About a year ago, I read an article in Wired magazine about Demand Studios. I was intrigued. Here’s an online company that pays experienced writers terrible prices ($15 for a well-researched article) to write detailed “how-to” articles for eHow and LiveStrong.
The writers take titles and keywords from Google searches and work them into articles — all for the goal of answering someone’s life questions in a way that makes $$$ on advertising for the content-mill owners. It’s billed as freelance work that might help harried homemakers or starving college students. But let’s be real. Many of the writers are post-college, and severely underemployed.
It sounded interesting, so I applied, was accepted, and started writing.
Well, sort of. I studied the writer’s guidelines, picked out a few mildly interesting topics, and then began writing. But then I deleted my first article by mistake (something about “how to make sure your cell phone’s not being tracked”), the second took forever to research (“a list of all the taigas and other biospheres of the world”), and I was too fed up by the third to even try. My writing style involves humor, personal experience and reflexivity, I realized, and not speed — the only thing that would make this kind of work lucrative.
A tturn of teh screw…
But a few weeks later, I got an intracompany email asking for “title editors,” paid at $0.04 a word. This turned out to almost fun, as I play word games for money. I take a string of search words like:
best specilist doctoor of kneck spine anback
And turn it into:
The Best Specialist Doctors of the Neck, Spine, and Back
Right. So I’m not winning any awards here, but it has the intrinsic value of a puzzle. If my internet connection is fast, I can (just barely) pay my rent each month. Of course self-employment taxes eat into this, but I’m constantly learning about the quirky, crazy, and nonsensical things that people search for: our communal obsession with MPG, mysterious headaches that could be brain cancer, the best cheats for video games at the best Jacuzzi hotels, whether Jesus was really real (surely eHow knows?), how to put up lattice fencing near a chicken coop behind that wet patch in the backyard, the top ten clothing hits of 1976, and how to find a smoking-hot boyfriend without man-boobs.
I’ve been collecting these odd searches for a while now, so I’ll post some in the next few posts…