Demand Media cuts demand for freelance writers

A week ago, Demand Media emailed its so-called “army of freelancers” to let them know why it was offering fewer writing assignments for its sites, including In the email, which is posted in full here on Business Insider, Demand says now that there’s a huge backlog of stories on eHow, it is shifting its focus to “more targeted categories” and will be posting more “slide shows, video series and feature articles.”

The decrease in story assignments—from tens of thousands to a few hundred, according to one writer—means some bloggers will be out of work (however low-paying that work may be). The company’s chief revenue officer defended the move: “We don’t feel like it’s that dramatic of a change because it’s not like every assignment was being taken. It’s all about quality for us.”

Yes, clearly Demand Media is all about quality. Having amassed a few million articles for eHow by (under)paying writers cents a word, the company now wants to “completely execute on our vision of having the most qualified writers and editors working on titles within their areas of expertise.” Demand is also promising to give the freelancers who keep writing for them self-promotion tools to increase their “exposure.” Sound familiar?

That’s mighty generous of them, but the move might also have something to do with the waning effectiveness of the content-farming model. Changes in online search algorithms, notably Google’s, have made their SEO-focused content delivery methods less profitable, and the company has already made moves away from those: they announced they would start paying feature writers $350 per story back in May.

An update on Business Insider posted today suggests that Demand’s writers are upset to have lost so many opportunities and they’re accusing the company of essentially shutting down its sites. One writer says that when the assigned started dwindling back in May, Demand said it was because of a technical glitch.

Whatever the reason these assignments are disappearing, can we just say, “Good”? The internet does not need more how-to articles written by non-experts. And writers don’t need more of these “opportunities” that offer scant compensation and devalue online writing. Whether Demand’s new model will produce quality work remains to be seen, but we’re not crying any tears over the shuttering of their info factory.

Posted on October 12, 2011 at 2:19 pm by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

4 Responses

Subscribe to comments via RSS

  1. Written by Suzanne Boles
    on October 13, 2011 at 12:47 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    Professional Writing trumps Content Mill? Will they pay more for better writing? I guess it remains to be seen. Meantime, I am trying to bask in the positive thoughts outcome for now anyway.

  2. Written by editor
    on October 13, 2011 at 12:51 pm
    Reply · Permalink

    It’s hard not to be cynical given Demand’s previous model, but I’ll be following this story to see how the content on their sites changes — with an open mind! Thanks for your comment.

  3. Written by Mark Applegate
    on October 14, 2011 at 10:01 am
    Reply · Permalink

    I am perplexed as to why “professional writers” are so condescending when talking about writers from content mills. I have been with Demand for a year. I am a real person with a real family. While I am not a highly-published writer with credits throughout the world of unread magazines and tabloids, I am writing to make a living while I search for those elusive, “real jobs” that more fancy writers boast about. I am sorry the topics on Demand do not meet the standards of more “lift-your-pinky-in-the-air-while-drinking”-types. I am merely trying to feed my family. I do my very best…

    • Written by editor
      on October 14, 2011 at 10:15 am
      Reply · Permalink

      Thanks for your comment, Mark. The intention of the post was not to place blame on the writers working for Demand but rather on the company itself. From what the writers quoted in the Business Insider articles said, it sounds like the company, after underpaying writers, then took away the opportunities they were relying on without warning, and it wasn’t initially transparent about why it was doing so (that “technical glitch” excuse). The mandate of this blog is to advocate for fair wages and fair treatment of freelancers — better than what Demand was offering.

Subscribe to comments via RSS

Leave a Reply