Would you work for $5 an hour? Many content mills don’t pay THAT much

Tom rolled over and hit the silver button on the wood grained alarm clock beside the bed.  It was 6:15 and he had a whole hour he could work before he had to get dressed and leave the house.

He walked to the crowded and cluttered desk in the corner that he called his office and punched the button on the computer.  As the bits and bytes joined the electrons in bringing the wizardry of the internet into the living room, he padded into the kitchen to heat up a piece of last night’s pepperoni pizza for breakfast.

Settling into the grey Navy-surplus desk chair with one caster missing, Tom nibbled on his pizza pie breakfast as he watched his battered old Edsel of a machine go through it’s paces.

After hours went by, the box of plastic and gold metal flakes was finally reading.  Typing in his password, Tom put the wood hard crust down and set to work.

Scanning the screen he saw that toda’s offerings were about as desirable as the mange was last year when his Golden Lab brought it home.

“Why the Pope doesn’t wear red shoes,” was the request from one nameless editor in Des Moines.

“15 Ways to fix Rutabaga while spicing up your love life,” was the offering from Houston.

…And of course, everyone wants stories about Snowden

Tom’s eyes glazed over as he continued to read the requested subjects.  The taste in his brain for the articles was like milk that had gone twelve days past the expiration date and had been left sitting on the window sill in the sun.

Just as Tom was ready to give up his regular morning fishing trip online, his eyes caught sight of a title that maybe he could do something with.

“Why the ’65 Ford Falcon is Classic,” was the title.

Tom remembered his first car.  A ’65 Ford Falcon.  Her name was Betsy.  She was red and white and the engine had been braced for racing.

Tom picked his Hard Rock Cafe mug up, took a gulp of coffee.  Watching the screen, he sat the cup down and went to work.

He needed just 25 more articles before the end of the month to cover the electricity and he hoped that the message boards would provide enough work for him today to reach that goal.


Jonathan Weber, founder of Marathon Studios in Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania got his start by writing for content mills or revenue sharing sites.  Through the years he has seen both the good and bad sides of earning money through revenue sharing.

“The good part about writing for a revenue sharing content portal is that you can basically write about anything yo uwant,” says Weber.  “The major downside of any of these … platforms, of course is that for them to exist and be profitable, they need to make money off your content.”

Weber eventually realized that while he made a decent residual income from his writing for content mills he could make more by going out alone — and the result was starting his own media company while still in college.

Weber advises that the self-published route may be the right direction for someone if they’re an expert in a particular topic and plan on writing enoug to fill a blog or a website with quality content.  However, for someone who is more of a hobbyist, then Weber points out that revenue-sharing platforms are probably best.

Nikki Wills owner of Tikkido.com noticed her revenues through AdSense increase “staggeringly” when she left the content mills and started blogging for herself.

Formerly writing for Suite101, Wills never made more than $30 a month in residual income from her writing.  On top of that, even though she quit writing for Suite101 several years ago, the website is still generating an income from her articles which are still published on the site.

In addition to the revenue generated by the small ads she places on her blog, her writing has also led directly to other opportunities such as freelance articles in national magazines and even a book deal.  Wills has no regrets.

“I wouldn’t look back to revenue-sharing websites and have counseled my friends against going that route,” says Wills.  “Been there, done that (and) learned the hard way that it doesn’t pay off.”

5 Good ones and a stinker

While there are many content mills online today, if you look and read the fine print, you can still find some good ones that will bring in some part-time cash.

Among the better ones consistently ranked near the top in an informal survey are:

1.  Yahoo Voices (previously named Associated Content)

2.  Helium (writer may qualify for an upfront payment in addition to revenue sharing

3.  EHow.com (very easy to write articles)

4.  HubPages (harder to write as the content layout can be restricting.

5.  Commission Junction (large variety of companies buying ad space)

The worst revenue sharing site?  DigitalJournal out of Canada.

Originally founded as a gadget and geek magazine in 1998, Digital Journal morphed into a ‘citizen journalist’ news provider in 2006.  Headquarterd in Toronto, Canada, DJ shares advertising revenue with citizen journalists who report for the site.


The money isn’t great though.

Forty-three writers surveyed report back an average income of one cent per view; a specific article would have to be seen 1000 times to generate $10.00.  With the “control mechanisms” that DJ has established to help make sure content is accurate and well written, an average writer could spend two hours on a 500 word article.

Which would bring in the grand total of $.00/hour.  Not even minimum wage.

Revenue sharing sites — or content mills — will never be able to meet a person’s full time income needs, even if that person is living on a subsistence level.  It can though provide a little extra cash for people with time on their hands.

With some discernment and reading of the fine print, content mills are always worth at least checking out.


 Jerry Nelson is a freelance photojournalist from America.  His latest book of photography, Suenitos tells the story of the only daycare inside the dangerous Hidden City.  Now based in Argentina, he continues to turn his lens on social justice issues around the globe.  Connect with Jerry on MosaicHub, Facebook or LinkedIn today.  Have a story that needs to reach national media?  Email him today.

In addition to being photo editor for the Internet’s largest collection of Travel Articles, Outbounding, he is also the lead photographer for BuenosTours, the specialists in private walking tours of Buenos Aires

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