Stephen Ashton The thought of making even a part-time income as a freelance Web writer from home can be quite appealing. Yet, finding small niche sites that are looking for articles, paying a decent amount of money, and buying content from freelancers with your particular expertise can be a daunting task. Enter online content networks. You probably come across articles on some of the larger content networks on a regular basis through search engines. Having experience working with three such networks, I’d like to share some background on content networks in general, what they’re like to work with, and then follow with a comparison of the three networks I’m experienced with. What Are Content Networks? When I refer to content networks, I mean a group of websites, each covering a niche topic, but still housed under one large umbrella site. The three content networks I’ll soon be comparing are www.About.com (where I was a former writer), www.Suite101.com (where I am a current Editor), and www.AllInfoAbout.com (who I am currently building my third niche site with). Often, sites within a content network are managed by an expert in a field who serves at the site’s writer, front-line editor / proofreader, blogger, and manager of a discussion forum, newsletter, or other site features. In some cases, writers even have some say over the design and layout of their site and content. What is it Like to Work for Content Networks? What it’s like to work with content networks can vary greatly from one network to the next.
But in all cases, you have the ability to focus on a subject you enjoy and are qualified to write on (or they probably wouldn’t have accepted your application in the first place). You also have a lot of flexibility in your schedule, because you’ll work as a freelance writer. Despite the fact that pay scales and methods can vary greatly, you also have the potential to earn money and over and over again from the same articles you’ve written, instead of simply being paid a one-time fee. The Networks Please note that all information I mention regarding the networks below is pulled from personal experience and from information readily available on their websites between late 2005 and May 2006. Each of the networks reserves the right to change their general pay structures, writer requirements, and anything else at any given time, and you should check the network’s official site for the latest information. The information below is opinion-based from experience, and will cover some of the best and worst points of each network. www.About.com – One of the best qualities of About.com is the fact that they have the best pay structure for new writers (called Guides on the site), currently listed on their site as a $500 per month guarantee for the Guide’s first twelve months on the job. Another positive note with About.com is that they have the backing of, and are owned by, The New York Times Company. That fact can help Guides more easily get review copies of products and books, interviews, and other necessary contacts for information they’d like to use on their sites. Despite how good that may sound, the biggest negative aspect of About.com is that they have somewhat rigged rules, in order to keep the network looking unified, so you have less control over your content there, and they probably take the least amount of feedback from writers.
www.Suite101.com – The difference in pay scales between Suite101 and About is similar in that the basic pay scales are based on pageview rates (the number of pageviews your site draws for the network), but different in that Suite101 currently has a set rate for all sites ($2 per 1000 pageviews as listed on their site now) whereas About’s rates are variable. The biggest plus to working with Suite101 is that the company just underwent a reorganization and is going through a series of positive changes and growth right now, including hiring a large number of writers. Suite101 is also fantastic at listening to writers’ and editors’ feedback and suggestions to consider improvements network-wide. The biggest negative for writers would be the fact that there is no guaranteed pay. It’s strictly based on pageviews. www.AllInfoAbout.com – All Info About (or AIA) is a UK-based network with writers all over the world. The best part about AIA is that writers retain the most control over their content, and can decide how to lay out many aspects of their site (from their color choices to whether or not they want to include a blog to organizing their navigation structures in the most effective way to suit their content).
The biggest drawback is that the network doesn’t pay.
However, writers have control over most of the ads on their site, and they can monetize them in other ways such as selling their own relevant products or services. But despite the lack of direct payments, AIA recently started breaking sites onto their own domain names, instead of sub-domains on most networks, and running a site on their network instead of on your own can allow you network support through the writer community and enormous cross-linking opportunities to help you grow your traffic. Overall, each of these networks has their pros and cons. If you opt to give content network writing a try, just be certain to weigh how much the issues of pay, freedom over your content, and open ears of management mean to you. Once you have your own priorities, you’re sure to find a content network that will fit the bill.