Elizabeth Nolan Brown // Blog

media. music. feminism. food. city-dwelling. story-telling. and other things.

Demand Studios v. Seed

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David Harvey at Meridian Collective details his month making a living (sort-of) as an online content mill writer:

In early November, I signed up for Demand Studios, the factory of parent Demand Media, which pays between $7.50 and $20 per article and provides a ready-made list of titles. In the month of November, I made $407.50 writing articles like “African Restaurants in San Diego,” “How to Identify Inedible Plants in Oregon,” and “How to Find a Wife in Bulgaria.” In December, I wrote about drug tests, checking accounts, flight regulations and kilts. In January, I narrowed my focus to hotels and restaurants, scouring obscure Web pages, reading hundreds of reviews and wandering the streets of distant cities using Google maps.

I’m embarrassed to admit, but I’ve been suckered in by sites like these a time or two. I’ve even written a few articles for Demand Studios (what weeks of a menstrual cycle a woman can become pregnant, and something about fennel, I think). As a freelance writer, one of the most tempting things is to try and avoid cold pitching.

Yesterday, I came across this post seeking SXSW coverage for AOL’s music site, Spinner. As writer Steve Safran points out, it’s kind of brilliant:

There are 2,000 bands playing at this year’s SXSW in March. You couldn’t possibly assign your entertainment reporter to cover them all. So AOL (sponsor of SXSW) is hiring a stringer to cover each band. AOL is paying $50 per writer to report on a given band, according to paidContent. This is part of AOL’s Seed project, which acquires and distributes content for AOL properties.

[…] This is a fascinating move. For $100,000, you get complete coverage of 2,000 bands and the start of a database of those bands.

I signed up. For Seed, and to profile a SXSW band (received my assignment today: the new-to-me but delightful Warren Hood). Seed seems like a pretty interesting idea, and a pretty novel way for AOL to secure content for it’s myriad web properties. But is it really any different than Demand Media, Associated Content, etc.? It seems like the barrier to entry is a little higher, the editorial and quality control a little better, the blatant SEO-pandering a little less. Is there a good and a bad way to be a content mill? Is there an important function for both?

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Written by Elizabeth

February 9, 2010 at 3:44 pm

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