Yelp for Journalists

Scott Carney is a freelance magazine writer who has launched a site called WordRates, which aims to be a “Yelp for Journalists”—helping freelance writers share information about editors and publishers who accept unsolicited story pitches, who pay actual money for writing, and who respond to emails in a timely manner. It’s like an updated version of Writer’s Market—and it’s not unlike the wonderful Who Pays Writers, which came before it, and Pressland, which has come after it. (This has resulted in some unfortunate press about who’s the real Yelp for Journalists.) Continue reading “Yelp for Journalists”

The Shapeshifting Publisher of 2015

Video is big this year. (Or maybe that was last year?) In any case, I remember the first time video was big. It was 2006, and my then-employer Time Inc. announced that, due to advertiser demand for online video, it was launching Time Inc. Studios, a brand new unit designed to produce video content for all of the magazine brands. At the time, one of my editor bosses presciently noted that “video turns people into assholes.” Every editor and writer (myself included) started reimagining themselves as producers, thinking that they could turn out cable- or network-television quality programming. Continue reading “The Shapeshifting Publisher of 2015”

Things I’m Working On: Being a Better Editor

Millions of people wish they could be a great writer, but I suspect fewer dream of becoming a great editor. It’s always the writer. I recently met Chris Vogel, the articles editor for Boston Magazine, and he compared being an editor to parenting, because it’s about “selfless love.” “Editors are in the people game as much as the words business.” Editors aren’t the stars, but they’re coaxing, listening, pushing, making the writer comfortable that she can do great work. Maybe they’re part coach or therapist, or maybe they’re just customer support. They can help make someone else shine—or at the very least, get out of the way and do as little damage as possible before passing it along to readers. Continue reading “Things I’m Working On: Being a Better Editor”

How Have You Devalued Professional Writing Today?

This week’s discussion about paying writers has led some to argue that publishers, by asking for free or cheap work, and writers, by accepting little to no wages, are devaluing the work of professional writers. 

What else is devaluing the work of professional writing on the web? 

1. By having this debate, for free, on Twitter.com, Branch.com and Tumblr.com, are we devaluing the work of professional writers who might write about it for a publisher that is paying them? 

2. If you wrote a print magazine story for a publisher, then asked that publisher to “unlock it on the web for free,” are you undercutting or devaluing the work of those who write exclusively for the web? 

3. If you only share free content on Twitter and Facebook, versus paywalled content or ebooks, are you undercutting or devaluing the work of publishers who paywall their content? 

4. If you publish free content on the web, are you killing the ancillary revenue that a writer could bring in from future reprint rights for those stories, or the ability to repurpose those stories into a book? 

5. If you pay freelancers, are you killing the opportunity to provide healthcare and stability to a full-time writer instead?

I’m not trying to be flip, but I think we, the Internet, are all somewhat responsible for the sorry state of freelance writing. I hope we can take steps to improve it. 

For what it’s worth, Longreads is trying to do its small part: We currently set aside ~30% of our Member dues to pay writers and publishers for reprint rights to our weekly Member Picks. 

And last night, Pocket‘s founder Nate Weiner spoke at the SF Hacks/Hackers journalism panel and asserted our commitment to publishers and how we can help solve the bigger problem of supporting high-quality content on the web. I’m excited for what’s to come on this front.