Before I get to the point of this post, I'll give you some background. If you're already familiar with Associated Content, skip the next paragraph.
So, it's not much of a secret that I write for Associated Content. If you're not familiar with the site, it's a place that will publish anyone, and I do mean, anyone. You can submit articles in hopes of getting an up-front payment offer, and they'll offer you a small payment ranging from $3-$20, but usually in the $4-$6 range unless you're really good and well established with a high performance record. On top of the up-front payment, you get $1.50 for every 1000 page views the article gets. If AC turns down your article for payment (which they do quite a bit if it's abysmally written, offers nothing new to the site, and some other reasons), you can post the article anyway and just get the page view bonus.
AC calls themselves The People's Media Company, because anyone can get published there. It's not an accomplishment to be particularly proud of, but I do make a little bit of money there, get some practice writing, get some exposure, and meet new people. You can see links to my latest articles a little way down on the right side of this page.
Anway...recently, the Washington Post published an article about the online content sites Helium and Associated Content. Read the article here. Some writers on the AC forum got all up in arms about it, highly offended because the article called the writers at AC amateurs. It wasn't even done in a derisive manner, but these writers were all upset. A couple of them wrote articles about how hard they work as AC writers, etc. I have some things I'd like to say about it:
1. Most of the AC writers ARE amateurs. There are some professionals there, like Michelle L. Devon and some others, but let's face it...the site is designed with amateurs in mind. They pay you $5/article...how professional is that??
2. Much of the writing on AC is crap. Serious crap. Many of the articles are just blog posts that someone decided to try to get paid for. The pieces are poorly constructed, contain little useful information, and some of the writing is downright painful to read. Not to say there aren't some great articles there...there really are. There is a lot of great information on the site. But there is tons and tons of crap.
3. Brian Bergstein wasn't being derisive, he was basically pointing out how AC gives amateurs a place to get paid for their writing. I don't know how I'd define a professional writer exactly, but churning out $5 articles all day does not put you on a par with the likes of authors who publish books and articles in print magazines. I'm sorry to break it to you, but the standards are vastly different.
4. I noticed the people who weren't particularly offended by the article were the better writers, and it was mostly the poorer ones who were complaining. Instead of whining about it, spend your time honing your craft. By that, I don't mean to write more crappy articles. I mean, take an English or creative writing class, or read some articles or blogs by established writers about how to write well, improve your grammar, etc. There is loads of information out there for you...use it.
I also see whining from people who are new writers who think they should be getting paid more (or at all) for their work. Would you expect to be paid for a dance performance your first week of lessons? No--writing is a skill that needs to be developed and matured. Work on it...get good at it, THEN look for ways to get paid.
Am I an expert? No. Do I put myself on the same level as famous authors, or Michy, or anyone else? No. However, I'm working on it by learning all I can and taking what pay I can get. I also work a day job that involves writing perfect reports, so I get a lot of practice.
I don't want to discourage anyone from writing. I think anyone who wants to write should. However, you need to be realistic about what your skill level is, and always look for ways to improve and grow.