About Demand Studios: An Interview with SVP of Content & Editorial, Jeremy Reed

Jeremy Reed

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This interview was conducted in the beginning of November, but hopefully isn’t too outdated.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.

Comments

  1. Jeremy maybe you can help. I applied to write for DS a year ago and my application was denied, but I wasn’t given a reason. I’m a mass communications major and work as a freelance editor. I appreciate high standards but I’m wondering if there’s a re-application process? I’d love to try again and I know of others who feel the same.

    Thank you for any advice.

  2. Hello Jeremy,

    I am a Canadian freelance writer with an English degree. I have looked at your site several times and periodically check back to see if you are accepting writers from outside the U.S. I am wondering if there are any plans in the foreseeable future to accept international writers. I write for a couple of other sites based in the U.S. and have not had any trouble with payment or paperwork, so I am confused about the Demand Studios policy of only accepting U.S. writers.

    I appreciate your time.

  3. Hi Jeremy,

    I am a Canadian freelance writer and teacher. I am also wondering if you may be accepting international writers in the future.

    Thank you for telling us more about Demand Studios.

  4. Jeremy thank you for coming to Deb’s blog. I have a question too. Are there any efforts underway to streamline the title search process. Finding titles to write is the most time consuming part of working for DS and I sometimes search for an hour or more. It’s not very cost efficient. Do you have any suggestions for making the process easier? If not, is this something DS can look into?

  5. Deb thanks for a great, informative article.

  6. Just a note for the Canadians… Suite101 is a Canadian based company who hires writers internationally. I write for both DS and Suite and find them very complimentary to one another for both income (DS pays a one-time flat fee and Suite101 pays lifetime residuals) and article linking (more traffic & profile).
    Cheers!
    Jen

  7. Anita Cooper says:

    I do not have a degree in English, nor do I have work published in print. My portfolio only consists of articles submitted to websites such as helium.com and associated content.

    Would it be a waste of time to apply to your site, and if so, what resource, in addition to this wonderful one that Deb has put together, do you recommend that would provide information on building a good portfolio?

    Thank you.
    Anita

  8. First off, thanks to everyone for taking the time to read this and ask questions.

    To all the Canadians (Jennifer, Jenny & Kim), we’ve been looking/working hard at expanding into Canada and other countries. I wish I could give you a hard date of when … but I just can’t right now with 100% confidence. But, please know we are working on it. Mike Cowan (head of Marketing) was born and raised in Canada. And, I have still have fond memories of living in London, Ontario, while my dad was doing graduate work at Western Ontario. So, you’ve got fans in the office.

    Anita, yes, definitely apply. One bit of advice: Take the time to fully complete the application with a resume, strong writing samples and areas of interest. Far too many times, we reject writers because they just don’t take the time to fill out the application. Every application is looked at by an editor. And, they always take into account education, experience and expertise. Good luck.

    Kerry, please send an email to [email protected] and put ‘Attention Emily’ in the subject line. Explain the situation, and please also include an updated resume and writing sample. For everyone else not in the same situation, please don’t email Emily or she will kill me for giving out this info.

    Best of luck everyone.

  9. Just a note. DS is probably worth it to make some extra bucks, but not so much for serious freelancing. I looked into this a few months ago and wrote about a dozen articles for them. They’re mostly eHow and factsheet fare, so there’s a formula for most of them and you can pump them out pretty fast.

    Unlike professional freelancing, you don’t get paid by the word, you get paid by the article. The most you’ll make is $15 per article, possibly even less. I saw articles for $7.50 and $3. I never saw any articles that paid more than $15. At only $15 for an article and with the possibility of rewrites from what I thought was an inexperienced “editorial” staff, you have to seriously consider whether it’s worth your while.

    For some extra pocket cash, it’s probably okay.

    One other thing to keep in mind, with most of these content mills, you often don’t end up owning the rights to your own work. I forget if this is the case with DS, but be sure to read that agreement before you start writing for them.

  10. Thank-you for your quick reply Jeremy. I will continue to check back with the Demand Studios site and look forward to the day I can apply.

    Thanks again for the interview information and thorough responses!

  11. Deb, thanks for this interview. Demand Studios has received a lot of attention, and it’s great to hear directly from Jeremy.

    Jeremy, I’d like to echo what Kerry said. A reapplication process would be much appreciated for those of us who have been rejected. I also was not given a reason for rejection. Since that time, I’ve collected more clips and experience, but it was my understanding that once a writer was rejected, that was a final decision. I’ve worked for other companies with strict hiring guidelines, and they usually required rejected applicants to wait six months to a year before reapplying. Perhaps that’s a policy that would work for DS.

  12. T,

    We are working on a better process. You are right, we need one. In the meantime, please follow the same instructions I gave Kerry. We definitely want you to be able to reapply as you’ve grow your career/experience.

    Best,
    Jeremy

  13. Great interview. I am a writer for DS and I always worry if the writing opportunities are going to end in, say, 5 years time? Or should I expect DS to grow even bigger until after 20 years? I work for DS full time so this is really my worry.

    • Hi Lita,

      I understand your concern. When I first began writing several places closed their doors. One of them “Write for Cash” was the sole source of income for many writers. Though I won’t say it will never happen, DS does come better funded than many of those ventures. Nothing in freelancing is a sure thing. My recommendation for those who are afraid to be out of a gig is to find a variety of clients.

  14. Lita,

    Adding to what Deb said, freelancing always has its risks. That said, we’ve completed the planning process for 2010. I can say with confidence we plan to publish more content (text, video) this year than we did in 2009. So, there should be work for our qualified community.

    Best of luck,
    Jeremy

  15. Jeremy,

    I wish I’d seen this post a week ago.

    I applied for a copyediting position on Dec. 19, received and successfully submitted the two tests on Dec. 22, and since then have received no communication from Demand Studios. My work desk still says “under review” for the position.

    I’ve sent two messages regarding the application, one to Mr. Lally, but have still received no reply.

    Can you provide me with any information on the application? Should I do as you instructed Kerry?

    I hope you see this. Thanks for taking the time to interview.

    Khalid

  16. I’d like to know what Demand Media is going to do about eHow Writers who are feeling pretty used and abused? Using copyrighted material on the ehow UK site to compete with the residual income writers’ own work is just lousy business practice and a PR nightmare. Is anyone up at corporate paying attention to the fall out?

    I would be happy to interview Jeremy and post the results on my blog – as a business person myself I can understand the issues and as a writer I can articulate the issues. Currently all the eHow writers are getting are presponses (not answers) and deleted forum posts. Will Demand step up with some actual answers?

    Oh and we will just see if a thread referencing
    .-= JadeDragon´s last blog ..HowToDoThings.com Review – is it a Scam? =-.

  17. JadeDragon,

    The simple answer: We messed up and now we’ve got it fixed. Short story: We didn’t have the proper tracking in place. And, you will see the results (e.g. money), if you are an eHow WCP (Writer’s Compensation Program) writer. Since this interview above was about Demand Studios, I do want to make the point that it did not affect writers who did revenue share articles through the Studio. Those had tracking in place.

    Anyway, my good friends Greg (know in the office as GB) and Rich (know in the office as The Guch) explained the issue and solution in this video just posted: http://blog.ehow.com/. These guys/I care deeply about treating all of our creators (writers, copy editors, filmmakers, etc.) fair. We just made a mistake, realized it, and now we are fixing it. I really apologize for the financial hit it was for people who rely so much on eHow.com for their income. All of us at the company have felt so bad about this and as such, made it a priority to fix. It was also important that the fix be fair. Please email me directly ([email protected]) if you still have concerns after receiving your overdue compensation.

    Jeremy

  18. Not a problem Jade Dragon. I appreciated the response you posted on your site. I acknowledged it on my Twitter page (@JebReed): “Love when a ‘fair shake’ happens. Appreciate JadeDragon understanding we are human and make mistakes. Not malicious. http://bit.ly/bvf4y2

  19. Jeremy,

    Like Khalid, I submitted my copyediting tests in late December. My work desk still says “under review.” I sent one email to check on my status but never heard back. Are there any further steps I should take? Or are there just no available positions right now? Thanks very much!

    - Kevin

    • Kevin,

      We will look into today and get back to you. Thanks for being this patient.

      Thanks,
      Jeremy

      • Thank you, Jeremy. I really appreciate your quick reply.

        - Kevin

        • Kevin, please send me an email w/your last name. We are having trouble locating your test. My address is listed in this thread of comments.

          • Hi Jeremy,

            I hate to bother you but I have a question that I hope that you can answer. I recently applied to Demand Studios and was denied a couple hours later. I am a Literature student and I have a stellar and detailed writing history that can be seen on my resume. I truly want to be a part of Demand Studios and am trying to understand why I was denied. My credentials are exemplary and I would love some insight from you. Also, if the denial was something on my part, am I able to reapply?

            Thank you so much for your assistance,

            Elijah Gray

  20. Michelle Skidgel says:

    I was looking for information about Demand Studios and stumbled across these comments. I took the copy editing test last week and haven’t heard anything. Is the month or longer wait described here normal, or can I look forward to hearing something sooner? I’m willing to wait; I would just like to know what to expect so I stop holding my breath when I check my e-mail :-) It may not be everyone’s dream job, but I love editing and I would really like a job that allows me the freedom to be at home with my children. That kinda makes it MY dream job.

  21. I wrote 23 article for eHow over a 9 month period. Almost all had over 90% positive feedback and most had well over 2000 hits all but 5 were deleted for unspecified reasons including the most popular “how to hula-hoop” articles. Not only did they never pay the over $1200 they owed me, they deleted very good articles that took a long time to write. When it comes to hooping and other circus skills, I know what I am talking about. I have 7 Guinness world records in hooping and other skills. I have been teaching and performing for over 15 years. i believe they not only wanted to avoid paying me, but wanted to eliminate having to grandfather me in to their writing team with the new Demand Studios. I would like to write for demand studios, so I am hoping this was an eHow thing and not a policy shared by Demand Studios. Has anyone else had similar experiences?
    -Paul

  22. Hello!

    My name is Chai and I’m an editor here at Demand Studios. Just wanted to let everyone know that we are in the process of hiring copy editors again. We have a small backlog of tests and applications right now, but we should be responding to all applicants shortly. We apologize for the delay and thank you for your patience as we go through this process.

    Thanks,
    Chai

  23. Hi Jeremy,

    I hate to bother you but I have a question that I hope that you can answer. I recently applied to Demand Studios and was denied a couple hours later. I am a Literature student and I have a stellar and detailed writing history that can be seen on my resume. I truly want to be a part of Demand Studios and am trying to understand why I was denied. My credentials are exemplary and I would love some insight from you. Also, if the denial was something on my part, am I able to reapply?

    Thank you so much for your assistance,

    Elijah Gray

  24. Jennifer B says:

    Dear Jeremy,
    I am hoping that you see this, and possibly can help. I was hired for DS about a week and a half ago. I am a business woman, having started and operated 3 businesses in the past 10 yrs. I am a student working on my Psychology degree (almost there) and I have always loved to write. (And read, and learn.) I was given 3 titles to claim. I picked the first, which may have been too hard, and it was ultimately rejected because I did not understand what the CE wanted. The second was rejected because I misunderstood the CE when she gave me a link to an ehow article. I had read the black listed sites for answerbag, however not the overall. So I used the source she gave me, and it was rejected due to citing a black listed site. The third, I have no idea about. There were a few tiny changes she had me make. I received a generic letter this morning saying I did not meet the minimum DS requirements. I am devastated. All the CE’s said my writing was strong, and gave me a lot of praise. And at any job there is the learning period. My gramer was fine, and I am learning how to do my research quickly, effectively and looking for the correct information. I really love learning and writing and I feel that this was a little unfair. Is there anything that I can do to appeal this? I know that I can produce articles of quality and do it quickly and ultimately make money for DS. I have read the entire DS site, bought the book “The Elements of Style” by Strunk and White, and a guide to AP style. I am just crushed as this is my life’s dream. Is there anything else I can do? Thank you so much for reading this dear sir and please, please tell me if there is anything I can do.

  25. I’ve been writing for Demand Studios for about a week. My 1st article would have been rejected if the CE hadn’t cleaned it up. But once that happened, I saw what I had done wrong and did a better job with the 2nd article. It was sent back for rewrite. But went through. So was my 3rd. After that, I was approved for a significantly higher number of articles.

    LiveStrong pays an amount I can accept right now. I did not start writing for DS when ,u only option was to accept $15 per article. But the rate I’m currently earning is acceptable for now. I like researching because I am learning in the process.

    A suggestion I’d make is to make it easier for new writers to figure out what you want from the start. Those first 3 articles can be intimidating when you’re giving a load of material to read to figure out what exactly to do. Perhaps you can set up a template on an online form for writers to complete a practice article with auto-mated guidance through the process. I don’t know how doable this is, though.

    LaVora

    • LaVora,

      Congrats and welcome to the Studio. Good feedback on the guidelines. We’ve actually been doing a lot of work on the balance of too little vs. too much re: guidelines. We also implemented the review of the first 3 articles by a senior copy editor to help. But, we know we still have some work to do in this area.

      Thanks,

  26. Demand Studios is one of the worst freelancing sites on the web. The “Content Editors” are such babies and take their “job” WAY too seriously. Anybody who was declined for a writing position should be grateful.

  27. Jennifer B says:

    Hi Jeremy,
    I wrote a comment here on the 24th of May. I received an email that day saying that all writers are reviewed within 10 business days. I believe it has been 12 or 13 now, so I was just wondering if that meant my content wasn’t good enough. The editors I had said it was strong, and I was really looking forward to writing again. I don’t want to waste anyone’s time, I just really want to write for DS. Is there anything that I can do?

  28. Jennifer B says:

    Dear Jeremy and Chai,
    I asked my first question over a month ago, and my second one over 2 weeks ago. Is there any way someone can just let me know what is going on? I have been told I would receive an email, twice, and I haven’t gotten anything. Please just let me know what was decided.
    Thank you both so much and God bless.

  29. Jenna Blackman says:

    Hey Chai,
    Sorry to bother you again, but I have one last question. You reinstated me as a writer and I am so incredibly thankful to you. It has been 2 weeks, but I am still unable to claim any assignments. I am not sure what to do. Thank you for all of your help.

  30. I don’t think that demand studios is the evil doer everyone makes it out to be but this interview is just ridiculous. To say that demand studios is not a content mill is beyond ridiculous. It works by turning out thousands of articles per day, if you are telling that paying $15 per article you get high-quality writers I don’t know what industry you guys are in. There is nothing wrong with being a content mill, there is however something very wrong when a content mill tries to pass itself off as a high-quality writing platform.

  31. Very nice interview. Great to have a look at some of the inside thinking from Demand Media.

  32. Hi Jeremy,
    Not sure if you’re still answering comments from this post but just wanted to reach out. I’m a DS writer and I love the gig – no complaints!
    My mother is a phenomenal writer with over 15 years working experience in the fields of agrigulture, gardening and home design. I recommended she apply for Demand (eHow Home and Garden) and she was rejected. I feel horrible for her, especially knowing what a dedicated, knowledgeable and talented writer she is. Doesn’t make sense to me. Is there any way she can reapply?
    Thank you,
    Lisa

    • Jeremy Reed says:

      Because of the great site Deb set-up, I get a prompt when someone comments on this post. So yep – still reading. Lisa, go ahead and send me email within Demand Studios (to Jeremy Reed). I promise to look into today. I can’t make any promises – but what great experience she has. I’d love to see if we can make something work.

  33. Hi Jeremy,

    I applied for a copyediting position, and after taking my test, was denied (this was around January, I believe). I have continued to work as a copy editor at a mid-sized daily newspaper and would like another shot at taking the test. Is it possible to reapply again? Thanks.

  34. Hi Jeremy,
    I recently applied to DS and was rejected and I can’t help but feel that it was because I submitted an inappropriate writing example. I am a very skilled writer with degrees in Economics and Philosophy and I have a unique background as I have worked in the outdoor industry as a whitewater rafting guide in multiple countries for the last five years (United States, Costa Rica). I am afraid my application was rejected because I submitted an overly technical analysis of the Costa Rican healthcare system, a piece of writing that is not relevant to the type of content ehow publishes. Is there any way I could make a second effort at joining the DS team? I would really love to work for DS and I feel that with my background I definitely have something to offer.
    Thanks Jeremy,
    Taylor

  35. Teresa Jackson says:

    Hi,
    I’m also sorry to bother you, but I submitted my copy editing test in January (2011), inquired in February, but still have not received acceptance or rejection.

    I am a former newspaper copy editor who moved to a rural area and could use the extra work.

    If there is anything I can do to help speed up the process, please let me know.

    Thank you!

  36. Hi, Jeremy,
    I also submitted a copy editor test in January and have not had a response to the test or to another inquiry.

    I spent more than ten years as an associate editor and six as an editor in addition to a number of years freelancing. I specialize in health and medicine, but have also covered other subjects extensively.

    I understand from some Demand Studio writers that editing is significantly backed up, and it’s taking a long time to get their articles reviewed. I would love to help reduce this backlog. Can you please check on the status of my application?

    Thank you so much.

  37. Tracy Godsey says:

    Hi Jeremy,

    I was very pleased to stumble upon this blog where you are personally responding to questions. From some of your comments, you seem genuinely interested in how Demand Studios treats its content creators and in building trust with the community. For that reason, I believe you would like to know that I have had a difficult time getting a response from Demand Studios regarding my particular situation. You see, from April 2009 through March 2011, I submitted over 4100 articles to Demand Studios and had been very pleased with the arrangement as it allowed me to work from home and earn a full time income. However, in March of this year, I received a note stating that my services were no longer needed. I followed the website’s instructions to submit an inquiry and request for reinstatement but never received a reply other than the automated message indicating Demand Studios received my inquiry. I was rather upset by feeling that after I had poured two years of work into Demand Studios that I had been simply discarded without much thought. The reason for my dismissal stem from 3 articles that got flagged for plagiarism. As a professional writer for the past 12 years, I completely agree with the need to maintain high standards concerning original content and to check for and strictly deal with legitimate plagiarism. I feel that these three instances represent simple mistakes rather than a malicious intent to defraud the system. It is my hope that this post would at least open the dialog which I attempted to start when the dismissal occurred, and that Demand Studios would examine the full record of content creators before issuing blind dismissals.

  38. The best one would be elance and odesk

  39. Ad posting is the biggest scam of them all.

  40. HI Mr. Jeremy

    I would like to ask if you are now accepting writers outside U.S. I am from Philippines which is an English speaking country. I have also worked with several employers who are currently residing in the U.S and had a good working relationship with them. I would really love to be a part of your team.

    Looking for forward,
    stephanie

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