Monday night, the content mill, Demand Media Studios, that employs an estimated 4,000 freelance writers, sent out the following email to their writers:
We are excited to announce a new program called First Look. It is intended to reward our highest-rated writers by giving them the first look at new titles. Starting this week, the highest-rated writers will have advanced access to view and claim new assignments for 48 hours before they are released into the Find Assignments pool.
We’ve all invested a lot and we want to further reward writers who best exemplify the attributes of good writing. The eligible group will be those writers who maintain an average structure of 4.0 or higher for their last 50 articles.
The score will be recalculated with every new article. While we plan to add this updated score to your Work Desk, it will not be immediately visible. We may also at some point modify this method of calculation. If your average falls below 4.0, you will lose First Look privileges until you bring your score back within the qualifying range.
In an attempt to be mindful and fair to all eligible writers, all writers’ assignment claim limits will be set to 10. As with the current system, once you submit an article, you may claim another assignment. We will notify those writers eligible for First Look via email. All changes will go into effect in the next few days.
We will continue to listen to your feedback and invest in programs like this. Please visit this forum thread if you have any questions
Jeremy Reed, SVP Editorial”
The new “First Look” initiative will effectively make it virtually impossible for most of Demand’s writers to find any work. Demand estimates that %15 of their writers maintain a “structure” (grammar) score above 4.0. That means 15% will have 48-hour access to all new assignments while the other 85% wait to see if any scraps fall through the cracks. Not only that, but one bad review from an editor could send a “First Look” writer back into the trenches at any moment.
Many of Demand’s writers are interpreting this as a mass-firing. They believe the company can no longer succeed financially based on their current revenue model, and rather than simply explaining this to writers, “First Look” is their way of downscaling without directly kicking writers off the site, creating a PR nightmare.
Demand Media claims that “First Look” is an effort to increase the quality of their content and reward their best writers. However, many writers claim that is a bogus excuse. They say that Demand’s scoring system is flawed and that Demand has always encouraged them to focus on their writing without worrying about their scores.
Could this new initiative be a sign that Demand Media Studios has bitten off more than they can chew? Has the company shot them self in the foot by paying writers up to $25 for arcane articles, like “Does Spinach Work Against the Healthy Effects of Eating Broccoli?” and “What Careers Can Jockeys Have After They Are Done Racing Horses?” that will most likely not see much traffic now that Google has made changes to their search algorithm? Only time will tell.