Pay-per-click writing?

Nothing, not love, not greed, not passion or hatred, is stronger than a writer’s need to change another writer’s copy.
– Arthur Evans

A few days ago I ran across a writer’s blog whose address I have lost and therefore can’t link you back to it, that was in essence an ad for one of those web sites that solicits articles from writers desperate to get published in the hope of building a clip file, for little or no money. The site the author was talking about was Helium, which purports to be some kind of knowledge base.

Now, one of the things the author of the blog was pointing out was that this was a good place to go and get your writing critiqued, ostensibly by other writers like yourself who may have no publishing credits… So I have to ask, who are these people? I’ve also never been a fan of critique groups (and even less of a fan of calling them “crits”. For chrissakes, we’re writers. If we can’t even spell out the word “critique” maybe we shouldn’t be writing). I’ve edited other people’s marketing materials, and people get very touchy when you start pointing out all their grammatical errors, without even getting into the content.

So I’m not sure I see the point of this site, from that angle. Would you take writing advice from someone who is unpublished, except on a web site like this?

My second problem is with the site itself. This strikes me as one of those sites that solicits content by enticing writers desperate to get published, in any way, shape or form, to provide content for them, for little or no money. They claim there is some pay to be had, but by whom, and what the criteria are, are not at once obvious. Here’s my guess: They manage to hook a decent writer who actually knows what he/she is talking about, and the articles provided (basically gratis in the beginning) start getting hits and start to generate some revenue for these folks when people click the ads associated with them. They do this a few times, and finally the owners may actually pony up and pay this writer to stick around. In the meantime, all the others who are busy filling this site with all sorts of articles are getting nothing, or peanuts, for their trouble. Personally I think this is crap. They’re making money off you, while you get nothing (or next to nothing).

And as a corollary to that, would you take advice from an article on a site like this? It seems to me if someone is truly an expert in their field, they would be able to get published in an established, paying format, and not need to scrounge to get published on a site like this. Why is this better than simply posting the same content to your own blog? A few more hits?

11 thoughts on “Pay-per-click writing?”

  1. I call them article farms. Helium, Associated Content–they all serve the same purpose. Although I am sure there are a few gems in the rough, most of the articles published on these sites are not at all credible, and the purpose is simply to generate hits. Associated Content, from what I’ve heard, is a bit better in the compensation department, as they actually pay writers up front. Of course, the amount is negligible: $6 or $7 per article, perhaps.

    If you just want to get published and perhaps make a little cash, I don’t have a problem with writers who publish on these sites. However, they should realize that they don’t count as actual clips (if they try to get published in magazines and journals), and their reputations might take a hit. Just my two cents.


  2. Thanks Sam, that just confirms what I thought. That’s why I was puzzled to see a blog on WordPress touting the benefits of using this site, especially for having one’s own work critiqued.


  3. I’ve been a member of a couple amateur writing critique sites and have found them both helpful and frustrating. I truly do not mind grammar/punctuation comments–I have as many typos as anyone else. What I’ve needed is content critique, feedback. Did my timeline make sense? Was the denoument handled well or was it garbage? Should I have more or less detail in paragraph 17? When you’re writing/reviewing with friends, it’s difficult to know where the line is–how brutal can you be? How honest?

    The virtue of a site such as the one you describe is that one doesn’t have to worry about trampling tender emotions when providing feedback. On the other hand, as you say, these are people who haven’t been published either! How accurate are their comments? How valuable will their feedback be? I have no desire to add to their profit margin while gaining nothing for myself.


  4. Yeah, you have to look at the source. If you do this just for critiques, the criticism is coming from other writers with no authority or proven credibility. Seems silly to take their opinions to heart. Better to start your own blog and monetize it if you’re trying to make money.


  5. I think you’re all spot on – this site is just a way to sell advertising.

    As to taking critiques from unpublished writers you’ve never heard of, I’d take the same advice I give the students in my research and writing class: if you don’t learn anything, else, be a critical consumer of information! There are plenty of good unpublished writers out there, but how do you know somebody’s advice is worth a crap if you don’t know them and you’ve never read their work? Anybody who critiques grammar/punc exclusively has nothing else to say; I’d rather rely on spellcheck, grammarcheck, and a copy of Strunk and White. As to critiques on content, I’d trust a stranger more if s/he was working with a checklist, or a specific series of questions such as the ones Riene suggests. As a writer, you should sort of know what you want to achieve, and once you do, you can ask others for feedback re: whether you are achieving it.


  6. These things just frost my ass, thinking of all those writers spending a lot of time and effort for someone else’s gain. Craigslist is loaded with ads for writers for “exposure” for some start-up Web site, or e-zine or other venture, sites that you know are generating revenue, but oh no, they can’t pay writers. I’d like to see these tools ask their doctor to work for free.


  7. Excellent point, Ms. Dame. I’ve put up articles on Helium (not as Lis’Anne), but just for the fun of it. Never expected to be paid and wasn’t looking for a critique. To those who think there’s any monetary value in uploading there…why, that’s just crazy!

    All points you made are quite valid. Thanks for keeping it real for those who need to know. 🙂



  8. This is an odd site. You “publish” on the site and *then* ask for critiques? Isn’t it supposed to be the other way around–get your piece polished and finalized and then publish? I also didn’t see much in in the way of what I consider thorough critiques. One or two sentences does not constitute a critique.

    Let’s hope these people don’t intend to try to publish their pieces elsewhere. By having their work on a public site like this, they’re endangering their first rights. Even on a private writing board, it can be a little touchy as to whether you’ve already made your work ‘public’ by putting it online.

    I used to moderate and then administrate a writing board. There was some value to it (for awhile). There were a few people who worked hard and critiqued work. Mostly it fell to those same people to do critiques. Too many other people on the board were there for back pats only. They would either never critique anyone else’s work, or they were return a long and careful critique of their work with two or three sentences highlighted by the very helpful phrase, “keep up the good work!” (sarcasm intended)

    I belonged to one of the best writing forums I’ve ever known, and I left it without a lot of confidence in the value of writing forums. The community forum at Helium doesn’t even match up to what that writing board was. In the end, you’re your our own best critic.

    Excellent writing blog, DD!


  9. Hi jg,

    I thought it was a strange way to go about things, too.

    Your experience with writing forums matches what I have seen: You have a couple of really active members who do all the heavy lifting, most are just lurkers, occasionally someone will pipe up with a comment, but nobody takes criticism well. I do hate to see really new writers falling prey to these kind of sites, though.

    And thanks for the compliment!


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