How can writers make money on the web?

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Writing for the web will make a name for you. Website writing can develop an audience. Writing for web publications can help, via links, to promote other writing you do or other sites you edit or own. But there still are few robust, defined ways to make significant income from writing on the web. Huge web presences like Twitter, FaceBook or LinkedIn are finding it challenging to develop revenue streams other than by placing direct advertising.

From my personal experience,  even established sites – WomenDaybyDay.com,  DemystifyingDigital – for which I write, recognize little money from Google Adsense or Amazon-type affiliation. I’m told, though I haven’t tested the waters, that going directly to advertisers and soliciting ads for my sites is the best way to earn reliable money.

Of course, if a website pays a straight compensation package for writing, and I work for several who do, I make money. Sometimes, it’s really good money. But writers trying to transition from print, where publications are nose diving rapidly, to new media, there’s a dilemma.

As LinkedIn member John Freeman said in a recent comment,

The issue I was trying to highlight was the lack of revenue streams from work on the web generally: there needs to be better ways for writers to earn revenue from online publication BESIDES straight fee — and that still hasn’t happened. Potential advertising banner revenues and affiliate links aren’t enough.

Freeman has some good ideas – and maybe those will come to fruition. For example, he suggests publications that have made their content available online,  build a ‘royalty pot’ for writers, which could then be shared when copy is re-used or syndicated for a fee, or from corporate ad revenues, just as print publications pay writers through ad revenues.

Pay for new media writers is a problem. The model used most often is tied to page views or, even worse, tied to ad clicks. Clearly, no publication can exist without written copy – and writers must earn a living in order to remain in the business of writing.

Sites like Suite101.com, top heavy with management, editors and staff, pay a pittance for copy that keeps them in business. They set a precedence that will create streams of low-quality writing from disgruntled writers trapped at a poverty line. Such writers can’t affect or control the number of readers who click an ad – so they have no input into their own income.

Large writing boiler rooms in countries like India or Pakistan are providing copy for web “media” sites unconcerned about content quality. Such sites want only revenue quantity. These sweatshops churn out barely readable junk for around $1 per 100 words.A talented, established print writer earns $1 per word and up.

Sites like Examiner.com offer pay based on page visit count, which is marginally better, but still needs rethinking. Writers can, by strongly promoting their work, have a measure of control over their paychecks on this model. But if Examiner, and others, want high quality and consistent readership, their pay “algorithm” will, at some point,  need to consider incentives or bonuses for performance.

It’s an interesting time to be a writer. By no means are we hopeless, but this is one of the few industries in the world weeding out quality and experience in favor of cheap dross. Look what similar low standards did for American automobile manufacturers. Readers are consumers. They aren’t dumb – they want value.

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5 Responses to “How can writers make money on the web?”

  1. Nice ideas – but how can writers get them happening? I’ve been on a one-woman crusade to try and teach writers to avoid the poverty-line slave-labor paying sites that are simply a waste of their time and effort. It’s an impossible task. These slave-labor revenue-share sites grow bigger and attract more beginner writers every day.

  2. Good insights. My theory has been to find a niche a become an expert. Those who research such things claim that if you study a subject for five years, you know more about it than 90% of the population. The generalist succeeds no more, in any market. So, know your niche for writing success, as we profess at ChicagoWriter.com–online or in print.

  3. Writers need to learn how to discern slave-labor sites from sites where knowing how to market your writing can build enough traffic to make a pay per view compensation plan work. For example, I work for Examiner.com – lots of people who haven’t bothered to check them out and don’t understand self-branding, talk the site down. I’ve built a brand there that supports all of my other sites, while bringing in significant money. I admire your crusade and encourage you to check the details before deciding good from bad. Some gigs are just junk, others give you a lot of tools to use for success. Best of luck, thanks fro commenting and do come back often!
    mkp

  4. Mary Ellen, I’m 100% with you. You can diversify and be an expert in two things, maybe even three – but Jill of all trades? Nope. Makes you master of NONE. Thanks for commenting and please come back often.
    mkp

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