Again and again I get questions about whether it is worth it to write for websites such as Suite101.com or About.com, so I thought I would breakdown my experience with Suite101 and what I have heard about About.com and the Examiner.
I began writing for Suite101 several years ago when very few people had heard about it. At the time I was looking for whatever outlet for my writing I could find. The South America Travel section was looking for a writer (this was at a time when there were only feature writers and no contributing writers); I applied and after a short hiring process got the job. Now I think you have to write a certain number of articles before taking over a feature sections that pay more.
As a feature writer I would write 4 articles and 4 blog posts a month. They didn’t take me long. Maybe an hour or two each for the articles, less for the blogs. Many of the articles are very general, they are on a topic I knew so well that it didn’t require much brainwork, and are not something I would have written about elsewhere. When I stopped writing for Suite 101 I had about 150 or so articles up that get between 15,000-20,000 page views a month from readers that come from mostly Google searches. I still make about 50 cents per article per month, though over time the revenues tend to drop a little. You do the math. Some sections make more than others from what I hear someone makes more than $1000 per month there. It was never a living wage by any means. Just a side gig.
There are both ups and downs to writing at Suite. First, the negatives. For the first year or so I really didn’t make squat, but that is mostly because they previously paid only by page views (now it is a percentage of adsense revenues). When I started it was just me writing about South America Travel, now anyone can contribute articles and many of the contributing writers donâ€™t bother to check to see if an article has already been written about and they cover the exact same topics that I had already written about. Lastly, if I have my own website doing the exact same thing I would make significantly more.
The positives: I was able to network with a few of the other writers at the site. My editor was great and pretty much let me do what I want. I have gotten a few assignments from publications because the editors found me through Suite101. Writing for Suite101 helped me learn quite a bit about the overall web building process, about SEO, adsense revenue, etc. It doesn’t seem like much, but that revenue keeps coming for as long as the articles are posted (though as I mentioned my revenue is dwindling down). So, long term it seems like a decent gig. Another plus is that after one year I can use the content elsewhere, such as my own website like this one, though most of the articles I wrote on Suite101 were mostly about the keywords and not so much the content, so I have used very few here because I feel it lowers the quality significantly.
I donâ€™t know as much about About.com and I donâ€™t write for them and never have, but I have met several who have or have applied. It is owned by the New York Times. Here is what I gather from the site (though please correct me if I am wrong):
To begin writing for About.com there is a very long, detailed, and exhausting hiring process that includes making many sample pages. You apply for a topic with multiple applicants; therefore you may do all the work and not get the job or paid for it. This is a big issue for many and leaves quite a few applicants upset.
The amount of work is substantial, though, again, I donâ€™t know the specifics. The rumor mill says that writing for About.com is a real part time job taking around 15-20 hours per week. There are blogs, forums, reviews, FAQs, tuturoials, etc. It is, by comparison, much more involved than Suite101. They guarantee $725 a month to write for them. Again, some topics make more than others.
The Examiner, like the other two websites, focuses on bulk content rather than quality. It is set up by area, so they have “guides” based in the top 60 media markets of the United States. From what I can tell they allow just anyone to write for them. There is no test or interview. If you want to write for them you can. Writers have a niche topic, but can write on anything they want so there is considerable overlap. The Examiner has stated that they hope to have more than 12,000 writers working for them by the end of 2009. Payment structure appears to be similar to Suite101, though it is based on page views and not ad percentage.
While writing for any of these sights can give you an intro into the world of writing for the web, the more and more unqualified writers that begin to write for them are only going to cause a glut in google searches and make it harder for anyone to make money at any of the sites. While Suite101, About.com, and the Examiner may get rich, you almost certainly will not. My advice, start your own blog or take a web building class. You might have a slightly slower start, but in the end you won’t regret it.
Writer and photographer Nicholas Gill is the editor/publisher of New World Review. He lives in Lima, Peru and Brooklyn, New York. His work has appeared in publications such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, CondeNast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Afar, and Penthouse. Visit his personal website (nicholas-gill.com) for more information.