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Online Content Networks: Make Easy Money Writing Online?

The thought of making even a part-time income as a freelance Web writer from home can be quite appealing. Yet, finding small niche sites that are looking for articles, paying a decent amount of money, and buying content from freelancers with your particular expertise can be a daunting task. Enter online content networks. You probably come across articles on some of the larger content networks on a regular basis through search engines. Having experience working with three such networks, I’d like to share some background on content networks in general, what they’re like to work with, and then follow with a comparison of the three networks I’m experienced with.

What Are Content Networks?

When I refer to content networks, I mean a group of web sites, each covering a niche topic, but still housed under one large umbrella site. The three content networks I’ll soon be comparing are www.About.com (where I was a former writer), www.Suite101.com (where I am a current Editor), and www.AllInfoAbout.com (who I am currently building my third niche site with). Often, sites within a content network are managed by an expert in a field who serves at the site’s writer, front-line editor / proofreader, blogger, and manager of a discussion forum, newsletter, or other site features. In some cases, writers even have some say over the design and layout of their site and content.

What is it Like to Work for Content Networks?

What it’s like to work with content networks can vary greatly from one network to the next. But in all cases, you have the ability to focus on a subject you enjoy and are qualified to write on (or they probably wouldn’t have accepted your application in the first place). You also have a lot of flexibility in your schedule, because you’ll work as a freelance writer. Despite the fact that pay scales and methods can vary greatly, you also have the potential to earn money and over and over again from the same articles you’ve written, instead of simply being paid a one-time fee.

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The Networks

Please note that all information I mention regarding the networks below is pulled from personal experience and from information readily available on their web sites between late 2005 and May 2006. Each of the networks reserves the right to change their general pay structures, writer requirements, and anything else at any given time, and you should check the network’s official site for the latest information. The information below is opinion-based from experience, and will cover some of the best and worst points of each network.

www.About.com – One of the best qualities of About.com is the fact that they have the best pay structure for new writers (called Guides on the site), currently listed on their site as a $500 per month guarantee for the Guide’s first twelve months on the job. Another positive note with About.com is that they have the backing of, and are owned by, The New York Times Company. That fact can help Guides more easily get review copies of products and books, interviews, and other necessary contacts for information they’d like to use on their sites. Despite how good that may sound, the biggest negative aspect of About.com is that they have somewhat rigged rules, in order to keep the network looking unified, so you have less control over your content there, and they probably take the least amount of feedback from writers.

www.Suite101.com – The difference in pay scales between Suite101 and About is similar in that the basic pay scales are based on pageview rates (the number of pageviews your site draws for the network), but different in that Suite101 currently has a set rate for all sites ($2 per 1000 pageviews as listed on their site now) whereas About’s rates are variable. The biggest plus to working with Suite101 is that the company just underwent a reorganization and is going through a series of positive changes and growth right now, including hiring a large number of writers. Suite101 is also fantastic at listening to writers’ and editors’ feedback and suggestions to consider improvements network-wide. The biggest negative for writers would be the fact that there is no guaranteed pay. It’s strictly based on pageviews.

www.AllInfoAbout.com – All Info About (or AIA) is a UK-based network with writers all over the world. The best part about AIA is that writers retain the most control over their content, and can decide how to lay out many aspects of their site (from their color choices to whether or not they want to include a weblog to organizing their navigation structures in the most effective way to suit their content). The biggest drawback is that the network doesn’t pay. However, writers have control over most of the ads on their site, and they can monetize them in other ways such as selling their own relevant products or services. But despite the lack of direct payments, AIA recently started breaking sites onto their own domain names, instead of sub-domains on most networks, and running a site on their network instead of on your own can allow you network support through the writer community and enormous cross-linking opportunities to help you grow your traffic.

Overall, each of these networks has their pros and cons. If you opt to give content network writing a try, just be certain to weigh how much the issues of pay, freedom over your content, and open ears of management mean to you. Once you have your own priorities, you’re sure to find a content network that will fit the bill.

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A General Style Guide For Numbers, Measurements, Dates, And Acronyms In Technical Web Content

Numbers
Numbers followed by units of measure should never be written out.

  • Bad: It was a one GB hard drive
  • Good: It was a 1 GB hard drive
Single digit numbers ( zero through nine) should usually be written out.
  • Example: There were nine cables.
References to numbers as they appear in text should be in quotes, or bold, and should match the way they are represented in that text.
  • Example: There were nine cables numbered "1" through "9".
  • Example: Go to the menu and select ten or more.
Numbers that start a sentence should be written out
  • Example: Thirteen revisions have been created.
Single digits compared with multiple digits do not need to be written out:
  • Example: Approximately 1 in 300 modems failed in the first year.
Numbers enumerating nouns that are defined by a number should be written out.
  • Example: There were twenty-seven 802.11 abg wireless pc cards in stock.

Units of measurements
Abbreviations of units should not be followed by a period unless they are at the end of a sentence.

Abbreviations of units should be lower case except in the following situations:

Units of measure named for a person should be upper case (e.g.: kHz).

Bytes are abbreviated B, bits b (e.g.: 5 GB hard drive and 1Gb Ethernet.

Metric abbreviations are case-sensitive, so uppercase and lowercase letters have different meanings

  • mm stands for millimeter (one-thousandth of a meter)
  • Mm stands for megameter (one million meters)
The plural of the abbreviation of unit of measure is the same as the singular (i.e.: never add an "s")
  • Good: 100 GB
  • Bad: 100 GBs

Units of computer memory
The computer industry commonly refers to:

  • A factor of 1024 (2 to the power of 10) as "k"
  • 1024 squared (2 to the power of 20) as "M"
  • 1024 cubed (2 to the power of 10) as "G"
The above units of computer memory are distinctly different from the metric abbreviations:-
  • k that stands for kilo and means thousand (1,000 or 10 to the power of
  • 3)

  • M that stands for mega and means million (1,000,000 or 10 to the power

    of 6)

  • G that stands for giga and means billion (1,000,000,000 or 10 to the power

    of 9)

This is why units of computer memory should never be written out as "kilo", "mega" or "giga"

Measurements
There should always be one blank space between a number and a unit (preferably a non-breaking space)

Whenever possible, give numerical values in comparisons and explanations to avoid ambiguity:

  • Bad: Older hard drives were smaller.
  • Better: Hard drives manufactured before 1999 had less than 1 GB of storage
  • capacity.

Only compare the value of items if they are of the same unit of measurement (i.e.: Don't compare apples to oranges).
  • Bad: The 5400 rpm hard drive is faster than the 100 GB hard drive.
  • Better: The 5400 rpm 50 GB hard drive performed better in the seek test
  • than the 2700 rpm 100 GB hard drive.

As a related matter, use the same units of measurement in comparisons.
  • Not so good: To compare and contrast the performance of this process on
  • an idle system with 256 MB, 512 MB and 1 GB of RAM...

  • Better: To compare and contrast the performance of this process on an idle

    system with 256 MB, 512 MB and 1024 MB of RAM...

  • Exception: if the measurement remains the same and the unit changes, it

    can be used for emphasis (e.g. it costs $10 per year where it used to cost

    about $10 per month)

Dates
Use the dd Mon yyyy format because it is less ambiguous, and globaly recognizable.

  • Example: 08 Jun 2006
Use a non-breaking space between the day and month, and between the month and year.

Acronyms
Common acronyms

  • HTML: Hyper text markup language
  • PC: Personal computer
  • (ADD TO THIS LIST)
If an acronym is not in the above list it must be written out upon first usage and followed by the acronym in parenthesis
  • Example: Three letter acronyms (TLAs) are abundant in technical writing.

Torre DeVito is a computer programmer, technical writer, and web designer from North Carolina. He is the proprietor of PageCandy.com and GraphicalSiteFX.com.

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