Blogging for pennies?

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I’m seeing a ton of blog-job ads that recruit writers for blog networks, most of which pay literally pennies, if at all. Some promise $2-5 per post, which isn’t too bad if you’re being asked to review, say, beauty products that you might get for free from eager-beaver publicists. But if you’re asked to write 500-word articles 10-20 times a week on complex issues like personal finance, technology, or interactive media, you’re looking at a rate of return that a Taco Bell crew member would find insulting.

Yes, I realize that blog networks have low overhead precisely because of the relative ease of starting up that kind of business. They rely on advertising revenue and marketing to hundreds (thousands? millions?) of eyeballs to surf over to their sites to make money. Still, it does seem to be to be just the online version of for-profit startup magazines that refuse to pay their writers. Their argument is usually along the lines of “we can’t afford to pay right now because we’re just starting up,” and they promise “lots of exposure,” a byline and a “generous bio.” None of that will pay my rent, of course, and it’s doubly insulting to see that kind of pathetic argument when you see how much advertising revenue they’re generating. They can afford to pay salaries to their staffers, their printers, their circulation reps, their advertising reps, and the rent in their office building, but they can’t/won’t pay the writers who create the content that serves as their reason for being?

Now you have blog networks started by Internet-millionaire wannabes who have heard about the fortunes to be made on blogs and blog content, but who don’t want to actually pay for that content themselves. Ugh. I figure, if I’m going to earn a measly $5 for two hours of work (which is approximately the minimum that I calculated I would need to research and write a decent post about a substantive issue like personal finance or politics), I might as well start my own blog and keep all the ad revenue for myself. Or even better, write for well-paying publications — both off- and online — who understand that writers are also professionals and that they have just as much of a right to make decent money off their talent as anyone else in the biz.

What do you think? I’d love to hear from writers for blog networks who can refute what I just wrote above. Is it worth it to hang your star to an “up-and-coming” blog network for pennies, or is it better to own your own blog and content? Inquiring minds want to know!

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