More Content Mill Drama By Laura Bell

If you decide to write for content mills, you may find yourself in a pickle if you are not careful.

One such writer posted about his troubles recently on one of my writing lists. Ken was devastated over his dealings with one of the content mills. He had posted an article three years ago that he now wished had never seen the light of day. According to the agreement with this site, the only way you are allowed to get one article removed is to produce and post another one that receives ratings as high as the first one. It appears they refuse to give up articles that are getting page hits, which translate into advertising revenue.

Ken, an admitted newbie, wrote another article. However, from his description, it amounted to nothing more than a rant about the treatment he had received. He was outraged and hurt when he was thrown off the site and threatened about what would happen if there was another attempt to contact them.

I answered his post, explaining what had taken place. Each and every website, ISP, chat site, and content mill has a TERMS OF SERVICE (TOS) agreement. It is something you agree to before finishing your enrollment. I explained to him that he had violated the TOS and that he was out of luck unless he was able to reach some sort of compromise with them. In his case, the door had already been loudly slammed in his face, with I fear, no hope of reprieve. Ken was nice enough to write back, thanking me for the information.

I also decided to read that site‚s policy about rights to the work once submitted. They agreed to allow you to use the work elsewhere. However, they have a license to reuse your work in any media they wish, in perpetuity, forever. That makes the resale value of your piece pretty much non-existent. Read all of the fine print on any site you are considering contributing to!

Another issue that happened to me personally is equally frustrating. I admit a year ago, when no assignments were around, I did a package of articles for a promise of better work for a content mill. The site has since changed its methods of payment, which is a common occurrence. New or expanding sites engage in all sorts of advertising practices to get you on board. Then, they change their payment plans. This may happen while you are actively contributing or, as in my case, come along later.

I stopped thinking about that site as soon as I cashed my check. Six months down the road, I kept reading they were paying based on page hits on a regular basis. Still, I didn’t pay attention until one day I received an automatic email from them informing me that one of my articles had received a four-star review. That got me to thinking. I went to check the whole list of my articles. They weren’t doing astronomically well, but there was one that had over 1500 hits, and most close to 500. There were also several good reviews. It seemed rational that I should be getting my share of these revenues.

I wrote a very simple note, explaining that I had submitted articles based on a flat fee. I then asked about those page hits. Shouldn’t I be getting paid? The only information I could get out of them was that, a) they never paid a flat fee; and b) if I wanted any more information about residuals, I should post in the forums. I searched in vain for a forum that discussed anything about getting paid. I’ve concluded it’s too much trouble to fight with them.

This again leaves us with the lesson this article is preaching. Read the FINE PRINT. Don’t agree to anything until you know what is going to happen to your work once they have it. Be sure and read the TOS and find out what you can and cannot do. You want to retain your rights to complain. Most of these sites all have one thing in common – they want your work so they can sell ads and they want to pay you as little as possible in the process. They also would like you to keep contributing. They are probably making big bucks off your work. It’s all about how much they can make and how little they can pay us and stay in business. And, that, as they say, is the bottom line.

Laura Bell has been a business writer and journalist for 30 years. She has over 400 bylines to her credit, including: Los Angeles Times, San Francisco Examiner, San Jose Mercury News, Los Angeles Business Journal, Orange County Business Journal, Pasadena Star News and many more. She her work at: