An essential rule for businesses is to keep expenditure below income, but when it comes to buying content does it really pay to be frugal? While it’s tempting to commission articles and blog posts to content farms as they are way cheaper than engaging with freelance writers, is the end result worth the money?
Content Farms Rely on Cheap Labour
Content farms tend to produce large quantities of content in a short time frame and at a low price point. Articles from content farms contain several keywords to ensure they appear high on search results. Accuracy of information may not be guaranteed, as the emphasis is on generating clicks, often with a view to generate advertising avenue from banners embodied in the text.
In extreme cases, some content farms have been used for nefarious purposes such as actively promoting disinformation.
This interesting article from 2015 explores the rise of content farms, at a time just before misinformation campaigns and online trolling became daily occurrences making their way into the political debate and then becoming the subject of inquiries and regulation. It juxtaposes “highbrow internet” versus “lowbrow internet”, concluding that the hunger for entertainment and low quality content is not only inextinguishable but also cannibalising long-form, well-researched meaningful content.
An example of how dangerous misinformation from some content farms can be is when “troll farms” pushed out multiple content globally about Coronavirus, as explained in this article from ZDNet. False information that was not backed by science got shared widely, making the content originators a fortune in advertising revenue. Writers scan for trending topics and produce articles containing dramatic and alarming language to trigger an instant reaction in readers.
Talking more generally about companies selling cheap articles, they tend to have a wide roster of writers in their books on limited pay. It’s a situation resembling a sweatshop or factory assembly line, where speed of delivery comes over and above anything else. Writers working for such companies may be inexperienced or use this type of work for additional income in conjunction with other gigs and only produce content for them for a short period of time.
Pay Freelance Writers a Living Wage
Freelance writers need work to pay bills. Searching for freelance writer gigs on job sites sometimes produces some disappointing results: for example, a UK company advertised a content writing gig where freelancers would get paid £3.50 ($4.90) for a 500 word article. This company then sold the content to clients adding a mark up on top on the cost of the articles but the end product would still be extremely cheap.
It is unreasonable to expect a freelancer to spend at least two hours researching, writing and editing an article for the price of a take away coffee.
Other companies offered to pay £10 or €10 an hour to freelance content writers for short term projects, which is still a low rate.
UK company YunoJuno compiled a report on average freelancers pay rates for 2019/2020. The average day rate for freelancers across all industries was £542 ($750). These rates are for short term projects ranging from a few weeks to a few months.
It is understandable that these rates may not be affordable for some clients, however the freelancers on the platform are often at a senior level and are screened based on their experience and qualifications so that they can hit the ground running.
If you consider that freelancers may not have work engagements booked continuously throughout the year, i.e., they may have gaps when they are in between projects, having a reasonable rate of pay can guarantee a fair living wage. This can’t happen if writers get paid $10 or even less for an article.
A Message To Content Owners
When buying content, it’s important to think about the whole lifespan of an article: a good quality, well-researched article will still be relevant in years to come (that’s the nature of “evergreen” articles) and offer value to readers, often inviting them to make a purchase or enquire about a service. Google rewards high-quality sites containing content that is useful and relevant with top rankings (see for example this article from the Content Marketing Institute).
A cheap article may drive traffic for a short while, especially if it contains a clickbait title, but it will not help to build a reputation as a trusted information provider. Buying a cheap article also contributes to a mentality or culture where it is acceptable to undervalue the work of freelance writers.