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Paying writers according to page income

Performance based article writing



4:23 pm on Aug 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I've been thinking a lot about how best to pay writers for articles that I'm not able to write myself. Much has been said about fees paid per article, etc, but I'd like to get some thoughts on another way of paying for articles. I think this would only work for established sites, but it'd be an interesting debate for everyone nonetheless.

Would it be possible to pay authors on a time-limited CPM basis. In other words, pay them a certain rate for every 1000 times their article is viewed. It would almost certainly have to be higher than a normal ad CPM, but not much.

For example, someone writes you an article. You put it up on your page and agree with the author that you will pay them (for example) $20 per 1000 times that the article is viewed, within the first (for example) 2 months.

The benefit for the webmaster is that if the article is rubbish and no-one reads it, you don't have to fork out large amounts of cash for it. The benefit for the writer is that if it's a life-changingly good article and it becomes the next 'big thing', they get a fair slice of the revenue that it generates, instead of a set amount.

Additionally, should the webmaster be implementing a CPM ad campaign on that page, income from that should offset the money paid to the writer. After the 2 month initial period, the writer is no longer paid for it, or could be paid a reduced rate for the next 4 months. Almost like royalties are paid to musicians.


7:30 pm on Aug 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

It's pretty complicated and requires a lot of trust. It's like most things, if you can make it work for you, more power to you. In most cases though, it's best to keep things simple. With a flat fee, everyone knows where they stand before, during and after the transaction.


8:23 pm on Aug 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

The author would worry that you wouldn't do your part and make sure there are links to the article, etc.


9:03 pm on Aug 21, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

that if it's a life-changingly good article and it becomes the next 'big thing', they get a fair slice of the revenue that it generates

The only problem with this is there are only so many "life changing" things ever written. And the people with the ability to write them generally write books, not articles for websites.

Everyone's time is valuable. I would never give my programming time for such an arrangement unless I was a full partner and understood the exact business model, promotionals, etc. The best writers aren't going to give of their time so freely, unless you're perhaps running a charitable website.

Pay for the best work and you'll get the best work.



3:27 am on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

lovethecoast is right. You get what you pay for. Most good writers aren't going to want to work under such a scheme.

Also, my first thought when reading your proposal was that just because the page gets visits, it does not necessarily mean that the article is good. It could get visits because it's about a popular topic, or has just the right combination of keywords. It's possible to have a junky article that gets lots of visits (just not repeat visits!). Furthermore, why would a writer take a chance writing about a "fringe" topic for you, when perhaps it might not get a lot of visits? It might be the greatest article in the world written about its particular subject, but if it doesn't attract a "mainstream" audience, the author won't get paid very much. Sounds like a really crummy deal for the writer.


10:58 pm on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

All depends on site traffic.


11:14 pm on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

>> Sounds like a really crummy deal for the writer.

The real problem from the writer's standpoint is that how many times the article is viewed isn't at all under the writer's control -- unless you want to create an expectation that it's his responsibility to promote it.

Generating site traffic is the responsibility of the site's operator (or anyone the operator may hire to take on that responsibility). Shifting part of that responsibility to your contracted freelance writers might be a great deal from the operator's standpoint, but isn't likely to attract talented writers -- unless the fees are structured so that at even at low end of the scale the payment will be competitive with what the writer would earn writing for someone else under a traditional payment arrangement.


11:17 pm on Aug 22, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

One incentive that has a chance is to offer a lifetime, or limited, partnership in the website. For instance, if you have the skills for ranking a website but no expertise in the topic of the website, then if you partner with an expert, especially an expert with credentials and credibility, then you can incentivize the writing by offering 25% lifetime revshare.

If you don't have the funds to pay someone, nor the time to create hundreds of pages of quality content, then partner with someone who does.


7:28 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

this scheme of things sounds awfully complicated and difficult to track....why should a writer trust you to keep your end of the deal..after he/she delivers the article to you....we all need to look out for ourselves,....in this day and age: the best policy is to keep things simple and transparent. That way both parties are happy! A flat rate decided in advance is the best way to go!


11:46 am on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Isn't the common advertiser-webmaster deal just as trust-based as this? If a company approaches a webmaster and asks them to place an ad based on CPM, don't they place just as much trust in the webmaster that they're not going to get ripped off?

In practise, one could implement a small counter on the page that is pulled from the writer's page or the page of a 3rd party. Then the number of article views would be able to be independently verified.

I think this idea would appeal more to people who aren't established writers. Obviously if someone could be guaranteed say $100 for an article as opposed to the 'possibility' of $150 for the article, they'd go for the hard cash option. But if someone weren't an established writer and unable to command such prices, this method could work out better for them.


1:52 pm on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator rogerd is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member

If you can provide some hard numbers, it might be more appealing to the writer. E.g., "the article you wrote three months ago for $100 is generating enough traffic that you would be making $25 a month under the new plan" would go a long way to reassuring a writer.

As others have noted, unless you are a well-established site with high credibility and a history of generating traffic, PPV payment for writers is likely to appeal mainly to writers who are still trying to establish their credentials. As martinibuster suggests, to attract an "industry expert" type of contributor, you may have to offer equity or more substantial revenue sharing.


5:22 pm on Aug 23, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Senior Member 10+ Year Member

Lessee, I'll just spin the giant "Everything I Know, I Learned from..." wheel, and it slows down, clicking through "Genghis Khan", on to "Kindergarten", almost stopping at "Working at Microsoft", finally landing on "The Bible". Ok:

You shall not muzzle the ox when it treads out the grain.

You're trying to shift your risk of not being able to profit from content (or perhaps not being able to judge what good content is) onto the writer. This should attract people who cannot get a better offer anywhere else. You might do better by shifting from thinking "how can I get a great, risk-free deal for myself" into thinking "how can I offer a great, risk-free deal to really good authors?"


2:34 pm on Aug 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

I'm a professional content writer and there's no way we could work on this basis.

I could write great content and have it viewed by nobody even if you do a good job as webmaster, if someone else does a better job. Plus why should I trust a client who is unwilling to pay me for my time to develop good work in the first place to honestly pay me months down the road. Most clients are honest but many are not and most writers I know suffer from loss of fees when clients just disappear after commissioning work.

My opinion as a writer who earns a living writing content and runs a small agency of freelance writers is that you'd get the people not good enough to do good paid work doing this type of arrangement. The (at best) second rate writers.


[edited by: digitalghost at 5:53 pm (utc) on Aug. 28, 2005]
[edit reason] no urls please [/edit]


4:22 pm on Aug 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

10+ Year Member

Thanks Julie-Ann and others, it's been good to get opinions from people on both sides of the fence.

It seems as if this scheme is a little too biased towards the webmaster instead of the writer. But it's always good to be constantly reviewing and innovating the way we do business, as the internet is still a (relatively) young, dynamic marketplace.

Thanks again for all your input...


5:50 pm on Aug 28, 2005 (gmt 0)

WebmasterWorld Administrator martinibuster is a WebmasterWorld Top Contributor of All Time 10+ Year Member Top Contributors Of The Month

>>>The (at best) second rate writers.

I'm fine with fourth rate. The price of fourth rate content written by native speakers is cheap and the content is sixth-grade-friendly, which means it appeals to the majority of people on the internet.

As far as equity sharing, if you have a brand name expert, it just makes sense. In the long run, if you know what you're doing, your responsibility lies in uploading content a couple times a month and making X thousands of dollars for it per month.

You can be greedy and say you don't want to share 25% with anyone- and move on with the usual projects that you do. In the meanwhile, you don't develop a project with 75% equity for doing next to nothing after the heavy lifting has been done (link dev etc.) and you're getting 100% of zero dollars earned on a project that never got off the ground.

Good for you, stand your ground. All or nothing, right? Not necessarily. There are situations where it makes sense to share.

I've done the partnership deals and it's worked fine for me.


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