My Experience with Online Freelance Writing Site Examiner
Examiner requires excessive promotion yet has low payouts
Locally-based content writing improves your reputation as a "real" journalist.
News-based stories are often highlighted on Google.
Low-pay structure based mostly on page views
No real journalist perks (i.e., press passes)
Examiner is a locally-focused journalist-style online freelance writing site. By locally-focused, that means that its writers/journalists are required to write about local news, events, and subject matters relating to their topic of choice. For example, a Culinary Examiner living in New York City would be required to write about New York City-related food festivals, not those occurring in Jacksonville or Denver. Additionally, writers are assigned a certain channel, or writing focus: for example, there is a Denver Beer Examiner, a Pheonix Wine Examiner, and a San Francisco Movie Examiner.
The application process is not hard; you simply go to the web site and fill out some forms. You can also suggest a new channel in which you would like to write. The channel selections are rather broad, so it is a good idea to narrow down your channel of choice. Additionally, you must submit a few writing samples and take a 200-word writing test. Approval notification, if it occurs, arrives about 5 business days later. At that point, you have 3 days in which to answer the acceptance letter and provide additional information to Examiner.
Once you have been accepted to Examiner, your channel manager e-mails you a basic introductory letter which contains article submission instructions, writing and submission tutorials, and links to writer forums and other instructional sites. The channel manager also looks over and approves your first posting to Examiner. Once your first posting is approved and published, you are free to publish as much and as often as you wish. Examiner itself recommends posting a minimum of 4-5 articles per week. At the very least, and also in order to get paid, Examiner recommends that you post an article at least once a month.
Article promotion on Examiner is heavily stressed. You are supposed to re-post your article on Twitter, Facebook, Digg, etc. The "Examiner University", which is a collection of videos intended to help you better write and market your content, also mentions how you should maintain your own blog and repost your content links there as well. You are also encouraged to announce your newly minted articles to fellow Examiners. The reason that promotion is so heavily stressed is because Examiner's payment structure is based on page views. Once your payment balance reaches $25, you are paid through Paypal. The page view to cash algorithm is kept secret on Examiner, but in my experience has translated to about 1 page view = $0.0075, or 3/4 of a penny for each page view.
Examiner also offers up-front payments of $1/article for all locally based articles, with a limit of 5 locally based articles per week. Other incentives include a $50 bonus for each individual referral who then becomes an Examiner. There are also periodic contests that one can enter; the latest America Inspired contest offers a grand prize of $10,000 to the winning Examiner and $50,000 to the person or organization that this Examiner has written about.
One quality about Examiner that did not appeal to me was the fact that the site slices channels to the point of insignificance. I can undersand each city having its own Drinks Examiner channel. However, Examiner slices and dices these channels even further. For example, there is a New York Beer Pairing Examiner, a New York Craft Beer Examiner, and a New York Drinks Examiner. How do these 3 Examiners not step on each other's toes?
Likewise, Examiner portrays itself as a news site that employs real journalists. Stories written by Examiners are expected to follow a news-style reporting (inverted pyramid) structure. However, the so "journalists" who make up Examiner are given no real journalist privileges, such as press passes, free event tickets, free products, etc. In essence, if you expect to cover any event or product, you are stuck doing this on your own dime.
When I first joined Examiner, my payout per article posting was quite amazing. Since I was the Madison Craft Beer Examiner, I didn't expect to get a lot of site hits from anyone outside of Wisconsin. However, fellow Examiners, as well as the general public, started coming to my site very often. Meanwhile, Examiner would pay a penny per page view. I'd easily manage a dollar a month per each article published, which of course made me wonder if I could write enough articles to make myself a steady side income (Let's see...if I write 1,000 articles, that means I get $1,000/month).
Then, Examiner did a recalibration of its standing with Google, which is where most of the site's traffic originates. Apparantly, Examiner examiners were posting all published articles as immediate news, thus gaining tremendous traffic from Google. After the Google calibration, only recent news articles could be designated as true news. Most of the other articles, which were not real news-based, were qualified simply as basic (and descriptive) articles.
Once this recalibration occurred, my page views dropped significantly. Even during the weeks where I'd submit 1-3 articles, my payouts were 25-30 cents per day or even less. Also, although I had almost 50 articles published by that time, my payouts were not significantly higher as a result of those older articles. For a long time, it seemed as though Examiner had simply dropped off the search engine map.
Eventually, my article page views on Examiner increased. However, I still never averaged more than 40 cents per day. I started writing for Examiner less and less. Weeks went by where I did not post at all, and then, months. I would dutifully put up one article every now and then in order to collect my payout after 2-3 months had gone by; however, I simply felt no need to chase after less than a dollar a day in payment. Even the introduction of Examiner up-front payments, to the tune of $1/article, did not entice me to write more. In the end, I decided that Associated Content, Constant Content, and Textbroker were better suited to my making reasonable amounts of money.
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