Confessions of a Paid Churnalist

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I’ll admit it: the money was dreadful. Some months, most months, I was lucky when I made a dollar. A buck, a petty king’s ransom, for my heroic writing efforts. Pieces carefully crafted, worked, worked again, researched, pieced together from a number of sources, and for what… in the Content Farming heyday perhaps $15 – not bad for a 500 word essay.  Now, no upfront pay, but perhaps $0.83 in royalties when someone stumbles across it.

I was a big wheel at Triond, an online content farm that pumped my work out to dozens of online sites. Yes, they paid me, and it was exciting. I have well over 100,000 reads on my work now, all of it the produce of farms designed to drive online advertising results.  But the big wheel at Triond has ground to a halt, as Triond itself slows down, its servers somehow tangled up in an unending maze of tumbling wait icons.

Triond, Associated Content/ Yahoo Voices, Factoidz, the places where I could write and find ready publishing, gone. The era of the free-form content farm has passed.

In fact, it’s not a surprise that the era of free-from content farming has passed: it was sort of a scam. Triond is still going, but their site is seriously dysfunctional. All of these sites pursued the flawed business idea of flooding search engines with search-term rich content in an effort to lure advertising dollars to them.  The scam consisted of using robots to lure robots to generate money, and it worked, sort of. The advertising robots got smart and stopped falling for the crop of search-term articles from the content farmers, and the money stopped flowing.

I did good work. I was careful with my facts and figures, and I traced my sources. And I turned a blind eye to the dreadful writing of my starry-eyed colleagues, encouraging them, helpfully pointing out places one might say “we weren’t the ones” in the place of “we wasn’t…”.

In the end, though, it was churnalism – the rehashing of press releases into news. I found a lot of really good press releases, and really did develop stories, but, alas, it was still based in someone’s press release.

If you have read this far, perhaps you, too, thought you were the one who was going to make it big in online writing. Man, I had over 200 articles going at once. At once!

Good dreams die hard. Maybe the era of free-form content farming has passed. But maybe that tricky old Internet will come up with a new way for hard working churnalists to make a buck!

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Author: John Reinhart

Technical writer John Reinhart says his mission is to get his readers excited about the possibilities of and wonders of planetary science. A happily married father of three from Ventura, CA, he holds a bachelor’s degree in Communications from Cal State Chico, has taught college courses, and is working on his second novel.

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