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Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is this the Future of Magazines? Free Content from Readers?

Photo Creative Commons by SunFox

Newsweek has a thought-provoking article on a new online magazine that pulls content from internet denizens rather than freelancers.

The magazine publishing company, 8020, has readers submit content to magazines like the travel publication Everywhere and then vote on the best stories. The winners are then featured in the print magazine. This generates extra traffic when submitters ask friends and family to check out the site and vote for their submission. The winner gets $100 and publication in the print magazine. It's a trend that may not bode well for full-time freelancers.

If many netizens are giving away the chocolate freelance milk for free, why buy content from a better bovine? I'm guilty too. I just entered a contest at Journeywoman that asks for inspiring travel stories, and I didn' t really think about the implications. First place gets $100 and some runner-ups get $25, and they get people to submit full essays without a kill fee or specific assignment.

I'm sympathetic to new publications who are starting out and need to move toward a profit, or at least breaking even. But what is the likelihood they'll start paying freelancers what they're worth if the model is working for them? Will they do it out of the goodness of their hearts and a sense of fair play? Not.

I may have to reconsider future contests. While it might be a good way for new writers to get first clips, it lets the magazines get off cheap. And cheap doesn't pay the bills at my house.

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