How Writing Bloggers are Profiting from the Content Sites they Decry


I’m noticing something interesting lately and I’m not bringing it up to point fingers or start arguments, but only because it’s interesting and perhaps even discussion-worthy.

As most of you know, my decision to partner with a well known content site led to a bit of an uproar, especially among journalists who don’t agree with said site’s model and payment structure. It created many heated web discussions and debates, but the reaction wasn’t unexpected.

I wonder if many of the same journalists and freelance writing bloggers realize they’re also profiting from this content site and others?

Double Standards?

I thought about this a lot yesterday while reading a blog post at the Society of Professional Journalists entitled “The Dilemma of Demand Studios.” The journalists who are members of SPJ don’t exactly agree with SPJ displaying advertising from Demand Studios. The blog post made it clear that while they’re happy to accept Demand Studios’ money, they don’t necessarily dig their payment structure. I’m not going to get into detail regarding the blog post because it’s not relevant, but I noted one comment with interest – that SPJ has partnered with the citizen journalism site, Helium is known to pay on a residual basis, meaning many of their writers are paid less than the Demand Studios writers. In fact, SPJ encouraged journalists to use Helium as “a vital stepping stone for our members to establish and build their digital credibility.” Is there a double standard? I see plenty of journalists displaying their anger towards SPJ and even MediaBistro for accepting advertising dollars from Demand Studios, but I never saw any anger regarding the Helium partnership.

Inadvertent Hypocrisy?

I also find it interesting that many freelance writing bloggers, who are quite vocal on their blogs and in forums about the evils of content sites, are profiting from these sites with the advertising they choose to display. For example, Indeed ads. If you look at my “Job Search” page, you’ll note the Indeed search engine. Chances are, if you type in “freelance writer” you’ll come up with a variety of ads for Demand Studios, Suite 101, Examiner, Helium and others. Every time a job searcher clicks one of those links, I earn a bit of change. I’m not the only one. Many writing bloggers also profit using the same method.

Ditto Adsense. Adsense links don’t always indicated what is behind the click. Instead they use phrases such as “freelance writers wanted.” Click on some of those ads and you’ll also find they lead to content sites. I’m not going say this is hypocrisy because I’m positive it’s inadvertent, but I wonder if these bloggers realize they’re profiting from the same sites they denounce? In addition to earning money, they are also sending those sites traffic and, may even be contributing to new sign ups.

There are ways to adjust your Adsense so they don’t show ads from selected companies. I don’t know if there’s a way to adjust Indeed ads. Again, I’m not sure if these bloggers realize they’re profiting from the same places they are so vocally against. However, it’s a good lesson to check what you’re advertising as you may be unpleasantly surprised.

Have you ever checked your ads to see what exactly it is they’re linking out to? You might be surprised.


  1. says

    What I think is interesting about this question is whether a site/individual should take money from an advertiser they don’t support or endorse. I’ve started the task of soliciting direct sales for my website, and have come in contact with a host of businesses who are interested in buying ad space who I wouldn’t personally endorse or feel comfortable associating my site with. I’ve passed on these advertisers, in spite of the revenue they would bring in for me, because how can I sell space on my site to things I don’t believe in?

    Yet I’ve been wondering how naive this mindset is in a business world – how long will I be able to be so picky about my advertisers? How much money will be too much to refuse from someone who I wouldn’t personally endorse?

    While a part of me wants to condemn SPJ and these bloggers for their hypocrisy (how can you sell ads to something you turn your nose at), I wonder where the line between business sense, morals, and the almighty dollar really lies – and if I have yet to find/cross it.

    (sorry this was long!)

    • says

      Nacie, I don’t think it’s naive to want to turn down advertising you don’t agree with, I do it all the time. In fact, this blog would be a lot easier if I wasn’t picky about the advertisers. It’s absolutely possible to earn a living as a blogger and choose only those as you wish to appear.

  2. says

    Great post! I am a fan of all types of writing sites and always state that writers need to choose the mix of writing opportunities that work for them. I think you raised some excellent points to consider.

  3. Mike says


    You’re exceedinly polite so I will come out and say won’t you won’t.The hypocrisy isn’t inadvertent.

    Remember when you partnered with Demand Studios and many of the same people who listed content job ads ceased doing so because it was pointed out how they’re listing low paying gigs? I wonder how many bloggers this will inspire to take down their Indeed or Adsense ads? They don’t count on us to notice their hypocrisy but we see it.

    Thanks for keeping it real.

    • says

      Mike, honestly, I don’t believe the hypocrisy is intentional. I don’t click on my adsense ads half the time and I rarely check out the Indeed ads. However, there was one time when I learned a spammy site was showing up on this blog’s Adsnese and I filtered it and some others out. I took out ads for Go Freelance, Freelance Home Writers and a few others.

    • Kelly says

      @Mike – I couldn’t agree more. The biggest hypocrites are the ones who are blasting others for their hypocrisy with no mention of their own. Glass houses, stones, all that.

  4. Peg says

    Thanks for this, Deb; I have an account on Demand Studios but have not written anything for them yet. Those low rates both depress and (helplessly) entice me. But I read that entire thread on their new affiliate policy and added my thoughts (on half a cup of coffee! Oy!)

    I appreciate your candid opinion and fully support your take on this, as I completely agree.

    Rock on!

    • says

      Thanks, Peg. I’ve also been following the affiliate link policy with interest.

      There are so many options available for freelance writers and you have the freedom to take the gigs that are most attractive to you and your situation. If that’s DS, fine and if not? That’s fine too. As long as you’re happy.

  5. says

    Most of the people who spend their days whining about low-paying markets also set aside a chunk of time to gripe about how impossible it is for them to make their first $100 Adsense payout, so I’m guessing it’s more a matter of ignorance than of diabolical double-standards.

    It is funny, though.

    • says

      Right. I don’t know that they realize they’re supporting content sites.I find it both amusing and ironic.

      As for Adsense, I received my first $100 payout years ago, so I know it’s absolutely possible. (And incidentally, this month I’ll receive my first $1000 Adsense check).

  6. says

    I don’t complain about content sites. I use them.

    Feel free to check out my current writing experiment. I’m specifically using Demand Studios and 2 other content sites and I’m working on a 4 week writing experiment to prove just how lucrative it can be.

    Just posted the results for week 1 today.

    Average pay rate? 59.6 dollars per hour (60 dollars per hour). Ironically enough if you check my data you will see how if I stuck with Demand Studios ONLY, I would be averaging over 75 dollars an hour. The next writing experiment I do later in the year will be focusing 100% on Demand Studios.

    That is neither low paying, nor degrading.

  7. says

    Another thing I will say, Deb, is that Elance, AC, Demand Studios, etc– all those words get big ranking and big searches in Google. You write about those place (multiple times), and you get traffic. I know this from experience. In addition, I get TONS of email on those places. People are curious.

    • says

      Oh for sure, and I know many bloggers who get into the content site discussion/debate because they know it will bring in the gawkers. One writer in particular notes her disappointment when people commenters aren’t sniping and arguing with each other – there’s a certain trainwreck quality to it all.

  8. says

    How many heart attacks do you think I’ll cause when I say I signed up for Demand? 😉

    I’ve cautioned about content sites before– in fact, I think it’s a whole chapter in my book The Street-Smart Writer– but I’ve done a lot of reading about DS, and this one honestly looks different. Plus, Deb’s endorsement means something to me.

    I’m “between books” at the moment, so I need some work to fill in the gap. Worth a try.

      • says

        LOL. Well, it’s different from anything I’ve done before– I’m not used to trying to write so quickly. But I like the company so far. I’ll give you an update when I’ve been at it for a week or two.

        • says

          The beauty of the type of content you can write for Demand Studios is that it’s stuff you already know off the top of your head.

          If you have to research topics then it drives the rate of pay down significantly, but if you already know it and can type it up like you are rattling off to a friend about the subject, it is crazy fast money.

          I feel like the infomercial guy rambling on about it, but I seriously think it’s such an amazing opportunity that many people just don’t understand yet. I mean, if you could make 50, 60, 75 bucks an hour writing about your hobbies…why wouldn’t you!?

  9. says

    Personally, I love Demand Studios. I used them only briefly last year, and this year I’m incorporating them into my regular routine. Right now I’m solely using them as part of my content writing experiment, sort of testing the waters, as it were.

    I definitely plan on using them for another writing experiment after this one wraps up. This particular experiment was taking 3 different types of content sites and combining them just to prove some of the numbers I was discussing with people last year, and I’m putting my money where my mouth is…proving that content writing isn’t low paying, that it isn’t demeaning, degrading, and that content sites do NOT take advantage of writers.

    Proof is in the pudding. I’ve got all the PayPal statements and time tracked to verify the goods.

    Personally, I think when I move out of this particular experiment and move into my 100% Demand Studios experiment…I’m willing to bet I can clear 75 dollars an hour, 100% of the time. This first experiment is something small, because quite frankly I’m a bit busy with some other clients + this spec-fic zine I launched,and I only shot for 50 dollars per hour (so far I’m clearing 60 easily, even using lower-paying sites in conjunction) as an experiment to show how the average Joe can come in and make an extra couple grand a month, but as soon as my schedule clears up I’m aiming at dumping 4 hours a day for a full month into Demand Studios and seeing if I can’t pull 5-6 thousand dollars out of the experiment. Four hours a day? Easy. I do that every now now, working in conjunction with traditional work.

    That particular project will be with the full-time freelancer in mind, to prove how you can pull in 6-8k a month using solely Demand Studios and the right niches. I’m fairly confident it can be done, but we’ll have to wait and see, won’t we :)

    I think the best part is how Demand Studios is moving into the international market in the coming years. That means literally four or five times more content available to write on, more categories, and far, far more exposure. Time to kick ass and take names, folks.


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