It goes without saying that the Internet has changed the way the world works and behaves. Writing activities have also changed, even fragmented. There are writers who blog, but I don’t always get the impression that all bloggers feel that they are writers. Most bloggers that I read (couple of hundred, at different frequencies) certainly do not employ time-honoured writing tricks to leverage the time that they spend researching a topic.
The technique I’m referring to is re-writing your own content for different niches. I’m not talking about republishing, as there’s always the debate about whether the search engines have a duplicate content penalty or not. What I’m talking about is doing one session of research and leveraging that into more than one article.
Consider what a single post might be worth, especially if you are running contextual advertising. Current evidence says the majority of bloggers are not anywhere near earning a living. So you need legitimate ways to leverage your blogging efforts. At least, if you’re planning to be a professional blogger (or if you prefer, online writer).
Let me give you an example. Back in the early 1990s, I returned to college to finish my degree, then start on a Master’s. The Master’s research I was doing was on new approaches to GIS (Geographical Information Systems) packages. I leveraged my research by writing a lay article on GIS for the university’s student newspaper. (No pay, but that and other volunteer articles later got me a one-semester part-time staff writer job.)
I also took a very specific part of my research and wrote an article, about compressing digital images into smaller files, for an international computer programming magazine. That paid me reasonably well for those days, although they later reproduced the article on a CD-ROM without my permission. I asked for and received a bit extra in fees. But considering that I wrote and edited 40 drafts of the article over two months, because I wanted it to be perfect, the pay was not as large as it could be. On the other hand, I can still write about GIS topics today, because of the research I’ve already done.
Leveraging content is actually a fairly standard practice amongst print writers, especially in areas where the time investment in research is not repaid significantly with a single article. It used to be a secret that the most lucrative writing assignments were niche magazines targeted at very specific industries, and to specific people within those industries. That meant you could write a very general article for a national magazine, then rewrite the article with a different slant for an industry mag or three. The result was that you could effectively turn your research and writing efforts into several thousand more dollars of fees.
Unfortunately, the print magazine and newspaper industry has been in the dumper for nearly 5 years, and many writing opps dried up or moved to the Internet. Blogging is one such destination. There are a few large “blog networks” out there that will pay you for each article you post, but the scenario is very different than the print market.
Firstly, they pay only a few dollars per post – anywhere from $4-10, with a few paying $20 for in-depth pieces. There are some that pay less, but they also share the ad revenues. If you are looking for straight out pay per post, you may have to meet certain monthly quotas. Secondly, several of the bigger “veteran” networks claim full ownership of the content you write. Under copyright laws, they CAN do this under the “pay for hire” clause. (See Jonathan Bailey’s must-read Plagiarism Today website for discussions about copyright.)
So, where a stringer (regular writer for a media outlet) might have once earned their salary with just a few big articles per week, blog network stringers need to write 400 or 500 articles per month to barely make a decent living. This is arguably due to the fact advertising dollars for weblogs cannot yet be justified by advertisers.
As Barry Bell has written about at Blogging.wurk in the past, that advertising money will eventually come. Or, you could leverage your writing in other ways, as Brian Clark writes in Where’s the Money in Blogging? But if you prefer the old fashioned way of being paid per post, instead of having to find your own advertising, or selling other services to your site’s visitors, then the only option you are left with is to write. A lot.
Except writing a lot takes a lot of time. And if you write about several topics, how do possibly find the time to research, even if you do use RSS readers to subscribe to weblogs, or use Google to receive email alerts (or a similar service) on a topic?
Simple. For every topic you research, you write several articles that are overlapping but targeted at different readers. Or you write one primary article for one weblog, then several different summary articles, for different weblogs, that point to the primary article – if that is an option. As a solid example, I wrote a primary article about M-Audio’s Podcast Factory for my weblog about RSS and content syndication. Then I wrote a related summary article at my hubsite, Chameleon Integration, and another summary article at my new music/ composing journal (just a temporary location, for all you blogspot-haters).
These three are not necessarily the best examples as they are not all that different, but they do serve different types of readers. While I do not get paid for writing any of those articles, I do have contextual advertising on all three sites. For the investment of about 1.5 hours, I researched a product and wrote one article and two summaries. If had put in maybe another 15 minutes and written 3 full articles targeted at different readers, and had been paid for each piece, I might only have earned $4/post x 3 posts = $12, or $12/1.75 hr = $6.86/hr.
Not a lot of money. But given that it took me about 30 minutes of research and 30 minutes to write and edit the primary article, I would have earned $4/1 hr = $4/hr, had I only written only one article. Now if I can leverage the same article a few more times, say for a website about marketing and promoting your business online, I can get more mileage out of my research, as well as inform yet another set of readers.
The trick is to find topics that can be leveraged in this manner. Technology in general is one such topic. And there are a few blogs that might just pay you for writing about technology. Personally, I prefer a combination of writing blog posts for others as well as publishing my own. At least for the time being, while the blogging for a living model is being refined and maybe redefined.