How Writers Are Tricked On The Internet To Create Free Content
e.g. Facebook, Quora, Medium
Writers are the most disrespected people. Until you earn loads of money. For years, I have been writing, and I told my mom - I am a writer. And she would reply - no, you are delusional.
The moment I started earning money from my writing, she says - she is proud to be the writer's mom.
Getting paid for your writing is a struggle almost all writers have faced. You have to keep proving repeatedly - and still, many clients will try to get you to work for free or for small amounts. Writers who make a living from their craft are less in numbers than the talents in writing.
Poets and lyricists aren't paid much money. Doesn't matter the depths or meanings you bring in - unless you become famous, the money paid is bad. And most poets end up that way.
Who Are Writers
The thing with being a writer is that it is a self-title. You don't have to earn that title. If you write, then you are a writer. And how much writing is needed is decided by you. Maybe you write four poems in a year; you are a writer. Or you write your standup jokes or script for YouTube or in an old-fashioned in your diary; you are a writer.
If you struggle to come to terms with you being a writer, then here is a test. Do you use any of the social media online - you are a writer. Maybe, you are writing an elaborate description of a photo on Instagram. Or you are figuring out a way to write about a trending event in 240 characters or less on Twitter. Or you write about what you are doing on Facebook.
Writing doesn't mean you have to write a book; then, you will be an author. Writing means you are writing in some context.
Even a few lines per day is enough. Everyone is a writer thanks to the internet. Seth Godin writes daily articles - often they are ranged from [few lines to 10 lines](https://seths.blog/2009/11/the-reason-they-want-you-to-fit-in/?). And it is widely shared, linked and praised. He is a writer.
A Rant On Interns
An unpaid intern is a scam. No matter how much the intern will learn, that's not an excuse to not pay someone.
Writers are interns for life - that's what the world thinks of them. And part of the internet culture. On the internet, many things are free. And unless you are writing for a magazine, you are writing solo. No one knows you, trust you or cares for you.
So, you have to write for free. Most of your writing has to be free - so you can get discovered, And maybe you can charge for some premium content. Or a course. Guess what? All your content is premium content if you are a caring writer.
You have to give away a lot. So, you can eventually earn, and even then, there is no guarantee.
Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and all social media rely on their users to bring them more users. And also create tonnes of free content.
Your photo, posts on Facebook and threads on Twitter are valuable. And you give them away. Because social media tricks you into doing this, they reward you with likes, shares and virality. You get all the notifications, and it boosts your dopamine level. But all of that doesn't pay the bill.
Getting your tweet viral - it might generate thousands of dollars in revenue for Twitter; you get exactly zero.
Could there be a social media where users are rewarded for their post creation - a pie of the huge money the social media makes. Yes, there is - for example, YouTube, and that's why it has become a profession.
If you are on YouTube, your video goes viral, and boom, you get some money in your bank (subject to if you are a YouTube partner). That isn't the case with other social media content. If you want to monetize, you have to go out of your way.
The thing is, social media should pay its users something from the very beginning - because they are making millions and billions from all of our collective content. But they also know - you want the dopamine more than anything. And also, an individual, on average, would get maybe $5 per month, but for Facebook, that would translate to billions of dollars in monthly revenue they aren't giving you.
Case study of Quora
Sure, YouTube is fine with paying, but nobody pays for the written content on social media. Except few who aren't famous like mylot.
Quora is a question-answer website. They had moderation, curation and these sorts of things which made your answer popular. And then you get exactly zero. Your writing brings in traffic, converts that to Quora users because there is a limit to how many answers you can read without signing up and so on.
But many people continue to write on Quora because it promotes your answers and sweet notification pays off. If they had to pay for all the content on their website, they would have to go bankrupt. (Side note: Wikipedia is fine because it's non-profit)
Facebook, Quora, Twitter, Instagram are all billion-dollar internet companies. And the vast majority of the money comes because of all the writing on them.
A simple Google search and you find links to all the things on these social media sites. This brings in ad revenue, new users and brands. This contributes a lot of money. And you upon whom the whole social media giants have built - you get nada.
Let's Talk About Medium
Medium is the younger sister of Twitter. When Ev Williams started medium, he shared it as the long-form version of Twitter. And despite its user base, most of the content on the medium is being read from Search engine users because medium content ranks on the search engine.
You write on Medium, hope for that popularity, but that won't come - unless your article comes up in search. You share the article, increasing links and authority of Medium.
And all the users collectively work to increase the domain authority of social media sites and wonder they are the boss.
It's you who does all the leg work.
Medium is coming around and offering money and ownership lately. But to reach this stage, they had to trick users into coming and writing content for free.
Quora is now paying - but mostly for questions. And not for the answers because they know people can be tricked to write answers.
There is a rise of writers getting paid with Ghost, Substack, Revue and so on. But it's early.
Still today, the majority of the writers write freely in hopes to somehow get virality. But again, getting viral doesn't mean anything - no money, no food on the table.
I have got half a million views on Quora = money earned zero.
I have got 2000 passive views on Medium, although I am not writing anymore frequently - money earned zero.
I have got 1000 views per day on my videos on Instagram = money earned zero.
Your writing, content is valuable, and you have to focus on platforms that give value to your content.
And platforms need to emerge with the right incentive. For example, product hunt is a nice platform where your product can reach thousands of news users.
Similarly, a platform for writing is needed. Not for the views, but for money too. Because all traditional platforms have given views to my writing but not money. So, in essence - a Substack with a money bucket to share with the new writers whose writing is being read. Or a medium that gives money to the writer whose article goes viral. Or a Facebook where you are paid based on the posts you make. Or a Twitter where if your tweets go viral, you are paid $100 to some amount.
Writing should be valued - it can be - the train has started, it has to keep moving ahead with more innovations along the way.
This is meta. You are reading this article on a writer collective - Every. My article doesn't have to go viral. It has to be good for the current readers. And I get paid.
This isn't a magazine where the topics are all over the place, no ownership and no more money for viral articles.
We as writers need more writer collectives.
The big question - should you stop writing for free?
It depends on what your goals are. But if your goal is to have financial freedom then we need more writer collectives from all geographical, cultural and topics. Every has been the leader in inspiring with their ethics and principles. I hope more collectives will come up and follow the suit.
We need the shift from writers as poor interns slogging for pennies to bringing change, getting paid handsomely and impacting all of us.
And for that, writers shouldn't end up writing for free for years or eventually get paid pennies with no upside. The change is here and we need to keep the momentum going. Keep writing.