About Hub Pages: An Interview with Ryan “Hup” Hupfer

Hubpages

Deb’s note: This interview is part two in a series featuring content sites. As there have been much speculation and a few rather lopsided “investigations” regarding content sites, I thought it would be fair to talk to the people behind the content sites and let them tell the FWJ community a little about what they do, the benefits to their writers and why their sites are unique. Please note, these interviews aren’t endorsements, freelancers are always encouraged to make the decisions that work out best for them.

Please see Part 1: About Suite101: An Interview with Editor in Chief Colin Smith

I met “Hup” Hupfer at BlogWorld last month and we instantly connected. In fact, it was my discussion with Hup that is the inspiration behind this series. After seeing his genuine passion for HubPages, and sharing some feedback about what I know about HubPages, I felt some interviews with the folks behind the content sites would help to balance out a few of the negative, one-sided reports  we’re finding online lately. Some of us read “web content” and run screaming for the hills. The truth is, most of the people I talk to aren’t smarmy content purveyors. They have a love for writing and care for the people who write for them. Hup isn’t looking to collect low paying content, he’s interested in giving writers (of all levels) a voice.

I give you…the other side of the story.

What is HubPages?
If you would like to know how me and the rest of the HubPages team officially defines it internally, HubPages is the most rewarding online content-based community that allows anyone to easily share the topics they’re interested in with the rest of the world. A more people-friendly version would be something like HubPages is a place where all types of people can hang out, write and generate earnings based upon the content that they create. I’m not sure if there’s really much of a difference between those two definitions, but there ya go.

How is HubPages different from other writing and blogging sites?
I’m a big fan of reading lists when I am reading an interview like this, so I’m going to take that approach if you don’t mind. Here are some of the main differences that I would say make HubPages stand out from the rest of the writing and blogging sites out there (and yes, there are a lot of them).

  • You own all of the content that you publish in HubPages – Yep, it’s true — our Hubbers (members of the HubPages community) retain all ownership and rights to all of the Hubs (articles on HubPages) that they publish. So, if for some reason you get mad at us and want to delete your account, pack your suitcase with all of your content and take the first train out of HubPages town, that’s cool with us. It’s all yours, so please feel free to take it all with you (although we’ll probably miss you).
  • We have a rockin’ (and very helpful) community of awesome Hubbers – Not only are we a great place to write online, but we’re also a great place to learn, interact and hang out with other writers who are all about helping each other become successful. We have over 100,000 Hubbers who have published something on HubPages and that number is growing every single day.
  • We are very transparent and open with our Hubbers – Something that several Hubbers have told me over the past year or so when I ask them what they really like about HubPages versus other places is that our platform and our staff are both very open and transparent with the community. Want to know how many Hubs  we have written and how many users we have? Easy, check out our stats page when you get a chance. Want to know how much money you’re going to make this month? There’s never any question how much you’ve made due to the fact that you are paid directly from the various networks that you sign up for (Google AdSense, Amazon Associate, eBay Partner Network, etc.). Oh, and if you have any questions beyond these, we’re always willing to actually answer your emails or posts in our forums. I know…crazy, huh? :)
  • We have one of the best views per published content ratios of any other writing, blog or any other content site, which you can read more about over here in this blog post. We work very hard at keeping the content on HubPages as high-quality as possible and I think that this ratio shows us that it’s worth it.
  • One final thing is that unlike most blogs and other content sites, on HubPages you aren’t at all limited to writing about any particular topic or niche, which gives you a lot of freedom to write about what you want.

Tell us a little about the history of HubPages…
You can read all about the full history of HubPages over in these two Hubs that one of our founders, Paul Edmondson, wrote (he writes a lot of Hubs):

But, for those of you who aren’t big on clicking links, here’s a quick rundown of how HubPages started:

  • - HubPages was founded in 2006 by three guys who sold a startup called Mongo Music to Microsoft
  • - HubPages was created to be the best, easiest and most transparent place for writers to make money publishing online
  • - First Hub was published on June 28th, 2006
  • - 100,000th Hub was published on April 23rd, 2008 (20 months later)
  • - 200,000th Hub was published on October 30th, 2008 (8 months later)
  • - 300,000th Hub was published on April 23rd, 2009 (5 months later)
  • - 400,000th Hub was published on  July 14th, 2009 (2.5 months later)
  • - 500,000th Hub was published on  September 21st, 2009 (a little over 2 months later)
  • - We currently only have 7 full-time employees at HubPages, which means that we’re lean and mean (well, we’re not that mean)
  • - We acquired our first official mascot (my Pug, Frank ) in July 2009.

How many active writers are with HubPages now?
Nearly half of the 100,000+ Hubbers who have published at least one Hub have been active on HubPages sometime in the past 3 months. For all of you non-math people such as myself, that’s almost 50,000 active writers.

What does HubPages offer as incentive and pay for their freelance writers?
As far as incentives go, I like to break them up into 3 different categories:

1. Financial – This is probably our most well-known incentive and one that we feel gives our writers an awesome opportunity to generate earnings from their content. The way that our Hubbers get paid is simple, we offer up 60% of all Hub impressions to the author and we take the other 40%. This means that no matter if you’re getting an AdSense click, an Amazon sale or any other kind of revenue generating activity on your Hubs, if it happens during your 60% of your impressions you keep 100% of it. If the clicks occur on our 40% of your Hub’s impressions, then we keep 100% of it. Make sense? Here’s a great blog post that helps explain how earnings are generated and split on HubPages.

2. Social - Although some people are definitely out to generate some cash on HubPages, there are also many who see the social side of HubPages as the biggest benefit of our platform, with the revenue potential coming in a close second. These social incentives include getting your content read, commented on and recognized by other Hubbers as well as the benefit of some basic human-nature type of relationship building with the rest of the community. I think that it’s safe to say that not very many people like to write in a vacuum where there’s no opportunity for feedback from others and HubPages makes it easy to get this type of feedback from the community quickly.

3. Educational – For many traditional freelancers, beginners and other writers who are making the leap in to self-publishing online, the learning curve that’s associated with writing for the web’s ecosystem (getting search traffic with SEO, keywords, etc.) can be a tough one. HubPages helps these types of writers get up to speed thanks to the fact that we have some free, easy-to-use tools and a super-helpful online community that’s always willing to help out a fellow Hubber who has questions. So basically, for those out there who are wanting a free and easy way to learn about how to write for a search-based web, HubPages is one of the best places to do it.

What does the average Hubber earn in a given month?

This is a tricky question based upon how we pay our Hubbers, due to the fact that we don’t know exactly how much each Hubber is getting a check for each month. But, from our 40% of the impressions we are currently seeing that Hubbers are generating somewhere between $4.00 and $5.00 per 1,000 page views, which we feel is very competitive. Of course, since a majority of all Hubber’s earnings are generated from AdSense, this amount will vary quite a bit depending on what topics they choose to write about.

You can read about some of our most recent Hubbers who have hit their first $100 Google AdSense payouts over here on our blog’s Payout Chronicles section,  and for a different look at how a Hubber earns money from eBay, be sure to check out this post, too.

What sort of traffic does HubPages receive on a regular basis?


Well, we’ve been growing quite a bit here lately and have just recently cracked the top 100 websites in the US (we’re #93 at the time of this writing ), but last month (October 2009) we had over 18 million unique visitors and over 85 million pageviews. This year’s numbers are over double the amount of visitors that we saw last year in October 2008, which is pretty awesome.

What are some of the more popular “Hubs?”

Well Deb, since I like you so much, I decided to take a trip in the ‘way back HubPages machine’ so that I could dig up a few of our more popular Hubs from the last year (October ’08 – October ’09) and here’s what I found. Each one of these six Hubs has received over 100,000 pageviews over the past year and after looking at them I think that you’ll start to realize the variety of content that can be successful on HubPages:

Also, one thing that everyone reading this needs to know is that getting a lot of traffic on HubPages doesn’t necessarily mean making a lot of money. Different topics (different ads) can pay out vastly different amounts.

What would you like to say to the people who criticize HubPages for being a low-paying content mill?

Wow Deb, this one came out of nowhere like a dagger to the throat in the middle of the night! ouch! haha

Honestly, thanks for the honest question as I know this is how many of your readers currently think about us, which makes me whimper like a little school girl (really, it does) because I think of HubPages as much, much more than a low-paying place to pump out low-quality crap. Of course, if you do plan on pumping out low-quality crap, odds are that we will be very low paying, so I guess there actually is some truth to that.

The first thing that that I would say after being asked this question is that HubPages isn’t for everyone and we don’t pretend to be. If you’re already getting paid $100 an article doing your freelance thing and can’t seem to write enough due to the current demand that you’re seeing, then obviously the amount of money that you make on HubPages might seem a little small, at least initially. But, if you’re someone who would love to earn some extra residual income, have enough patience/motivation to stick with us and enjoy a free and fun writing environment, then we are definitely a place that you should be checking out.

Also, it seems to me that some writers have trouble shifting their focus to writing for search traffic because of how much different it can be from traditionally writing an article that is going to be placed in a magazine, newspaper or on a more traditional, magazine-esque website. This is because there is a lot to learn when it comes to SEO, keyword research and finding great topics to write on, but I guarantee that after giving HubPages a shot for a couple of months nearly anyone will pick up the skills that they need to be successful on HubPages or any other site, blog, etc.

One of the other things that some writers get turned off by about HubPages is the fact that we pay strictly on performance, which means that their content needs to actually generate revenue before they see any earnings. Although this can seem like an unfair situation so some, there are a couple things that everyone who is thinking about writing on HubPages needs to realize:

1. HubPages wants to help you make more money because that’s how we make money, so it’s in our best interests to help you be as successful as possible.
2. Writing for residual income might not give you instant gratification, but if you write about evergreen topics that continue to get search traffic, you’re going to make at least the same amount of money this month as you did the last (and most likely more), even if you stopped writing altogether. I have made over $100 the past 3 months and I haven’t written a Hub since May, which is really nice.

What are your thoughts about all the other content sites? Room for everyone? Too much competition?
I have met and talked with many of the other content sites out there and as far as I can tell, we’re all doing something that’s a little bit different, which I think is pretty cool. Also, I’m well aware that many of the Hubbers that are writing on HubPages are also writing on some of these other sites as well, which we have absolutely no problem with. I actually think that all of the content sites and other ‘user-generated revenue’ sites should all get together and have a big conference or something — that would be a lot of fun and could help educate the masses on all of the opportunities that are out there as far as earning from your expertise and knowledge


What are some of the things we can expect from HubPages in the future?

First and foremost you can always expect a continued focus on making our publishing process simple. straight-forward and fast — that’s always our top priority. Besides that we are always looking to make HubPages a little more social and we also have some plans for reaching to more enthusiasts and ‘non-writers’ here in the future, which will be an ongoing challenge for us, I’m sure. Besides that, you can keep up with us through our blog or on our Facebook page and hear about any news as soon as we announce it.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Well, I guess first of all I would like to tell of your readers is that if after reading this interview they still have some questions regarding HubPages, that they can feel free to ask them below in the comments and I’ll answer them as quickly as I can. Secondly, for any of your readers that feel like HubPages might be worth trying out they can join our community by clicking here now.

Thanks, Hup!

Incidentally, Hup and I traded interviews. Look for an interview with me at HubPages shortly. As soon as it’s up, I’ll post the link here.

So what do you think? Do you have any questions for Hup regarding HubPages?

Comments

  1. Great interview (as always) Deb and Hup! I have to say (because it is morning and I haven’t used all my words yet) that Hubpages generates about 1/4 of my income as a full time writer… I have been writing for hubpages since August 2007 and just published my 500th article this week. I have seen a steady upward growth in adsense, affiliates, etc… over that time. It definitely isn’t a way to support yourself so you can quit your job in a month or two but if you are willing to work at it consistently, write quality stuff, and be patient you can make a significant amount of money in a relatively short period of time.
    I get writing offers a lot. I don’t write for Hubpages because I have to …I write for them because I want to.

  2. I started with Hubpages in 2007 as well, and have to agree with Marye that if you write quality articles, you will make a nice chunk of change. I haven’t written anything for them this year, but I’m still getting monthly Google checks from my Hubs. What Ryan says about the transparency and openness at Hubpages is absolutely true: I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen one of the owners on the forums answering questions.

    What I appreciated most about Hubpages was that, as Ryan mentioned, I wasn’t stuck writing about only one topic. It was a very good way to be able to write sample articles on a variety of topics, and that definitely helped later on as I looked for more writing gigs.

  3. This is very timely. I have a few Hubs, but never did much with them since I didn’t understand the revenue model. Now that I do, I think I can do a better job on them…and making more on my affiliate programs. Thanks Deb for being fair and honest with the other side of the story.

    Now here’s a question: if writers own the content, can they reprint it to another site? Can you take a blog post you wrote and transform it into a hub?

    • Hey Jeanne — thanks for the comment and for the question (which is a very popular one). There is nothing in our terms of service that stops you from posting your own, original content (that you’ve created on HubPages or elsewhere) anywhere else on the web, but we highly encourage all of our Hubbers to write unique content on HubPages because it will bring them much more success with attracting traffic from search engines. In other words, duplicate content will get penalized by Google and other search engines, as they prefer fresh, original and quality content to be showcased.

      But, don’t take it from me, I went and dug up some info from Google so that you can get a better sense of what I mean:

      This is quoted from Google’s Webmaster help section (http://www.google.com/support/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=66359):

      “In the rare cases in which Google perceives that duplicate content may be shown with intent to manipulate our rankings and deceive our users, we’ll also make appropriate adjustments in the indexing and ranking of the sites involved. As a result, the ranking of the site may suffer, or the site might be removed entirely from the Google index, in which case it will no longer appear in search results.”

      Now, I’m not saying that you would be trying to manipulate search rankings/results, but honestly, why would you even want to take the chance? Writing original stuff is always the best way to go and if you’re wanting to be successful on HubPages or any other blog, website, etc. I would advise you to totally stay away from duplicating any of your content.

      Hope this helps!

  4. After nearly eight months writing there, I’m firmly pro-HubPages and have written a couple of HubPages reviews on my blog in my enthusiasm, detailing both the positives and negatives of writing there. If you write well, write creatively and write with business savvy, it’s a great site for a non-techie to build Web content pages. No site is perfect, but HubPages does a lot of things right that other writing sites don’t. The phrase “they’re good people” seems to sum it up. (At least, for now. I’m a cynic, and the online world changes rapidly, but until HubPages falls from grace, I’m there…)

  5. I’ve been with HubPages for two years and have made almost $1,000 with 94 articles. No, it doesn’t sound like much but the income is building – from 1 or 2 cents per article per month at the start, to $1 or $2 per article per month now, and steadily climbing. It seems to take time for your Hubs to mature!

    More importantly, though, the HubPages setup meant I had to learn about earning through affiliates and how to analyse traffic, and also put me in a community full of seasoned online writers who were generous with advice. That enabled me to learn about making money online in baby steps, and inspired me to start my own websites. Now, although my Hubs may only be earning $500 a year, they are also valuable promotional tools for my own sites which earn much more than that – and I would never have had the skills to create them without HubPages.

  6. I have been with HubPages now for about 3 months and would highly recommend them to everyone. HP is not like other sites where you only get a frustrating e-mail telling you that your article has not been approved and you can not decipher what the problem is; at HubPages there is someone in the forums that is willing and able to help you through whatever dilemma you maybe facing with an article.

    I joined a group called the HubMobster’s about two months ago, and believe that the support being provided within this group setting has definitely help improve my writing frequency and skills. And I have made money already as well, so come join us.

  7. Veronica allen says:

    I currently write for Hubpages as well. I’ve been there for three months now, and I must say I absolutely fove the forum. It’s unlike any other writing site I’ve seen. In the beginning I joined to make a few extra bucks, but I’ve continued on out of my love of writing and the great recipes, stories, how-to’s etc. that have been presented there. I’m very grateful for the opportunity and so glad I ran across them.

  8. I had a negative experience with HubPages and stopped writing for them… But, it was fun while it lasted..

  9. I have been writing for HubPages since 2007, and it was one of the first content sharing sites that I used to build my writing portfolio, I really enjoy the community and think that my writing has improved over the years, I feel that Hubpages is a great place for anyone interested in getting started with freelance writing, because it will give you the opportunity to learn and grow your writing skills while meeting like minded people who share your passion for sharing information, tips and experiences.

  10. Great post, I have been thinking of joining Hub Pages, but there were quite a few things I wasn’t sure about. THis post answered most of my questions, so thanks a lot!

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