Writing for the Internet – A Rewarding Experience or ‘A Total Waste of Time’?
Putting Pen to Paper
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?
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'.
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'.
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.
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.
Why Not Join Hub Pages? - It's Free and Easy!
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.
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.
'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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