Thursday, July 30, 2009

What is so hard??

My husband and I like coffee. We like the actual taste of it, not the taste of the sugar or whatever you put in it. Coffee and or iced. That's what we like. This doesn't seem like it would be that hard to get, but the good folks who work at McDonald's can't seem to get that...and I don't get that they don't get it.

McDonald's came out with iced coffee a year or two ago, which comes in regular (sweet), vanilla or caramel. Greg and I would go, whether inside or the drive through and order thusly: "Two large iced coffees, no flavor, no sweetener, no syrup. Just coffee and cream."

Without fail, there would be a pause, and the order taker would read it back to us in an incredulous tone of voice. "You don't want sweetener?"

"No," we would say, trying desperately to keep control of our composure. "Just regular coffee, regular cream and ice. Nothing else. No syrup, no sweetener, no flavor."

"OK," they'd say, like they thought we were nuts and we would surely be sorry. When we got to the window (or stepped aside to wait for our order, without fail, somebody would come over to ask us again. "So, you don't want sweetener?"

"No," we would say a little more firmly. "Just regular coffee, regular cream and ice. Nothing else. No syrup, no sweetener, no flavor."

After they handed us our drinks, we would start to drive or walk away, confident that our request, given in triplicate, had been honored. Almost without fail, we would taste the coffee and find it was sweet. Given that regular coffee and regular cream do not come sweet, that meant that sweetener was added. Sweetener we specifically said THREE TIMES that we didn't want.

I'm not sure how to change this. I don't think you can be any clearer than, "Just regular coffee, regular cream and ice. Nothing else. No syrup, no sweetener, no flavor." The only conclusion I can come to is that America is getting dumber, and that makes me sad. On the other hand, it makes me feel smarter, so yay me.

Michy sent me this video, which had Greg and me rolling on the floor, laughing, tears streaming from our eyes...because it's just so true. Warning: harsh language! Don't play this in the presence of young children or anyone with sensitive sensibilities!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Current Associated Content Review Time

I've heard of long waits for some people, but my Associated Content review time has been quite reasonable for the sparse pieces I've submitted lately...I submitted one on July 24th and got an offer today, the 28th--just four days later, including a weekend. I submitted one on the 15th and got an offer on the 17th...submitted one on the 3rd and got an offer on the 8th. All less than a week.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Everything you do is an article

The other day I was talking to Michy, and I said I needed software that would extract pictures from a PDF. She helped me find one, and it worked great. I was raving to her about how easy it was to use and did exactly what I wanted in seconds.

"Sounds like an article," she said.

"Oh. duh." I replied.

"And a blog post," she added.

"Good idea!" I answered. So I did...I wrote a review of the product (Nitro PDF Professional)for Suite101, and how I'm going to write a blog post about it. Oh...I'm already writing it.

Every day, you do something that can be turned into an article. See a movie, read a book or use a new product? Write a review! Do something that someone might not know how to do? Write a how-to! Hear about or plan to attend an event? Write about it...there are so many things in our day-to-day lives that slip right by us and we don't think about them, but surely someone wants to know about them. Then, each of these articles can spring into others, like I can do an article or two about how to use Nitro PDF Professional, etc.

So, here's your writing prompt for today: find one aspect of your day-to-day life and write an article about it. Then, find one way to take a different angle on the same subject matter (review, how-to, history, profile, etc.).

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Apple Encourages Copyright Infringement

Michy recently brought to my attention that there is an Apple iphone commercial that demonstrates its copy-and-paste functionality by showing a user copying a whole article from the web and pasting it into an email. This is ILLEGAL. For more information on why this is illegal, why you as a writer should be mad as heck about it and what you should do, please read her blog post on the subject.

Friday, July 17, 2009

No I'm not and no I don't!

You're reading an article on the Internet, and you suddenly find yourself starring in a hypothetical situation you could never imagine thinking to yourself. You think, "What in the name of Pete?" And then you think, "Wait a minute. I'd never do that, and I never say 'What in the name of Pete!'"

Somewhere along the way, many of us were taught a completely useless and annoying literary device: putting the reader into a hypothetical situation in a clumsy attempt to "draw them in." I see an exhausting number of articles online that start this way, particularly when I'm rating Helium articles.

"You're sitting in a restaurant, and you see..."

Uh, no I'm not, and no I don't. This sort of thing doesn't pull me in and engage me; it just annoys me and puts me on the defensive. In fact, if anything, I'm less likely to want to keep reading to see what the article has to say. Even if it's prefaced with "Picture it..." it's still hackneyed and a little insulting. I don't like being given directives before I've even read the story.

Don't do it. Don't try to force your reader into being the star of a hypothetical situation. It's not clever, and it's not engaging. Find another way to open your article.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Why write for online content sites?

Sorry to those of you who commented on my last post that I haven't responded--I've been out of town and didn't have internet (*gasp* the torture!). A couple of the commenters questioned the usefulness of writing for online content sites, so I thought I'd use it as an excuse to make a new post.

Why write for online sites instead of magazines? Well, I would never, ever recommend these sites INSTEAD of magazines, but as a supplement. The print publishing world is agonizingly slow, between the query process and waiting for payment. I have published articles in about 10 different magazines, but I'm having a hard time keeping a high and steady income that way. That is mostly my fault for not sending enough queries, but the print world is struggling in today's economy...magazines are going under or downsizing. I don't mean to sound negative about the industry or anyone's ability to make a living that way--many people do. I'm just saying, it's frustrating and slow.

Online content sites, like Helium, Associated Content, Suite101, etc, offer quick gratification--your article is posted either immediately or within a few days. With Associated Content, you often get a small up-front payment in addition to the performance pay they all give. It is a paltry, paltry amount, but it's something, and with some effort you can keep a steady stream of these paltry payments coming in. I know of one person who makes a decent income doing just Associated Content. The other perk to these sites is they offer residual income...the right pieces can potentially earn more than print work. It's also nice to get that extra money every month--money you can earn without doing any extra effort. The above-mentioned lady makes several hundred dollars a month just in residuals, and I think she breaks $1,000 during the holiday season thanks to her seasonal articles.

No, online content sites are not a good way to make a great living. However, they are a good supplement to the more lucrative print publishing.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Associated Content vs Helium vs Suite101 vs Examiner vs Ehow

While I did not do any kind of official challenge to compare the various content sites I wrote for, I thought it would be valuable to compare the results of each one. I did not set out this month with the intention of doing this; I just tried to increase my production so I can eventually have a decent level of residual income. A week or so ago, I thought it would be interesting to see a comparison at the end of each month, so I am going to start doing that. This is pretty unscientific, because there are a lot of variables. Topic selection could have a big influence on the outcome.

[actual results removed due to a couple of the sites' policies that payments not be disclosed. Sorry!]

From the results, it is clear that Suite101 is the biggest earner per article this month, despite the lack of up-front payments.

However, I should note that Associated Content has had some indexing issues--articles are either not getting to the search engines or they are getting there but getting delisted. Associated Content claims there is no problem, but MANY content producers insist there is. Some have technical ways to show it that are over my head, but everyone is seeing a decrease in performance. For April and May, my performance pay was over $9, and it dropped by $3 in June--with 15 additional articles. There is clearly something rotten in the state of...Associated Content! However, even with an additional $3 in performance pay, AC would still be behind Suite101 in per-article earnings. came in third. They pay .01 per page view, which is not bad. I think my topic selection and keywording there need work, because my views are pretty poor. I get the most views on days I post an article, probably because I post the link everywhere.

Helium and eHow are neck and neck. Helium at least has up-fronts, but I can't deny that eHow articles perform pretty well. Lots of views and decent revenue share, it seems. I don't know how much effort I want to put in there, but it would be nice to build up enough articles to meet pay-out ($10) every month. However, is it worth putting effort into a site that has the same structure as Suite101? Why not just put my how-to articles there? I may end up doing that.

I should also point out that the sample size is pretty small, so that adds to the unscientificness of this.

I also write for Demand Studios, but not very often so I didn't bother including them. I'm probably spending too much time on online content and not enough querying magazines!