The Demise of the Content Mills

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002 One by one they’re biting the dust – fading into obscurity – riding into the sunset. I’m talking about the content mills – those internet sites that took short posts from all kinds of writers and put them up for all to read. For this they paid peanuts; a mere fraction I’m sure of what they took in from advertisers. But, despite that, their business model is no longer seen as viable.

That at least is what the note said that I got from one of the sites that I’ve contributed to for the past several years. I never made a ton of money from feeding the mills; chump change actually; but it did help me to reach a lot of readers, and was great for working out the old writing muscles. Most importantly, having to write to the length limits – 200 to 600 words on average – helped me learn to trim the fat from my writing.

A lot of writers I know view content mills with disdain. They think of them as second rate places for writers that don’t pay enough. I’m not sure about the second rate part, but I do agree they never paid enough. But then, I used to work for print publications, the most generous of which paid me fifty cents per word, or sometimes $400 to $500 per article (the latter were very rare. My average per article was around $50). Compare that to the content mills that were paying based on readership. I’ve had content articles that made me a hundred bucks, and had the site not close for economic viability reasons, would still be paying. When the print publications I wrote for went out of business they still owned my articles. When the content mills shut down I can download my articles and sell them elsewhere.

So, I’ll miss them. But, like the changes from paper only to paper and e-books and the rise of indie publishing, the writing industry is forever changing, and writers who want to endure must change with it. I have no doubt that most of the current content mills will soon disappear – but, in due time they’ll be replaced by something else. I have no idea what that something else will be, but I’m sleeping with one eye open so I can be near the front of the line when it arrives.

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4 thoughts on “The Demise of the Content Mills

    The Demise of the Content Mills | This Morning said:
    July 3, 2014 at 12:26 am

    […] The Demise of the Content Mills. […]

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    laurieboris said:
    July 3, 2014 at 1:07 am

    Hi, Charlie. I got my freelancing start with some of the mills and got some good exposure—and a few dollars—when I desperately needed it (Then left pretty quickly when I started finding better work.) Although I still can’t get some of my material taken down. I don’t know who owns some of those sites anymore.

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      Charles Ray responded:
      July 3, 2014 at 1:09 am

      That question of ownership is a big one – the two I work with, Helium and Yahoo Voices, were nice enough to contact me in advance and give me the opportunity to remove my work from the sites before they shut down.

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    pegasus11 said:
    July 3, 2014 at 1:13 am

    Thanks for this post as it highlights the fact that life is all about change. Our world morphs and changes so rapidly in this century that the idea of sleeping with one eye open, for the next changes in print and the various modern mediums available for writers to broadcast their message, paid or unpaid, is a wise philosophy. What will be the next platforms available to writers ? I firmly agree with the notion of we will have to take a wait and see approach. In the meantime, I will also adopt the approach of one eye open.

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