< First of all as noted before I've been moving, thus the lack of posts and job listings. I also missed the whole attack on Deb by this guy. From what I understand, Deb has a potential sponsorship with Demand Studios. The guy linked above, T.W. calls that irony, noting, “For months the owner of FWJ and her closest affiliates continued to call Demand Studios a “content mill”, and a “haven for low paying gigs”. Many writers from her side of the camp came on and verbally abused those of us writing for Demand Studios, claiming that we were “bastardizing” the industry by writing articles for 15 dollars a pop when we should be charging 50 or more per How To or About article.
Then, earlier this month, Demand Studios pops up as a sponsor of FWJ. Suddenly the owner, and her affiliates, are touting Demand Studios as one of the greatest content sites on the web, where writers can go make thousand of dollars.”
Then, maybe because he couldn’t find another post to link to, he showcased one of my posts as an example of said irony.
I’m not here to start some back and fourth debate, but what pisses me off about these shenanigans is that…
First of all, my post is not a good example of irony. I haven’t written one post here noting that writers can make thousands of dollars at Demand because that’s not part of my experience. I’ve also never said anyone who works for them sucks because I know some writers like them and do move up to higher paying assignments there (also not part of my personal experience).
I’m here because if you’re a writer or blogger trying to make a living, I support that, and want to help you do this. I’m here trying to help you actually make money, pay your rent, buy food, and so on. I blog about what I feel will help you do that to the best of your ability based on my own experiences and the experiences of writer friends of mine. Part of what it means to make a living as a writer means working for fair wages – which I post about all the time. If you can get living wages at a content site that’s fine, but that has not been part of my personal experience so I don’t blog about it. I make money writing in other venues and so I know personally that you have other options. Which options you choose are up to you. All I can do is offer ideas, you can take them or leave them.
Secondly, since I guess some people haven’t noticed, I’m not Deb. I support her search for sponsors because I know that’s what helps to keep FWJ going, and I believe this site is a valuable resource for writers. That said, we don’t share a brain. I don’t ask her what I can post about, and she doesn’t go in and edit my posts to make sure they appeal to sponsors or readers or her own viewpoints. When we started Blogging For A Living, it wasn’t here at FWJ, it was elsewhere as partners. We both agreed to move the blog here because we felt it would be more useful for readers when combined with other FWJ content.
T.W. notes, “Please note that while this post was not written by Deb personally, it was sponsored and featured as one of the premier Blog Tip posts.” He also says, “While Deb did not necessarily write this piece, it should be noted because it was a Premier piece of content written by a contributor as a Feature Article in the Blog Tips section of the website, therefore supported by Deb as “acceptable” content for the FWJ website.”
Um, ‘Deb did not necessarily’ nothing, she didn’t at all write that post. That would be me. AND as much as I adore Deb the second she starts telling me what’s ‘acceptable content’ or not, or says I MUST be totally on board with a sponsor, I’m outta here – mainly because while we do agree on a lot, we don’t agree on everything, and also I don’t work for her. She’s not a client – I work with her, not for her, and here at Blogging For A Living I write what I want.
In any case, I felt like responding because I was singled out based on one post I wrote here and it’s lame when someone pairs me with Deb’s brain as if I have no opinions of my own.
I’ll be back Monday with new jobs and posts (moving has taken much more time then I thought it would – sorry folks).
Lisa (lablady) says
“I haven’t written one post here noting that writers can make thousands of dollars at Demand because that’s not part of my experience.”
If it isn’t part of your experience, why would you write about it at all? You either know enough to write about something, or you don’t. The article T.W. Anderson cited certainly seemed to show that you believe Demand Studios to be a low-pay content mill.
I haven’t written one post here noting that writers can make thousands of dollars at Demand because I went to Demand’s site two years ago to see if they had any cool work available, because various people recommended them, and they didn’t have cool work available. It was all $5-$10 pieces.
I checked back all last year while I was looking for some new gigs, and it was still the same although then they started the revenue deal too. Then Deb and someone else told me that after you work at Demand for a while, you’ll get offered higher paying pieces, but I’m not interested in working my way up to get to those higher paying pieces when I can work elsewhere and make more money right away.
To make thousands of dollars there it appears that I’d have to first write a bunch of low-paying, not worth my time pieces. Hence, in my experience they are low paying. Or I should say way lower paying than other sites or publications right off the bat.
Not sure it is a good idea to get into the practice of devaluing the services of your sponsors like that. Do you think Demand Studios would continue to advertise with FWJ if the FWJ writers recommend people avoid them?
@Burnman – Jennifer’s post was written before I started talking with the people at Demand Studios.
@Burnman Demand is not for me, AC is not for me, business writing is not for me, in fact many places are not for me, FOR ME as in that’s my choice, which like you, and everyone else I’m entitled to. If someone works at b5 vs. Demand or writes for magazines vs. Today.com, it doesn’t make them better or worse, just different. I think sponsors are smart enough to realize that individuals make individual choices. If sites that hire writers assume they’re for everyone they’re not being realistic. I know that many visitors to FWJ want to get work at Demand from reading comments at the main FWJ site, I know writers who have made money there or at HubPages or AC, and so on.
I also know from the comments that visitors here want other options as well. This is not a site about only content sites or blog networks or magazines in particular. In my opinion, our goal at FWJ to offer tips that fit all the various readers and their goals, so I try to offer different ideas. All I want is for people to work for what they think they’re worth, be able to find work that pays, and be happy while doing it and I think my tips here align with those goals.
@Deb, I understand that… but her new comments were written after your arrangement with Demand Studios. Pardon the expression, but haven’t you ever heard: “You don’t s**t where you eat?”
@Jennifer, I understand you are entitled to make your own choices… never said you were not. I simply suggested that it might be a good idea to cease recommending that people avoid FWJ sponsors. Deb is now doing business with a firm which one of her writers recommended against, and some people have expressed how that seems questionable.
I read the posts on his blog and T.W.’s problem isn’t with Deb, unless it is because Debdidn’t instantly side with him when other readers pointed out he was basically using FWJ comments as another blogging platform.
The guy was plain out rude, refused to listen to anyone, or to even concede that he may possibly be wrong about /anything/. He has quite a few good qualities and writing is one of them. I read in one of his comments how he started his writing career from scratch, no formal education. I admire that, coming from the same background.
The thing is, he’s using Deb and this FWJ burnout as a way to make a name. He doesn’t agree with what some people who’ve been around the block a few times have to say, so why not single out who he perceives as our ‘leader’.
It has nothing to do with Demand. Though I do agree that a sponsor shouldn’t be put down by anyone on the network-can ruin a relationship. But I have to say I was shocked to see that Demand was a sponsor here. A lot of people have great experiences, to be sure. It is a stepping stone, but…eh.
While I agree that Demand Studios (and web content writing in general) is not for everyone, I agree that your post didn’t come across very well.
1) Demand Studios is an advertiser. While I’m sure they understand that not everyone is on this site looking for content writing gigs, it’s in poor taste to bite the hand that feeds you. When advertisers come into play you DO have to watch what you say because you’re no longer only accountable to yourself. Accepting advertisers turns a blog into a business and it should be treated as such.
2) Calling Demand Studios “cheap-o” and discouraging writers from valuing their contributions there (by saying they are not credible writing samples) is disheartening to new freelance writers. In my opinion, that’s not the kind of tone you want to convey if you want to encourage your readers.
FWJ is a business and, as such, utilizes sponsors for support. Implying that the content of a web site is dictated by sponsors is inaccurate. While Demand may ask that they do not receive negative reviews here, the site can and should remain objective. I’m pretty sure that if Demand starts DEMANDING that their content is featured, highlighted, and praised, Deb will drop them regardless of the $$$. At least, I hope so.
When did it suddenly become everyone’s business how someone else treats their own sponsor on their own website? Why do any of you care at all?
The T.W. b.s. aside, all of this waxing-business ethics is a ridiculous waste of time. When YOU have your own site, you can kiss all your sponsors butts all day long. That’s you’re call.
Ethical behavior & objectivity… these are all things every freelancer should consider. It just so happens that in this instance, these issues involve a sponsor. It has nothing to do with kissing anyone’s butt. 😉
@Dorothy, Implying that the content of a website is dictated by sponsors would be inaccurate if the content of the website is not dictated by sponsors. It all depends on the relationship between the site and the sponsor. Some sites do have requirements they must meet to keep their sponsors. While I have no idea regarding the details between FWJ and any of their sponsors, it isn’t unheard of for a site to be more positive about their sponsors than they otherwise might.
Posting remarks which devalue the brand of a sponsor isn’t exactly good business. Either don’t do business with that sponsor, or don’t post negative content about that sponsor. I understand that Jennifer’s original remarks were made before the Demand Studios and FWJ entered into an agreement. But those remarks, and recent commentary, don’t seem to be in the best interest of that agreement. If Demand Studios requests that negative content be removed, or simply pulls sponsorship, I can’t say I would be surprised. I can’t say I would blame them either, because I would do the same thing. To take money from a company and then devalue that company’s brand is unethical.
I think this whole mess could have been avoided had “Finding blog gigs – starting out with no clips” been written a bit more objectively. The entire section which discusses Associated Content and Demand Studios presents those options as if they are horrible mistakes to be avoided at all costs. For some, those resources are excellent places to get their feet wet in freelance writing, and should not be discounted out of hand. You have to remember when writing guides for newbies, they may not have the experience or polished writing skills required to land higher paying gigs elsewhere. And some people really do make a ton of money writing for content mills, though the majority of people do not.
So, to sum it up…
1) Demand Studios should not have been accepted as a sponsor for FWJ if FWJ writers are going to devalue their brand.
2) If Demand Studios is to remain a sponsor for FWJ, then FWJ writers should make an effort to avoid damaging that relationship.
3) If Demand Studios is a firm which FWJ writers cannot write objectively about, then Demand Studios should not be a FWJ sponsor.
4) If Demand Studios truly is a firm which should be avoided, then Demand Studios should not have been accepted as FWJ sponsor.
5) Content written to educate should be written from an objective perspective, presenting all relevant information without personal bias.
NOTE: I am writing all of this without any knowledge of the agreement between FWJ and Demand Studios. For all I know, Demand may be aware of the content in question and unconcerned with the negative light it seems to shed on their brand. I think that is unlikely, but stranger things have happened.
I get your point… I appreciate the candor of the remarks here – as a freelancer I like to be informed of the good, the bad, and the ugly. I can see why Demand might not appreciate some of the mentions and why they might ask for a more objective view to be presented.
Gayle Nastasi says
Just some additional thoughts to consider:
While I do understand and appreciate the position of Demand Studios, I can also understand the need to keep blogging honest. If Jennifer indeed had the experiences she had with this organization, I don’t see why she should have to censor herself in expressing how she truly feels, and honestly relaying those experiences from her own perspective. After all, no matter what we are relaying in our writing, we are always doing so from our own perspective.
Perhaps her candid report on her experiences with Demand might inspire them to take a look at their practices and see where they might bear improvement.
Perhaps her forthright and, face it, brave expression of her opinion might generate some really solid and well thought out discussion … it certainly seems to have done so.
Perhaps the activity this thread is getting, with Demand Studios’ ad still displayed on the page, might in fact make some of the commentators curious enough to click that ad and check them out. (Go ahead, raise your hand if you peeked.)
While I do understand, and even agree to some extent, that anyone who is using sponsors might consider it prudent be circumspect in stating their opinions of those sponsors, in contrast, said sponsors must also consider the fact that, if they are using practices that might be seen as unfair in some way, there are going to be people who give others fair warning.
To look at it from the opposite perspective … if this site displays a sponsor’s ad, and the visitors click that ad and have a negative experience with the sponsor company, how does that reflect upon the site? I, for one, prefer to know ahead of time that a certain advertiser’s services might have drawbacks. I’m sure there are many who will find the service acceptable, of course, and go on to do well with them. But don’t you appreciate knowing that there might be snags in your path to that success?
I agree with you that blogging needs to be kept honest, but I don’t believe writing bias articles qualifies. Demand Studios isn’t actually doing anything wrong. They may not be the right resource for everyone, but there are some people making good money writing for them. And even those who do not end up with a place to practice their writing skills and hone their craft while making a little money in the process. Might not be the best option for everyone, but it isn’t the worst for everyone.
If Jennifer’s remarks appeared on her own personal blog, that’s fine. But to write a bias article on a business blog claiming to be a freelance writer’s resource certainly doesn’t set a good example for others just getting into the field, does it?
And the unfortunate thing is that people like T.W. Anderson assign the negativity to the FWJ brand. Public perception will assign views expressed by FWJ writers on the FWJ website to FWJ.
Note – I have absolutely no affiliation with Demand Studios, nor have I ever in the past. 😉
Ever heard of “any kind of advertising is good advertising”? Gets those celebrities far. 😉
While I do understand and appreciate the position of Demand Studios, I can also understand the need to keep blogging honest.
That’s where Deb’s decision-making comes in, not Demand’s. If I don’t support an organization, then I don’t accept their sponsorship. The Google ads here are filled with ads for Heium, AC, etc., and those are sites Deb has railed against for years here and at WAHM. I use AdSense. You can eliminate certain sites from coming up on your site. To accept money from a site you believe to be doing a disservice to your audience is hypocritical.
If Jennifer indeed had the experiences she had with this organization, I don’t see why she should have to censor herself in expressing how she truly feels, and honestly relaying those experiences from her own perspective.
Her experiences don’t match *anything* I’ve seen at Demand, and that’s what I question. She said that Deb (who presumably doesn’t write for DS) told her you “work up” to higher-pay. That’s not true. Writers accepted on the Knol and eHow projects get $15 articles. There sometimes are $20 articles, and there are fact sheets for $5. They’re short and snappy. There’s no working up to higher pay. She can share her experience all she wants, but since it apparently was years ago, it hardly seems relevant to the climate right now at Demand.
You’re right about the $15 issue not $10 – it’s been a few months since I visited Demand’s site and I noted the price $5 off (my mistake). However, Deb is not the only person who has told me they offer higher wages in time, so I’m not sure what to say about that. Not having worked my way up there I can’t say for sure, but it does seem odd that I’d hear this from more than one successful blogger/writer if it’s not true.
Actually, I do write for DS. I actually don’t remember telling Jennifer the pay levels increased with the writing, but if I did so it was before I began working for Demand, and must have been some time ago.
Thank you for clearing that up Deb, you’ve put the whole thing into perspective.
Jenn Mattern says
I hope you don’t mind, but I’m going to don my PR pro hat for a moment.
In response to those who feel bloggers shouldn’t write critically of their sponsors, maybe you missed the memo. That’s precisely the problem that led to the FTC guidelines for bloggers regarding truth in advertising – they felt bloggers couldn’t be trusted to share their honest opinions (even if negative) if a sponsor was compensating them in some way. Way to prove their point.
This is just getting silly. If you like Demand Studios, then write for them. If you hate Demand Studios don’t write for them. If you hate Deb now, then go find another blog to read. If you love her stay. There you go – problem solved!
But don’t go to blogs and get pissy if the blogger doesn’t pat you on the back and say “great job.” They’re entitled to their own opinions (and opinions do change). Opinions are what set blogs apart from traditional content sites – they’re not meant to always be objective. It’s a reader’s responsibility to understand the medium at least enough to know that so they can make decisions about which bloggers to follow.
Seriously, if you think this is a case of bad blogger-sponsor relations, go spend some time working in PR and social media. The real ethical issues would probably blow your mind.
Thank you for joining the conversation with your refreshing sarcasm and delightful down-talk. It always helps to make a point by expressing one’s self in such a confrontational and condescending tone. Well done!
If FWJ is going to accept sponsorship from Demand Studios, then FWJ writers should either attempt complete objectivity when writing about Demand Studios, or avoid writing about them at all. This will curtail any potential conflict of interest.
If Demand Studios engages in practices which FWJ does not approve of, then FWJ should not have accepted sponsorship from Demand Studios in the first place. Is the money worth associating your brand with a disreputable company?
And while I understand your point about blogs and objectivity, I disagree that reader responsibility excuses bias and poor decision making situations such as this.
I hope my reply has clarified my position for you. If you have any questions, or would like to continue the conversation further, feel free to reply!
Take care Jenn
Jenn Mattern says
You’re right. Sometimes I forget that reality doesn’t suit everyone.
Again, it’s not just me. Even the FTC agrees that sponsorship shouldn’t be influencing blog coverage. There’s a big difference between honesty and the appearance of objectivity. Honesty is what’s important, and what sponsorship shouldn’t change. Demand Studios had full access to the FWJ archives before deciding to become a sponsor. That was their choice to make. If they chose to sponsor in the hopes of changing the coverage here, then it was more of an unethical move on their part than anyone else’s (and I’m not saying that’s what they did).
There’s also a big difference between not supporting something as the best option for writers and calling a company “disreputable.” I do remember a sponsor in the past being removed from FWJ (and several other writing blogs at the time) because they were scamming writers by charging them for job leads available elsewhere for free. That’s disreputable. It’s not the same as accepting a sponsor for a company you don’t support personally, if you know it still might benefit some of your readers.
Reality suits me just fine.
If you don’t support a company, and feel it isn’t something worth your readers time, accepting sponsorship from them which results in displaying their ads on your site contradicts your point of view. If you choose to write about one of your sponsors, write objectively and truthfully. Hell, people should be writing as objectively and truthfully as possible anyway.
As for the FTC, their position is that sponsorship without disclosure is wrong. If you accept money from a sponsor, and then promote that sponsor without disclosing the fact that you have been paid to promote them, you have crossed the line. Nobody is claiming that FWJ should hide their sponsorships.
The FTC is not stating that people shouldn’t be influenced by their sponsors. There position is they must disclose the sponsorship so the reader can make informed decisions. I fully support the FTC’s position.