Ok. I've been reading and thinking a lot lately and I'm on the fence about writing content. First off, the word "content" is so vapid and implies that there isn't much of value going on. Second, the rates paid are incredibly low. I mean, DS is the highest, and they max out at $15 per article.
Third, and most importantly, SEO crap kinda scares me. I read this article in Slate about Aol.'s (let's pause a minute to laugh at their rebranding effort) new business plan, in which they plan to produce "news" stories based on search keywords. Which, as this Wired article points out, is pretty similar to what DS does. Although, I think an important difference is that DS stuff (or at least the stuff I write for DS) isn't news. I'm not a journalist. Hell, I have the distinctive curse of being a "creative writer," meaning that, yes, I can craft a decent academic paper, but much of my education was about breaking the rules. Commas? Hell with them. If a sentence gets particularly lengthy, I just say I was being Faulkner or German, and shrug it off. I didn't know until recently that the verb to be should be avoided if possible. Huh. But anyway, back to the topic at hand, the Slate article brings up Associate Content, calling it the worst news site ever. And probably they're right. Is furiously googling reporting? No. Is furiously googling proper research? No. And that's really all one can expect from a writer being paid (at most) $15 per article or at least "residuals." I've learned to fear and avoid residuals. Really, do you click on ads in websites? No? Me either.
Quality suffers. Quality suffers when we writers are compelled, to validate being paid so little, to churn out articles at a rate of 2 an hour. Quality suffers when we rely on other blogs and reports to get our information and don't have the time or inclination to go out and dig for the facts. Quality suffers when we keep churning out the same stuff, keyword stuffed or SEO-ed so that it jumps to first on the Google queue and our publisher gets a bunch of ad revenue from all the clicks.
That said, will I stop writing content? No. For one, I need the income. For two, people will always go after and like crap. I may not be proud of my articles, but they may be valuable for someone. I'm not dispensing inaccurate or useless information. In fact, I think content writing needs more writers like me, writers who want to produce content that, while not earth shattering, will correct people's thoughts on certain things (for example, no you cannot season stainless steel cookware and Pyrex is not extremely dangerous). I also appreciate when I have the chance to write articles on theater for people. I'll avoid news articles, because, well that's not my area of expertise. I'm pretty sure, as is Slate, that Google will wise up to the SEO keyword crap and prevent worthless articles from jetting to the top of the search results page.