Monday, November 23, 2009

Why I No Longer Write for Examiner.com

There aren’t many careers for mothers of four who want to stay home. (Especially laziesh mothers who have degrees in English.) I decided to give freelance writing a whirl because, unlike other home-based businesses, it requires almost no overhead cost. I had a computer, half a brain, and basic tech skills. My start-up fees entailed the purchase of two books on freelance writing and a subscription to Writer’s Digest.

I found Examiner.com on some job-search site. Examiner.com is basically an online newspaper that focuses on local information from area natives. I needed a spot where I could create content to send to potential employers. Examiner.com provided a place to do just that.

I wrote some articles for the website. When I applied for short-term freelance writing gigs, I would include a link to my Examiner.com page. I think the site did help me land some jobs, though they were low-paying jobs. Really low-paying. Like, insultingly low. But I had no “experience,” so I took the jobs to build a sort of portfolio.

I was the first “Examiner” in the Rochester-area. (If this is my one-time claim to fame, oh please shoot me now.) I applied for a job and also lobbied for my fair city to be deemed important enough to be included on the site. It worked and I was soon dubbed the “Rochester Parenting Examiner.” There are now over 50 Rochester Examiners who write about various subjects like cosmetics, paranormal activities, and the Rochester Red Wings.

Some facts about Examiner.com:

-They pretty much hire anyone.

-They pay pittance. (It is a pay per click site… you get paid according to how many people visit your site.)

-Employers that pay well do not regard Examiner.com as a serious venue for freelance writers.

Examiner.com has some really good writers. However, it takes time to troll through the garbage to find them. A lot of articles are simply regurgitated material from other websites. This is what the internet is turning into: the same information over and over again presented in different ways. (I get a ton of solicitations from employers asking me to “rewrite” articles. It’s not plagiarism if it passes Copyscape!)

Examiner.com started getting pushy. They have $50.00 incentives for any Examiner who gets someone else to become an Examiner. I started getting tons of e-mails encouraging me to recruit friends and family members to write for the site. Did you know that you can write about anything? Rochester has an Egypt Traveler Examiner! Really! There’s an Orleans County Firehouse Examiner! There are now several Examiners who write about mothering and parenting issues. There is a Rochester Health and Happiness Examiner, a Rochester Golf Course Examiner, and a Rochester Makeup Examiner. There are three Rochester Movie Examiners. (The Rochester Makeup Examiner is a teenage girl who resides in a suburb of Rochester. One of her sidebar topics is “red lips.”) If you have an interest in an obscure niche, say the Catahoula Leopard Dog, you can have your very own blog about it on a national website.

Examiner.com is a legitimate site. It is not a scam. However, it definitely takes advantage of aspiring writers who are searching for legitimacy. While it offers an outlet for creativity, Examiner.com is not concerned about stellar content. There are no editors. No one gets reprimanded for misspellings or syntactical errors. Here’s an example of an interesting sentence that could have benefited from a little editing:

Landscape lighting for Christmas comes in so many more forms than ever before. (From the National Backyard Living Examiner.)

(I do not pretend to be some great writing talent. I have an unhealthy love affair with the comma and am a big fan of the sentence fragment.)

My major beef with Examiner.com is that someone out there is making oodles of money on someone else’s pithy little article about cooking turkey testicles for Thanksgiving. Some bigwig is gaining profits off of freelancers who spend hours writing articles for .20 a pop. People are making an actual living by exploiting someone else’s dreams of publication.

Oh well. Such is life. I’m jumping off that boat. Having said that, if you’re interested in becoming an Examiner, let me know. I’ll jump back on the boat and pocket that $50 no problem.

Some of the Rochester Examiners I DO read:

Rochester Atheism Examiner Viktor writes well and is controversial. His posts make me sooo angry, but that’s why I read them. I love a good debate. He even had an interview with the smoking man from the X-Files.

Rochester Crime History Examiner Michael Keene is by far my favorite Rochester Examiner. I can’t help but get drawn in to his tales of crimes of the past. I would totally buy his book if he ever publishes one.

Rochester Unemployment Examiner Michael Thornton is an expert on his topic and writes timely articles about an important, current issue.

Postscript: Those looking for other ways to make money writing should check out my incredibly informative post: Make Money Writing 101, which is immensely popular and was recently nominated for a Pulitzer.

17 comments:

Shelly said...

I was curious about the examiner and had heard they were hiring. Very interesting things to find out about it! Thanks for sharing.

Woodswoman Extraordinaire: said...

Re: "I do not pretend to be some great writing talent. I have an unhealthy love affair with the comma and am a big fan of the sentence fragment." - me too, darn it!

Anonymous said...

This is disheartening to say the least. I started my own fashion blog this summer and I thought writing for the examiner would give me some credibility and experience. Now I'm learning that there are NO standards to begin writing for this site and that those of us that pride ourselves on correct syntax, grammar and punctuation usage are in the minority. This recession sucks .. balls .. huge .. balls.

Holly said...

Just got an e-mail from Examiner.com. They are now offering a $1 a post in addition to the .01 cent per click payment. They are also promising to kick out writers who do not live up to the site's standards, i.e. writers who do not write with a local angle. If the site truly does raise standards, it could only help them. Right? Still not going back, though. Even with the $1 raise, it's not competitive.

Anonymous said...

What makes you think Examiner.com is profitable? There may be a bigwig involved, but at the moment, I think he's spending more money than earning.

Holly said...

Examiner.com is run by the already profitable Clarity Digital Group. Examiner.com continues to grow rapidly. Already ranking high on Google search results, Examiner will soon use its "local angle" to make millions as it taps into local advertisement and marketing.

Philip Anshutz, who runs Clarity Digital, is a Forbes top 100 richest person worth billions.

Interesting article about Exmainer.com and Google should clear up any doubts that the site is not doing very, very well: http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1946348,00.html

Michael Keene said...

Hi Holly,

I am Mike Keene the Rochester History Examiner.

First of all, thank you for your kind comments about my work on Examiner.

Secondly, I would like to speak with you about freelance writing I am looking for. If you get a chance please call me @ 585-737-4546.

Regards,

Mike

Holly said...

Mike,

Why don't you email email any questions you have at rochgirl@gmail.com first, and we can go from there.

Anonymous said...

What do y ou think about the Rochester Makeup Examiner?

Holly said...

The Rochester Makeup Examiner has great content and a lot of knowledge to work with. To make her writing appear more polished, she should consider learning to write a more concise sentence. I took a look at the "Blue Eues" article (since I have blue eyes and all.)

Let's take a look at the important first paragraph:

One of the biggest rules in choosing eyeshadow is to never match the eyeshadow to your eye color. It is also important to not choose a color just because its a favorite color of yours
Many things need to be taken into consideration when choosing eyeshadow. One of the most important things to take into consideration when choosing a color is the color of your eyes.

Rewritten:

There are rules to consider when choosing an eyeshadow color: don't choose a color just because it's your favorite and never match the shadow to your eye color.

(The original last sentence is obvious and irrelevent.)

When writing content for the web, remember that shorter is better, remember to use paragraph headers when possible, insert search engine optimal keywords where you can, and write concise, perfunctory sentences. How-to articles also benefit from list formats. Break the directions for putting on eyeshadow into steps.

I would also re-think the sidebar topics. When people are scanning a site, they often scan the label index to see if the site contains anything of interest to them. Choose labels that give legitimacy to your topic. For instance: Makeup tips, Fall collections, etc. Red lips is too specific; shoot for a label like Lip color.

The Makeup Examiner should keep writing! She has great promise!

Corrina said...

I, too, am a stay at home mother. I do not need to work, but I write for the Examiner for some petty cash and I make upwards of $500 a month. If you aren't making the money, then you are not marketing yourself the right way. You can't just write something and expect people to read it without putting it out there.

Cassandra James said...

I've been with Examiner since September and am bailing this month to concentrate on writing for Associated Content, Demand Studios and my real-life clients. Just with Associated Content and Demand Studios, I make at least %3,000 a month. With Examiner? Hummm....last month? $40. Yeah, not worth my time.

Plus the site is owned by an extremist right-winger and I won't write to make money for someone who I disagree with on every single aspect of life :-)

Nice blog by the way :-)

Anonymous said...

What a joke. The Examiner is forking over $1 for every locally-driven article. Gee, thanks. I am the national and DC true crime examiner. While I admire you for actually wanting to help edit some examiners' work, I think it is a waste of your time, because 90% of examiners write at the fifth grade level. I slave over my articles, have first-hand sources and often use my own photographs, because I am a professional photographer. I am two elipses away from jumping ship; the only reason I haven't before is because I have developed some relationships with public information officers for some cities whose slammer inhabitants I cover. Examiner is worse than a joke. It's a total blam blam nightmare on a virtual Elm Stree. It nauseates me(and no, I don't become nauseous. That's for others to opine, but I do confess to becoming nauseated)to read the regurgitated gossip--regurgitated ineptly, chock full of soggy comma splices and worse. Examiner is no place for a published features writer like me. My inaugural story was an eye witness account of a Ted Kennedy story, and it ran with one of my photographs. I anguish over every word and punctuation mark, and sweat bullets about infringement, because I am the victim of infringement.
Actually, the only reason I am hanging on is to write that one tell-all story about a big publishing company that stole a photo of mine and used it to sell books, e-books, CDs, etc. Otherwise, as I said before, Examiner is a joke, and an unfunny one at that.
Erma Bombeck once wrote me that she hoped she would never be sent to a "home for the un-funny."
She never had to worry, bless her soul, but Examiner ... now there's a colossal piece 'o work.
I think the editorial "we" should organize a support group and simultaneously send Denver our adios. Thank you for allowing me to air my impressions.

Anonymous said...

Examiner.com is NOT profitable. The rumor going around is that they've been told to turn a profit by this summer or they're going to face some serious wrath from Anschutz. In fact, I was told they recently laid off key staff members that had been with the company quite some time and are looking for other budget reduction strategies. All of this while trumpeting "Growth" and "hiring". Their traffic numbers continue to fall as well. And as for Clarity being successful, they also own the Examiner newspaper which lost millions of dollars for Anschutz. It's beginning to look like Examiner.com is a clear strike two against the leadership team at Clarity.

Holly said...

Hmmmm. Interesting. Do you have inside information?

A few months ago, they were the fastest growing "news magazine" in the country...

http://denver.bizjournals.com/denver/stories/2009/09/28/daily25.html

Anonymous said...

Holly, they seem to be having problems paying their writers on time too. This month, they were a week late paying thousands of their writers and had no interest in if they were inconveniencing them. I stopped writing for them as soon as my check was 3 days late, and I won't be writing for them again.

What with the layoffs and inability to pay on time, there's no other reason for this other than that they MUST be having financial problems.

Tina said...

Hi My Name is Tina. I am an aspiring writer and I have a question Holly if you could be so kind and help me by answering it. I want to be a writer/editor so bad, but I don't want to get duped so I am trying my hand at Freelance writing jobs so I can build my portfolio while I am still in college. I recently got accepted with Examiner.com as a book examiner to basically write book reviews for my local community and help my communities library get some more readers. Do you have some advice on how I can start on my writing profession? Or where I can start on Freelancing? I don't have my Bachelor's yet but I am working my way towards it, and I am currently writing a novel. I love writing it is my life and my passion. Please if you can help me that would be really great. Thank You for taking the time to read my post.

Thank You,

Tina