Cheap money-making content

I recently learned about a handful of online publishing companies that hire contractors to write short and simple articles about topics that are commonly searched for online. Through this focus on in-demand topics and the subsequent search engine optimization of the articles, the content get lots of page views, advertisers, and revenue.

Just for fun, I decided to try writing an article for a couple of these companies. I applied for two I had read fairly positive things about– Bright Hub and Demand Media (the company’s content appears on and The application process was fairly simple for both of the companies. I provided my resume and some (published) writing samples. In almost no time I was approved as a freelance writer.

For Bright Hub, I was approved to write for the company’s “Diet, Nutrition & Health Eating” channel (so I’d write about articles related to these topics). Before I could pick out any assignments, I had to supply my tax information (so they could tax my pay). Because they required me to fax the information I decided not to pursue the opportunity (too much hassle involved). It looks like I missed out on getting $10 per article plus a share of advertising revenue.

I did end up writing an article for Demand Media, however. The company let me fill out my tax information online. I was then able to search for article topics by keyword. I appreciated this search system and the fact I wasn’t limited to one category of topics. Most of the assignments paid $15, though some paid $7.50. I picked one topic– Boston Social Activities– and claimed the article. I had a week to write it.

I did some research and wrote the article following their style guide and SEO-focused (search engine optimized-focused) format. I sent in my article, and an editor had me change one thing. After I revised the article, I sent it back in. It was approved, the article was published, and $15 was deposited into my PayPal account.

I know there are other companies out there (like Associated Content and Suite101) that pay a small amount for in-demand, search-engine-optimized articles. I think it’s cool these opportunities are out there for writers looking for some extra cash and exposure. This may also benefit people searching for particular topics online. They get a quick answer to their question.

The problem, however, is the quality of these types of article is often compromised due to low pay and a relatively lax approach to hiring writers. This practice of “content farming” may be contributing to the spread of misinformation or at least generic information that’s more based on re-appropriating already-existing content than adding value.

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