around like I usually do. I remebered as a child the old dining rooms of Woolworth’s and Kmarts predecessor S.S. Kressge. They’ve only been gone for about 20 years. This brought my attention to the ketsup bottle on the table. Heinz 57 Varieties to be precise. Now what the heck does that mean? 57 varieties. This made me think of writing about it; which in turn makes me get out my notebook and find a blank page. I write down the topic “What’s behind the 57 in Heinz ketsup?” Then I conclude that this is some odd thing that people think up when sitting in diners. This thought leads me to wondering about how Kmart came up with the old diners in their stores and how many are left. This gives me another topic to write about. So I write that down. Now I’m sitting there staring out the window wondering about these two ideas, when another topic pops up…clouds. I’m looking at the clouds outside and think, “what the heck is a cloud really? And why are they there?” I’m not a weather person. But this gives me a third idea to research. And so it goes.
By the time lunch arrives I’m up to 15 topic ideas. While eating I continue to think and look out the window. This has now become a fun game for me and ideas just keep wondering along. I add another ten topics to the list, as well as about five ideas for this blog. As I’m finishing up lunch, I’m also thinking about where all these topics can eventually go. There seem to be a few places.
After lunch I go out and wander Kmart to see if I could use anything. I did need pet food. Looking around the store makes me wonder how big stores like this seem so stocked with stuff, yet don’t really have much of anything I want. Another topic! It just keeps going.
Now I take my notebook with me everywhere. You never know where the next idea is hiding at, or what other ideas it may bring along?
People keep wondering how topics and ideas are created. Others simply tell you that they just are created. I’ll give you my words on it too. Just get out of bed and look around you. Go outside and let the world hit you with information. They’re out there, topics everywhere.