I talked this one over with a friend of mine and even got so far as to start planning it, but in retrospect I’d much rather someone stole my idea.
There are plenty of websites out there where you can upload and sell content as a writer, or buy it as a website owner. A lot of people buy articles now, preferring to focus on their own strengths as SEO specialists rather than write their own stuff. And quite a few writers now are making a lot of money this way, being happy to give up a portion of their sales price in return for having the marketing done for them. It’s a classic case of specialisation.
The trouble with most of these content market websites, though, is that they suck. And I mean they suck but not because of some fundamental issue with the idea of a concept marketplace, but they suck because they have just not been made well.
I wrote a review of Constant Content for example. As content marketplaces go, it seems to be the best – but that’s not saying much. The editors are incredibly short sighted with their decisions and run the place like abusive life partners.
Here is what I want from a content marketplace:
Editors Are Not Your Boss
Firstly, I want an ethos where the editors explicitly do not believe they are your boss and do not want to be. An environment of zero power games, no-one above the other person.
Many writers, such as yours truly, tried their hand at content writing largely because they cannot stand such petty bullshit. Being a content writer should be a chance at being your own boss. And a content marketplace should understand itself as a facilitator for that, treating its writers with as much respect and kindness as its customers.
Freedom to write about whatever you want to write about
The second thing I want from a content marketplace is this. You should have absolute freedom with what you write.
Constant Content seemingly had no restrictions – you could write about anything. Wow! What an idea! – But as soon as you got writing you saw that the editors were intolerant of certain writing styles and certain points of view. That’s bullshit. You should be able to write however you want.
For sure, we need quality control. I think that a good website should have a people-powered quality control, with writers perhaps receiving star ratings from customers. If a piece of writing is opinionated, or of a particular writing style other than “Constant Content Encyclopedic Style“, it could have its own browsing section so that people who would be horrified at such things don’t have to see them.
Actually, I think the only real criteria for writing is that whatever you create is written well.
But I figure that even that could be made flexible with a well-made browsing interface. Badly written articles, i.e. by those whose first language isn’t English, could be put into a different section and sold at a lower price. Plenty of people are happy to sacrifice quality for price, as seen in more unrestricted article writing markets such as Elance.
For sure the highest quality articles which appeal to the widest audience should be proudly displayed at the top of the front page. But I think the other sorts of articles, which will have their niche markets, should be able to have their section.
The only qualifier is if something doesn’t sell. If it doesn’t, then the site can consider if the content is cluttering browser space, preventing people from finding higher quality articles, or if its using up editor time and giving nothing in return. In that case, the user could be politely asked to leave.
Another point, while we’re on it, is whether much editor time is actually needed. Perhaps, we can let our writers be their own editors. That way we cut out a lot of expensive employee hours, giving us an edge (particularly if this is a penniless startup) and allowing us to create a more free-form marketplace as described above.
I don’t see that the world would end here. Actually, a lot of writer/buyer deals are set up through sites like Elance, where there are no editors. The writer is trusted to edit their own work, and if the end result is good enough, we have a deal.
Look at me. I have a website with a fair readership, and I don’t feel the need to hire a personal editor to make sure my articles are all OK. At most I get a trusted friend to read a post over before I put it out there.
I think sites like Constant Content have so many editors out of a need to control, most of all. This is a blind and stupid impulse, and if your head is clear of it, you have an edge over them. A serious edge, I think.
Most of all, I think it’s a well designed browsing interface which will help people find the best content for them. Get that right, and it doesn’t matter if some people’s stuff is better or worse. It all has a place.
The great thing about all this – and the thing that made me interested in doing it – is that it’s something that can be done with very little overhead.
Creating the website can be done by anyone with some programming skills – or a programmer could be hired for not overly much. Just design a smart interface, which will be your greatest asset, and you can be the first editor/moderator as your site begins. Get 100 or so articles from interested writers, set them up so they are browsable and visible, and you can start looking for buyers. As your market expands, you can naturally use the money flowing in to hire more moderators as needed.
Perhaps this is one business where paying for some online ads would be helpful in getting buyers. In any case, though, you can start earning money even without doing that. I think a content marketplace has the potential to be valuable even in the early startup stages. Just make it user-friendly and get some good writers and you’re away.
The name I was thinking of using was “contentment”.
I like that name because besides from being a cute pun, it’s Google friendly (has your keyword in it) and tells us what your site is about. It’s about making people happy: writers, buyers, employees, everyone. It showcases the fact that you are looking to make life simple for people, not difficult. I thought the tagline could be “Content Yourself”. Then, in your “about” page, you could explain how your vision is to create a user-friendly experience for everyone, with no childish bullshit trying to make everyone miserable.
Contentment.com is already owned by someone, but is just a parked domain, e.g. shows ads and nothing else. I’m sure it could be bought.
Me and my friend tried to contact the owners, but it seems that the WHOIS information on their website was out of date. We even tried to get the website taken down as it’s the law that all websites should have working contact details. Either that didn’t work or they have updated their details by now: you could try contacting them again.
I’m thinking that if I started this website and ended up successful enough to REALLY want that domain name, I would hire a private detective to track the bastards down and get them to listen to sense. By sense, I mean a large money offer.
In the meantime, it should be easy enough to get a similar domain like contentment.net or contentment.biz and use that.
Well, that’s that for this episode of Steal My Ideas. If you try it, do write me something and tell me how it went! Otherwise, I might just try this myself sometime.
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