The Renegade Writer

Should You Write for Content Aggregators?

The debate is raging on whether writers should write for content aggregators like Helium. Some writers say it’s great to write an article and get it online sans query and editing process, and they boast that they can churn out several articles per hour; others point out that the pay is peanuts and the market is a less-than-impressive place to showcase your clips.

On the Word Count blog, Michelle Rafter invited guest posters to write about the pros and cons of content aggregators like Helium. Long-time freelancer Tim Beyers gives three big reasons writers should not work for content aggregators. Barbara Whitlock, Helium’s new member outreach manager, replied (guess what?) in favor of Helium.

On his WriterBiz blog, Erik Sherman broke out a calculator and figured out what people are actually making for their effort, and whether it’s worth it. (Short answer: No.)

Check out these blog posts and let me know your conclusions: Should writers spend energy writing for content aggregators? [lf]

Jun 10, 2009 Writing

16 Responses

  1. Sharon says:

    Excellent post! I’ve come to realize this myself. Although writing for sites can offer feedback and getting one’s feet wet, its not a venue a writer should consider as a dependable income.
    Thanks for bringing to light this subject!

  2. mimi says:

    I don’t believe that writing for content aggregators is worth the effort. Who has the time to write a story for $5.00? It would be great for college students who are just getting into writing and are looking for clips…but for the professional journalist? Not worth it.

  3. These places don’t pay fair wages. They’re one of the reasons Lori Widmer began Writers Worth Day on May 15. The only way you can pay your bills writing for a site like that is taking on so much work you’ll burn out in a few months. The quality won’t be good enough to vault you into high-paying jobs — the $1/word jobs that most of us who do it full-time land — and you label yourself as “cheap labor.” No, no, no, no!!!! There are plenty of ways to build clips without working for crap wages.

  4. Bob says:

    No, no and NO! I made the mistake of falling into their trap years ago and I’m still paying for it (by having the awful dumping ground of a web site pop up when someone Googles me)

    Seriously, it’s not worth it in any way. You’re better off starting your own blog to write whatever you want…

  5. Thanks for your comments! I agree with the general consensus: These sites are bogus. If you want to write for free (or practically free), do it for a cause you care about. Or write on your blog.

  6. Tim Beyers says:

    Hey Linda,

    Thanks for the plug. I’m honestly a bit surprised at the debate my post created. Perhaps I’m naive but I thought there would be little sympathy for the content aggregators and their mostly-slave wages. Turns out there are some defenders.

    And in a severe twist of irony, I’ve recently scored a writing victory dating from the days when I was posting to Helium. I’ll post about this at my blog when I can say more.

    Thanks again,

    Tim
    The Social Writer – Experimenting with social media, one word at a time

  7. I can vouch for the low pay. I’ve written and published 195 articles on Helium over the past few years. I made $12.71 in May. One of my articles won the Sunshine Week Citizens Journalism award last summer. I made 61 cents in 10 months on that one. I did make a few bucks selling marketplace articles. One netted $56, another $40 and a third $32.

    Instant exposure? Sure if you get decent ratings. Don’t quit your day job to publish on Helium.

    John

    The Aware Writer — Conversations and tips about writing

  8. Louisa says:

    Yes! I agree with all of the above. And what of e-lance? I had a brief look at that and the ‘bids’ for writing jobs were just as bad as the content aggregator sites. I’d be interested in a post on e-lance actually. Has anyone actually had any love working for them? I held back from joining after look at the fees people actually earned per assignment, and you have to pay to join before you can even ‘bid’! Seemed a lot of trouble and time better spent pitching and writing on what you want to write about…

  9. Excellent write-up indeed! I am a freelance writer and in favor for the writers to write for content aggregators because this can not only serve a good opportunity to earn a handsome money, but also helps you in your career to build a good online reputation by having a decent presence over varied places.

  10. Tim, can’t wait to read your new blog post!

  11. Star says:

    It would be great for college students who are just getting into writing and are looking for clips…

    No, no, no…If you have no clips, assign yourself some subject, research and write it, and send it in the body of an email as a sample. Don’t undercut everyone in the business by bending over for these dopes.

  12. Anne says:

    A handsome money, eh? Hmm. Methinks the comment above may be spam…

    I think the word “churn” in your post says it all. And e-lance makes me want to cry, the rates are so scarily low.

  13. Anne says:

    p.s. meant to say: those who are pro-Helium appear to be hobbyists. Freedom to write on topics that interest you! Great, except writing is a trade, and you can’t pay the gas bill with “freedom to write”.

  14. [...] Should you write for content aggregators? [...]

  15. Diane says:

    I really think these sites are damaging to writers who need to earn a decent living to survive (as is the trend towards unpaid “internships” of 6 months or more, which is prevalent here in the UK, even for some big publications). It’s hard enough trying to make it without being undermined by people working for really low pay and calling it journalism.

    If you want an online presence, get a blog and write really good blog posts (like Linda and Diana do here).

  16. Tim Beyers says:

    Hi Linda and all,

    As promised, I wrote a follow-up blog post about a writing victory that traces back to the days when I was still posting to Helium. Find it here: http://timbeyers.com/2009/07/02/was-i-wrong-about-helium/

    Low pay is a good reason to not write for content aggregators. But it’s the purpose behind the low pay — the risk-shifting — that’s far more insidious.

    Thanks for keeping this thread alive,

    Tim
    The Social Writer – experimenting with social media, one word at a time

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