Deb’s note: This interview is part three in a series offering a behind the scenes look at content sites. As there have been much speculation and a few rather one-sided “investigations” regarding some of these sites, I felt it would be fair to talk to the people who run 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. In the past we featured interviews with the people behind Suite101 and HubPages.
This interview was conducted in the beginning of November, but hopefully isn’t too outdated.
I had the pleasure of meeting Demand Studio’s Senior Vice President of Content and Editorial, Jeremy Reed, in September when I was invited to attend their Creator Conference in Santa Monica. What struck me about Jeremy wasn’t necessarily his passion for good writing, which he has in spades, but his passion for writers and the Creators who make up the Demands Studios community.
What is Demand Studios?
We are a very large freelance community made up of writers, filmmakers, copy editors and other roles. We produce articles and videos for our own owned-and-operated sites, such as LIVESTRONG.COM, Trails.com and eHow.com as well as for partners like YouTube (video), the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (travel articles) and others.
How is Demand Studios different from other writing and blogging sites?
When we set out to build Demand Studios more than three years ago, we focused on creating a good, reliable environment for freelancers to grow in their careers. For those of us who were former freelancers, it meant simply taking some of the headaches and risks out of freelancing. We wanted to make sure that all qualified creators had the ability for things like: unlimited work without having to pitch ideas; regular pay in the form of twice-weekly payments through PayPal; complete transparency into how much you make for each assignment; editorial feedback on every submission as well as the support of a creative community; and opportunities to write and film for many, different credible outlets. Freelancing has always been a ‘tough-skin’ business – where you really need perseverance to succeed. We saw an opportunity (and void) in the current economic landscape for truly talented creators to get steady work, grow their careers – and do so from the comforts of their own homes.
How many active writers are with Demand Studios now?
We have more than 4,500 active writers and more than 600 active copy editors. We now have more active copy editors than the top 5 newspapers combined. And yes, this has resulted in our ability to publish more than 1 million articles. But, there is also this great community spirit of teaching that takes place among these large groups in our forums and outside of our site. It is not all hugs and kisses. It’s also a lot of harsh criticism and tough love. It has a lot of the traits of good writing groups in the offline world.
What does Demand Studios offer as incentive and pay for their freelance writers?
We have assignments ranging in price based on factors like word count, level of expertise, etc. Typically, we hear from our writers that they earn somewhere between $15 and $30 an hour. We want writers to focus on researching and reporting on a topic. And, we will take care of other factors like SEO, coming up with titles, etc.
What does the average Demand Studios writer earn in a given month?
The majority of writers do this on a part-time basis to complement other forms of income. But, what we’ve seen is the typical active writer earns a few hundred dollars a month.
What sort of traffic does Demand Studios receive on a regular basis?
Demand Studios is the publishing platform for Demand Media. The majority of the content we create goes on our own media network, to sites like eHow.com, Trails.com and LIVESTRONG.COM. In the month of October, our media network was ranked No. 16 among U.S. Media properties (52.7 million unique visitors a month), according to comScore. This puts us ahead of the New York Times Digital.
What would you like to say to the people who criticize Demand Studios for being a low-paying content mill?
For me, it is very personal. I’ve spent almost 20 years in the publishing world. For a portion of that time, my career (and income) revolved around freelance writing. I felt like my experiences gave me solid insight into the difficulties freelance writers face. That said, I do take the criticisms from our writers very seriously. I spend many of my nights catching up on the forums and looking at Twitter feeds. We react to the criticisms within our community, and it has definitely shaped how we have built Demand Studios. We’ve made some mistakes along the way – but I know we’ve continued to improve the offering for our writers and it has resulted in better articles. I also know how hard they work with our editors to produce responsible, useful articles, so I jump at every chance to defend the quality of our writers.
Demand Studios has been receiving a lot of negative press lately, some of the reports were rather biased and one-sided. Here’s your chance to set the record straight and dispel any myths. Are there points you’d like to clarify, misconceptions you’d like to clear up or myths you’d like to dispel?
My background is in traditional publishing. I have so much respect for the steps needed to create responsible content. We qualify every writer based on experience, expertise and education. All of our writers are asked to write to specific guidelines and supply references for every article. Every article goes through a plagiarism check. Our copy editors come from the copy desks of some of the most respected newspaper outlets. They review every article and if it doesn’t meet our guidelines, it gets sent back for a rewrite or gets rejected. In this day-and-age of publishing, where so many decisions are driven by the need to cut or eliminate costs, we’ve gone to great lengths to develop a community of really qualified writers and put them in a position and environment to create quality articles.
What are your thoughts about all the other content sites? Room for everyone? Too much competition?
To date, we’ve focused most of our content on a very specific form of journalism often referred to as service journalism or ‘news you can use.’ These are typical evergreen articles like ‘How to Tie a Tie’ or ‘5 Best Dog-Friendly Hotels in the Southeast.’ With newspapers focusing on investigative reporting, this type of content is getting cut out of their coverage. And, in an online world, where content is accessible long after its published date, there is a real opportunity for this high quality, useful content to gain a large readership. The opportunities are endless, especially with the talented group of writers and copy editors we’ve assembled.
What are some of the things we can expect from Demand Studios in the future?
We have big plans in 2010. We are going to invest even more in content and in our freelance community. This means more opportunity for our writers to further their careers. We will continue to listen to our writers as we work together to build the No. 1 place for freelance writers.
To learn more and apply to Demand Studios, please visit DemandStudios.com
Do you have any questions for Jeremy or another member of the Demand Studios team? Feel free to ask in the comments.
Full disclosure: Demand Studios is a sponsor for this blog.