Writing for the Internet – A Rewarding Experience or ‘A Total Waste of Time’?

Putting Pen to Paper

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You Think That You Can Write Online - But Do You Really Want To?

Writing for the Internet is not a good idea ~ apparently. Indeed, it seems to be a very bad idea!

Why do I say this?

~ Because I have just read it in a magazine ~ 'Writers' Forum' to be specific; a magazine that I buy frequently and which I enjoy reading.

This is a respected publication, for writers, by writers ~ so this pronouncement is worrying for 'freelance writers' like me. (I feel that I am a 'freelance writer', but do I really have the right to call myself that? After all, I only self-publish on the Internet; not in books!)

What has worried me?

The title of one of their latest articles, authored by Ms Helen Redfern, announces: 'Why providing articles for internet content isn't real writing!' The 'isn't real writing' bit is in italics ~ in blue!

But before we even reach that item, there is 'A Word from the Editor', where Carl Styants advises us that such sites may be '‘... a means to achieving a writing goal but they are not writing goals in themselves’'.

Scary stuff for us aspiring writers!

Are we not really writing?

Am I not really writing?

Apparently not!

Letters and Fillers?

The editor's 'word' also seems to be dismissive of letters, tips, fillers, reports, essays, questionnaires, etc.

It appears that these are not relevant to the readers of 'Writers' Forum'. Fair enough ~ the editor knows what is and is not right for his magazine and its readership ~ but it may leave the reader with certain concerns

This is a magazine for writers, so, it would seem that these areas ~ fillers, letters, etc ~ are not for real writers.

And yet, I have read articles, courses, books, etc, which encourage beginners by saying that writing is writing and practice makes perfect.

They note that even a letter, or a filler, is a piece of written work that has been produced by a writer who aspires to see his / her work in print ~ and, perhaps, receive some remuneration for it.

Are writers of fillers and letters in the same category as online article writers?

No ~ The magazine does not actually say this, but, clearly, none of these categories is considered to be 'real writing'.

Aspirations!

Let's get back to article writing ~ otherwise known as 'content writing' ~ for Internet websites; sites like Hub Pages.

One criticism ~ perhaps the main one ~ is that, because the writers are aiming to please a search engine, they 'aren’t really writing for a reader’ . Helen Redfern certainly has a point.

Hub Pages asks for quality content, which is well-written, with good spelling and punctuation, but it also keeps mentioning keywords and SEO, etc, etc.

A good turn of phrase is for literate readers; 'long-tail keywords' are for a search engine. So perhaps Ms Redfern is right to ask: 'is writing for a machine and not a person really what you aspire to do?'

Redfern quotes criticisms from online forums, which seem to indicate that writers feel exploited and degraded; that their reputations are being tarnished.

Finally, the article indicates that publishers and editors would not be impressed by any writing that had been published on a 'content' site. It will, apparently, gain writers neither credibility, nor a 'boost' for their CV, nor any 'real writing experience'.

Payment

Another complaint was about money.

Online article-writers need new and 'evergreen' items, and they need to churn them out regularly ~ but, as well as quantity, there must be quality.

Some sites pay upfront, but then they may take over one's work. Others share advertising revenue.

On sites which share 'commission' ~ eg. Hub Pages ~ authors will only receive remuneration, if readers happen along and if they then decide to click on an advertisement. According to the magazine article, revenue for such writers is, therefore, low and even those who earn a reasonable amount are not actually receiving much per word.

This is, partly, because of the competition. There are thousands of aspiring writers, submitting hundreds of articles, of varying quality, to various online content sites, every single day ~ all vying for Google's smile of approval.

Is it All Doom and Gloom?

"Whether the small amount of money gained working for these content sites is worth the hours spent researching, writing and submitting the articles is up to you." [Helen Redfern]

I have been writing articles for Hub pages for over a year and have earned very little compared to some people.

I have, indeed, spent many hours researching my topics. (I am probably a bit of a perfectionist in that area ~ not that I achieve perfection, but I aim for it.) And, yes, writing and submitting take time too.

So, is it worth it?

I think so.

Books and courses encourage writers to put pen to paper ~ or fingers to keyboard ~ every single day, in order to hone writing skills.

Of course, I could just write for myself, but I feel that this wouldn't be very emotionally rewarding. On the other hand, I could do as I do and put my work onto the Internet ~ Hub Pages ~ and receive some friendly and useful feedback ~ and maybe even a few cents as well.

I could send my stories and articles to various publishers, but what are my chances of seeing myself in print and receiving a viable income?

Even the most well-known authors have probably sent manuscript after manuscript to various publishers, without receiving a penny or seeing a single word on a printed page.

I have sent off poems, short stories and novels, but, while I have received some very positive comments in my rejection letters, none has been published ~ and I spent hours and hours of my time on those ventures!

I had a letter published when I was eleven years old. My reward was a game of 'Scrabble'.

I had another letter published more recently. It concerned a proposal for building on a nearby field and it became the leader item in the local newspaper. My reward for that was the gratitude of my neighbours.

A third letter invited old school friends to a reunion. The reward was a very successful get-together.

Several rewards; no money!

Markets and Payments

I research, I write and I enjoy doing so.

I am getting more readers and a little more money than I was before I joined Hub Pages.

I retain my copyright.

I belong to a pleasant and helpful community.

I am getting lots of writing practice.

I am learning more and more about a host of subjects.

As for '‘Why not write for a proper paying market’'? ~ Is it that easy?

What, exactly, are these 'proper paying markets' ~ and are they crying out to publish my work?

I do not think that I would be getting published, or achieving a readership, or earning a fortune, if I stopped submitting my work to Hub Pages.

Although, according to Redfern, freelance writer Diane Shipley thinks that 'these sites devalue journalism and are a total waste of time', I feel that this has to be a matter of opinion.

Freelance journalists, who have their articles published regularly, in well-known newspapers and magazines, may agree ~ but what about the hundreds of freelancers, who have always had their work rejected?

Online sites are not a waste of time for them. They are an opportunity!

Quality of Writing v Keyword Promotion

The use of keywords can be criticised, because they make articles attractive to search engines ~ not to people.

Most aspiring writers hope to earn a little from their work and, if writers want to earn from hub Pages, then they need to encourage readers who will click on the adverts.

Readers often seek articles of interest via search engines like Google. They 'key' in 'keywords'.

Content sites and their members use this knowledge to their advantage by utilising favourite 'keywords' in their publications.

This can, of course, harm the natural flow of the words, but it is often possible to use keywords beneficially and subtly.

Looking at a list of potential keywords is similar to looking at the alternatives provided by a thesaurus ~ a good writer will make them benefit their writing; not ruin it.

Quality

There is a lot of quality content on Hub Pages ~ and on other Internet article sites.

Of course, there will also be submissions of lower quality. That is the nature of the Internet. It has to be moderated and the members are there to support the moderators.

If we want to write quality articles for a quality site, then it is up to us to find a high-quality site ~ and to keep it that way.

But there are publications of varying quality in the world of paper, as well as in cyberspace.


As I see It ...

The world is changing.

Writing ~ be it journalism or literature ~ is no longer about pen and paper. Computers are here to stay. The Internet ~ with all of its opportunities and its problems ~ is a part of everyday life and cannot be ignored.

Online article-writing is for today's writers ~ if that is what they choose to do.

There are all sorts of magazines, novels, newspapers, etc of varying quality. Some publications have a better reputation than others.

Writing is writing ~ there is room for all different types of writers, at all different levels. Online writing is simply another aspect of the genre.

Not everyone is, or even wants to be, a Dickens ~ and not everyone wants to read that sort of thing. Readers, as always, will choose what they wish to pursue.

Hubpages gives me the opportunity to read the works of others, research interesting subjects, practice my writing skills, receive feedback from others, take part in a positive online community and, occasionally, earn a few dollars.

My writing is definitely real.

Disclaimer

I hope and believe that I have quoted people correctly, credited them appropriately and indicated their point of view fairly.

If anyone feels that I have misrepresented any other writer, or misunderstood their comments, then please let me know, so that I can look into it and put matters right.

I apologise, in advance, for any errors that I may have made.

****

Hub article: copyright Tricia Mason. All Rights Reserved. Thank you.

Sources

'A Word from the Editor' ~ Carl Styants ~ Writers' Forum, 14th May 2011

'Why providing articles for internet content sites isn't real writing!' ~ Helen Redfern ~ Writers' Forum,14th May 2011 

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Comments 39 comments

diogenes profile image

diogenes 5 years ago from UK and Mexico

Hi Trish. Redfern has got it wrong. Writing on our site brings a lot of reward for a lot of people. And I'll bet you a greater percent do it less for money than for some kind of recognition; for something to do; to learn to write; to meet other like-minded people and to apply a little ego-salve. There's no right way, only this way and that way. There's no ten cents a word journalistic jobs around any more for most of us. I will say, though, if anyone thinks this can be made into a well paying occupation, think again! I have about 250 farticles, quite a lot of attention and am usually nuzzling 100...I made £5 and change in March from adsense! Good article as usual Trish. Voted up and useful Bob


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Bob,

I think that you are right ~ people get many rewards from writingf on Hub Pages :)

Thank you :)


Joyus Crynoid profile image

Joyus Crynoid 5 years ago from Eden

In every profession there is a bit of snobbery, some of it earned, some not, that rears its head when things get opened up to the 'great unwashed'. Lots of professional journalists complained loudly about the blogging phenomenon when it emerged a few years ago, but now many of them maintain their own blogs, and it has not hurt their careers. I agree with you--Hubpages is a great place to hone your craft and get some feedback, and maybe some spare change. Writers write; and I enjoy reading what you write here. Keep up the good work!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Joyus Crynoid :)

I think that you could be right about the 'snobbery' aspect of this.

I cannot believe that an editor would be put off a writer simply because s/he had written for the Internet.

Thank you for your kind words :)


BkCreative profile image

BkCreative 5 years ago from Brooklyn, New York City

The problem with these magazines and newspapers and print publications, even literary agents etc. - is that they were very limited, limiting and exclusive. There was a very narrow window of opportunity and only a very few people were calling the shots - in other words the few were deciding what the tens of millions should read.

I consider the Internet the greatest equalizer - a place where so many people - (previously unheard of and dismissed because they did not fit the very narrow description of a writer) - can now have a voice. Some good, some bad - but such is the case with print media - where I have read a lot of biased garbage which continues.

I've written for magazines and only one paid me up front - others made me wait forever (often upon publication - which means months and months to get paid) - not true when I write on the Internet.

Opportunities exist here that did not exist previously - and I pay my bills.

Lots of food for thought here - Thank you!


CMHypno profile image

CMHypno 5 years ago from Other Side of the Sun

Interesting Hub Trish. I think that writing is writing, and maybe some editors/writers for print are feeling threatened. We all know how hard it is to get into print, and probably those writers who are lucky enough/talented enough to get published want to stay as big fish in a small pond. The internet probably makes that pond seem more like an ocean!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello BkCreative :)

Thanks for reading!

I agree about the Internet being 'the greatest equalizer'.

Yes, I think that everyone must accept that this is the way it will be from now on :)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello CMHypno :)

Thanks for your comment!

Yes, the Internet ~ with all of its writers ~ could be seen as a threat ~ and certainly a very big pond :)


Bretsuki profile image

Bretsuki 5 years ago from California USA

Hello Trish, Really good Hub.

There are as many reasons for writing articles, in all forms of medianot just online, as there are writers and readers. We all enjoy writing and reading each others articles. My personal reason is because of habit and I like sharing my interests and ideas. I do not receive any revenue from advertising, I did sign up for Amazon Affiliate status but not for Google AdSense. The habit was taking a BA degree online for four years, writing on the computer just took up lots of time, which Hubpages now fills.

I say continue to write for the reasons YOU love to write, ignore the taunts of writers who do not know the high standard of some of the work which appears online.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Bretsuki :)

Thanks for reading and commenting :)

I certainly agree about the quality of some of the work that appears on Hub Pages ~ it's brilliant!


Genna East profile image

Genna East 5 years ago from Massachusetts, USA

Hi Trish...excellent article! I have to agree with Dio, Joyus and Bret for all the reasons they included in their comments, so I won't repeat them. Simply put, writers write because we have to, and we need to. I have found hubs here, on HP, that are far better than some of the poorly written nonsense I read in magazines and newspapers.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi :)

I agree with you, Genna. :)

Thanks for dropping by and commenting! :)


Highvoltagewriter profile image

Highvoltagewriter 5 years ago from Savannah GA.

Bravo! A very insightful article about the art of “non writing” LOL! Just wait a few years and the opposite may be true. For the time could come that articles written in “old school” magazines could be considered passé! No, until we have a sun flare strong enough to wipe out all of the satellites and electrical grid here on earth, the internet will continue to gain power and influence! Voted up as I ALWAYS do with your work!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Thank you, Highvoltagewriter ~ much appreciated!

Very kind!

I think that you could well be right about the changes which are taking place, re new technology, etc :)


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 5 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

When I was younger and lived in the UK, Trish_M, I used to write the occasional humorous article and they were published in various papers and magazines. The most I ever got paid per article was 30 GBP - but at least I got paid.

But...I am of the opinion that I had articles published then because very, very, very few people had typewriters, or could be bothered working with carbon paper and all the crap necessary to write. The computer changed the writing world


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello John :)

First of all ~ congratulations on getting published and paid!!!

Second ~ I think that you are absolutely right: 'The computer changed the writing world'

Thanks for commenting :)


gracenotes profile image

gracenotes 5 years ago from North Texas

Hi Trish,

I feel that there are certain fields where it is still more prestigious to have one's work published in print (usually with an online counterpart). One example is, of course, academic research as published in professional journals.

I do believe, though, that you have laid out your case quite well here on HP. The many strategies that one might employ in order to gain online readership are a source of fascination for me. That's why I keep trying different things with my writing. I'm here to make some money, anyway. Or at least fall over dead trying! :-)

I don't kid myself and imagine that I'll have the traffic of some of the excellent bloggers on the web, but I can keep trying to improve my craft.

I'm glad you wrote this cool hub.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Gracenotes :)

Yes, I do think that there may be prestige in 'paper' writing, and I admit that I would like to see my work in print ~ but I don't think that it is always a case of either / or.

We can self-publish, on here, every day, if we wish ~ and get feedback from our fellows ~ or we can attempt to get published in a book or magazine, which could take for ever.

The Internet is a very different set up, I think ~ but not a bad one, per se.

Thanks for your comment :)


lilian1 profile image

lilian1 5 years ago from Hertfordshire England

Im new here so Hi I disagree with this statement I think the internet is a great place for aspiring writers and we shouldn't be put off well at least I am not going to give up in a hurry Good Luck....


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Lilian :)

Welcome ~ and thanks for dropping by!

I hope that you will find Internet writing rewarding in many ways :)


GarnetBird profile image

GarnetBird 5 years ago from Northern California

It's HARD to get published-I really agree. I have a book out by PublishAmerica (NOT a good publisher) and one published play which I got paid 50.00 for 20 years ago..if not for internet writing, my voice would probably not be heard. It's difficult to get an agent also. I am published--still can't find one willing to take me on. GOOD hub!


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Thank you GarnetBird :)

Congrats on being published, by the way!

Yes, I think that there is room for both :)


Baileybear 5 years ago

I haven't gotten a lot of financial reward, but I have got personal reward - great feedback from people that found my articles interesting & I won a few prizes which indicate my writing isn't too bad


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Congratulations on the prizes, Baileybear!

And thanks for your comment :)


James A Watkins profile image

James A Watkins 5 years ago from Chicago

I wonder if we will have written books and magazines much longer. I love them and continue to buy them but the trend seems to be going all electronic.

HubPages has given me what I wanted from it: the opportunity to write for the first time, to practice this craft, to get some feedback from people about my ideas, and just to have my work read. I've made a little money. Surely not much by the hour. I have two years in and I do not regret it at all. I think HubPages has prepared me to finish my book (s). And that is what I shall do next.

Thanks for the excellent reportage.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello James :)

Thank you for commenting.

I agree that Hub Pages can give us a lot.

I think that books will survive, though :)


Learn Things Web profile image

Learn Things Web 5 years ago from California

Writing for me is basically a hobby. It's something I have always enjoyed doing. If I can make a little from Adsense, its a nice bonus. But I have to say I agree with writing for search engines being very restrictive. If you want what you write to be read, you have to rank high enough in searches. You can't just write for people. You have to write for the machines as well.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Learn Things Web :)

Yes, that is very true.

We write for both people and machines ~ but at least we are writing ~ and being read :)


Pamela99 profile image

Pamela99 5 years ago from United States

Trish, I haven't come across your hubs before but I really like this article. It brings up a multitude of points so there is a lot to consider. I stated on Hubpages to learn to write better articles and I have learned a lot this last year and a half. Voted up/ awesome.


Mel Jay profile image

Mel Jay 5 years ago from Australia

Great hub - and you are right, belonging to this community is rewarding whether a member is an aspiring professional or just an interested amateur. I think the internet has changed professional journalism in a lot of ways as well as opening up writing for anyone who is interested. I have noticed a real decline in grammar and structure from professional journalists of late. In the past I suppose they had time to edit before a print run, now they 'post' immediately. They too are controlled by 'machines' as a lot of their publications are either published directly online, or published in print and online news/other sites. Of course their sales then depend on google to a certain extent, in much the same way that recognition for a hub depends on google (and other 'machines'). Seems like we are all writing for a machine! Cheers, Mel


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hello Pamela :)

Thank you for your kind comments :)

I am glad that you are enjoying Hub Pages and am pleased that you enjoyed my article!

*

Hello Mel Jay :)

Thank you for reading my item and for the positive response :)

I agree about grammar etc, and you are probably right ~ it is all about time and machines ~ and money!


writeronline 5 years ago

Hi Trish, good tips here, and valid observations too.

I've written a few hubs about ways to make real money writing online, for real readers, as opposed to google et al, based on my personal experience doing so.

But these are commercial writing opportunities, working to commercial disciplines.

No such disciplines apply to 'speculative' online content / article writing, so it's not surprising that in an environment flooded with thousands of new offerings every day, very few writers make money.

But, this is not a new phenomenon. 'The joy of writing' was an established truism / cliché well before the internet, or the computer, or for that matter, the manual typewriter. Even the fountain pen...!

Throughout history, much has been written, by many; but few have written well enough (or been luckyy enough) to make a living through their words. And yet, we continue to fulfil the human need to communicate; to express ourselves, and receive feedback.

To me, it's just a case of, "Plus ca change, plus c'est la meme chose."


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Writeronline :)

Yes, people will continue to write because, for some, there is no choice ~ they are compelled to do it.

And, for most, there will not be riches ahead! :)

As for my earnings, I need to understand SEO, whatever that is, but it may still not bring im much more than the occasional few cents :)


wendi_w profile image

wendi_w 5 years ago from Midwest

I have returned to writing on hub pages after a long vacation. I feel that it is incredibly helpful in allowing me to practice the craft with feedback. Thank you for your fabulous hub


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Hi Wendi :)

Yes, I agree, the feedback aspect of it is really helpful and welcome.

Thank you for your very positive comments! :)


WD Curry 111 profile image

WD Curry 111 5 years ago from Space Coast

When the boom busted i Florida, I qualified for 26 weeks of unemployment. I sent articles, manuscripts and query letters everywhere. The Post office in Florida has been commandeered by thieves, drug dealers, and the incompetent. Half of my stuff never got there.

I went to art school. My favorite teacher warned,"Never listen to another artist."

The same is probably true for writers. I am working a local advertizing angle. You have to be clever. I don't care about SEO, that's for clogging up the search engine. I write what I feel like and I have been getting good volume, already. Opportunity rarely knocks, you have to chase it down.

What we have here is an interactive, multimedia magazine. I have been working publications for 30 years. I am a graphic artist and work in video and photography. Writer's forum can't hang. This is a new medium and I plan to take it somewhere, even beyond HubPages.

How can I go wrong? They gave me a free place to start, and I say . . . thank you.


John MacNab profile image

John MacNab 5 years ago from the banks of the St. Lawrence

The majority of writers write because they have an itch, and they will write regardless of monetary gain, Trish_M. I used to write on an Underwood typewriter and have articles published in magazines and newspapers - then came the internet.

Overnight, talented writers who hadn't previously owned a typewriter, had a means of being published. And I stopped being published. Even now I find it astounding that anybody even reads one of my Hubs, when I consider the millions of articles on the web.


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

Quote: WD Curry 111: "They gave me a free place to start, and I say . . . thank you."

I have to agree with you there! Thanks for commenting :)


Trish_M profile image

Trish_M 5 years ago from The English Midlands Author

John MacNab ~ Hi :)

Yes, there have been huge changes within society ~ related to technological advances ~ and that definitely includes the writing community.

Congratulations on having your work published, by the way, and thank you for commenting :)

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