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Demand Studios: Content Mill Criticism, but Up Front Article Pay

Updated on April 27, 2010

Demand Studios offers up-front pay for articles and steady work for writers. It is also at least partially responsible for the phrase “content-mill” and this has resulted in heavy criticism from the media and writers alike.

For those who don’t know, a content-mill is any website that churns out content at an incredibly rapid pace. In most cases, the phrase indicates a website that values quantity much more than quality. 

How Content Mills Work

Content mills play the numbers game with Google Adsense. By hiring large numbers of writers to produce a vast amount of work, the website can then make money based on consumer ad clicks of the content. The more content the mill produces, the higher the profit.

Demand Studios' Criticism

Extreme criticism arises, however, in almost every direction. One major accusation is that by producing such large amounts of content, the content must be sub-par since there is no way to truly quality check large numbers of articles. Thus, these writer mills are “junking up” the web and making searches more challenging for those who genuinely just want to find information on a topic or an answer to a simple question. 

Professional freelance writers often accuse content mills of driving prices down in the industry, since the writers who work at these jobs are mostly hobbyists just interested in making a bit of money on the side rather than serious writers interested in bringing in a full-time income through online writing.

Many, many fingers have been pointed at Demand Studios for being the worst of the worst, as it publishes more than 60,000 new articles each week. Writers for Demand Studios make an average of $15 an article. To the professional freelance writer, this is peanuts - not to mention infuriating since the very idea of selling a 400-500 word article for $500 is demeaning.

The Demand Studios Appeal

For those who work a full-time job, however, or for stay at home moms with a few hours to kill over the course of a day, $15 an article can quickly add up to $1000 a month or more. Ask anyone what he or she would do with an extra $1000 and you’ll get answers like “pay the mortgage payment”, “go on vacation”, “get out of debt”. These all become quick reality for those who can crank out several 500 word articles a day.

The downside, of course, is the fact that the articles themselves stand to earn the parent company much more over time than the writers are ever entitled to. Each article may bring in hundreds of dollars for the parent company while the writer makes $15 upfront pay for his or her effort. To balance this out, however, there is always steady work to be had. Demand Studios often boasts over 100,000 titles for writers to choose from. 

With Quality Comes Stress

In an effort to promote quality control of the content it produces, Demand Studios has a team of copyeditors on staff to review the work of each writer as it is submitted. The copyeditor has the option to pass the article on for publishing or send it back to the writer for a rewrite. Should the writer fail to meet the copyeditor’s expectations, the article is rejected.

In addition to copyeditors, Demand Studios’ writers are also expected to include references within each article that cite reputable sources for the information provided in the article. Given that some copyeditors are more strict than others, a writer never knows when he or she submits an article exactly what sort of response that article will receive. Each of the over 800 copyeditors has specific preferences for the way that Demand Studios’ articles should be written. This results in extreme stress among writers.

The average tenure for a Demand Studios writer is two months. After this period of time, most writers will become too overwhelmed with the rewrite process to continue. In addition, by paying attention to the forums and the discussions of other writers, some writers quickly find other paying avenues for their work and move on. 

When writers leave, Demand Studios suffers. The guidelines state exactly how each submitted article should be written. Because of this there is a learning curve that varies from writer to writer. If even 50% of Demand Studios’ writing team leaves every two months, that leaves the company with an almost unbearably high turnover rate. 

The stress may just eat you alive.
The stress may just eat you alive.

If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It

While there are surely steps Demand could take to remedy the dissatisfaction suffered by both writers and copyeditors, the guidelines that are in place prevent the company from ever suffering the brunt of what goes on beneath the surface. Frustrated copyeditors, rather than wasting time writing out each item a writer needs to fix within his or her article, often fix the problems themselves. This results in the article being passed through without the writer even realizing that the work was either sub-par or did not meet the guidelines. 

The copyeditors, however, cannot be expected to spend time coaching writers since they are paid $3.50 for each article that they review. This leaves the copyeditors with the choice to either do an exemplary job or pay the electric bill. 

The irony here is that Demand routinely turns down copyeditor applications from individuals with 20+ years of experience in favor of those with less extensive resumes. Once again, it’s a smarter business move for the company. If an editor is too hands on, this means that more writers will choose to abandon the rewrites that the copyeditor requests rather than complete them. Since a rewrite sits on a writer’s online work desk for four days before being sent back into the main title pool, more abandoned titles means less output for Demand Studios. 

So Is It a Content Mill?

In a word, yes. Demand Studios is the epitome of the stereotypical content mill. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, however. The company provides a public service to individuals everywhere who need a few hundred extra dollars to be able to pay bills, buy holiday gifts or invest for the future. If the website drives down the cost of other articles, is that truly so terrible? It is very reminiscent of the whole Napster debacle. In the end, downloaded songs really did bring down the price of CDs, which were too expensive to begin with. 

Little Issues Have a Way of Becoming Big Problems

One drawback of Demand Studios would be the fact that the company makes no secret about being far more focused on content than on taking good care of the freelance writers and copyeditors who make their livings there. The lack of consistency among copyeditors is perhaps the most frequently quoted problem among writers. Due to the differences among personalities in a working environment, however, this is no quick fix to this dilemma.

Simple problems, such as rejected articles not being removed from a writer’s work desk when the rejection is overturned, are easily remedied. In addition, Demand recently “allowed” writers to add more than three references to each article. This makes for more work for both the writers (who, in fear of getting a copyeditor who wants citations for every fact, add a multitude of references) and the copyeditors, who must fact check every article they pick up. It’s a good business move when it comes to quality, but it places added stress on the shoulders of both groups of freelancers.

The money's good, but the stress is bad. You choose your poison.
The money's good, but the stress is bad. You choose your poison.

Is Up Front Article Pay Worth It?

Up front pay for articles is something that few writers in the online writing world are privy to. For those that are, the pay is often paltry. At some up front article pay sites, writers can only expect $4-$5 for each 500 word article that they submit. The $15 offered by Demand is princely in comparison.

In conclusion, Demand Studios isn’t any worse than any other workplace. Unless you work for yourself, you are going to face issues with authority that there is simply no remedy for. Whether you are a writer or a copyeditor - or thinking of becoming one - it is important to remember that there is no way to make every “co-worker” happy. Tolerance is perhaps the best attribute you can hope to display while working with Demand Studios. Once you learn to not let bad articles or multiple rewrites bother you, you’re golden - at least until the next big up front article pay site comes along. 


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