Demand Studios dogs writers

Amy Green weighs in on the dilemma of Demand Studios, which advertises via SPJ to find writers, but pays what looks to be far less than a living wage. Still, Demand has extraordinary success getting copy. (Disclosure: I am vice-chair of the SPJ’s freelance committee, which Amy chairs, and was one of the people who read Amy’s post beforehand and made suggestions.) It baffles anyone who tries to make a living at writing why people would work for wages that wouldn’t keep a kid in candy (well, diapers, anyway). Hey, you can make $15 for an article? Nobody but a blockhead would write for that, as Samuel Johnson might have said.
In truth, writers probably would make more from Demand than as playwrights. People strive to write plays, to write poetry, to write novels and non-fiction books of all sorts, almost none of which pay the bills.
I don’t disagree with Amy’s column. Demand could wreak havoc on the market for writers of service journalism, and I would probably quit writing rather than write for Demand’s wages. But I find it hard to get angry about the company. I don’t think it abuses people. It pays something to everyone who writes for it, which is more than Huffington Post can say. I didn’t get mad about Elance and other exchanges that gutted the price for certain kinds of programming gigs. I even wrote a mildly fascinated piece about’s Mechanical Turk, which contracts out work that often pays in pennies. You might think nobody in the U.S. would do this work, but in fact they do.

Demand is a symptom of something, not a cause of it. That something looks like the demise of writing’s version of shoeing horses, run-of-the-mill, everyday how-to writing. It might also eliminate higher-end service journalism, but that remains to be seen.

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