The other day I had an email from Ziff Davis. Its subject was "Start a Blog with Toolbox for IT!". Ordinarily I would have just trashed that without looking at it, but I accidentally opened it and found it amusing enough to pursue. It started off with the typical schmoozing: "I came across your blog while looking for some insight on technology know-how, and was very impressed with the content you are providing.". Yeah, sure. Please stroke me some more while I sip my coffee.
It went on to say "I am always looking for talented bloggers to join the Toolbox for IT blogging community.". Talented? Well, gosh that sure fits me, doesn't it? I have to read more!
What came next just about knocked me off my chair. It said that if I joined their blogging community, I'd have the opportunity to "earn additional income based on your posts, with $50 per 300-word post (earning up to $500/month for ten posts)". Fifty bucks for 300 words? That's pretty high pay - I figure a 500 word tech post usually takes me about an hour, soup to nuts, so that's about $100 an hour and sometimes more. Not bad for tippity tappety on the keyboard, right? Especially not bad as the going rate for such articles on the rest of the internet is often much, much less. I've seen people offering $2 for 300 word articles - that's extreme, but we are competing with very low income talent, so rates are very low.
Of course they did say "opportunity". So what's the gotcha? I wrote back, expressing my amazement and requesting details. The response was quick and quite definite: "All the conditions are to blog about your field of expertise and meet the 300 word count minimum per post after signing a contract and returning at least a W9 to us."
A contract? Ahh, there's the rub. I asked for details on said contract and was refused: "I am sorry, but I do not have access to a contract. To see the contract, you would need to apply. Once your application is approved, legal would be touch."
Ahh. So I clicked through to apply. I found that in addition to providing the usual personal details, the application required me to submit a blog post. Huh? They expect me to give them a post and THEN tell me the financial details? I wrote back again, pointing out the incongruity of that. Within an hour they sent me a contract which they said was "part of the contract legal would send you".
Part of? So secretive, but I accepted it for what it was and took a look. It started off by explaining that if I gave them content, I was agreeing to give them "an exclusive, unlimited, perpetual U.S. and world-wide license to use, modify, and distribute" what I had submitted. My only rights to the content would be to use it in an "in the form of an e-book or hard copy"; other than that I could not reproduce it anywhere. Harsh, but there is that $50.00, right?
Not so fast. That was covered a bit later. It said "Author shall receive $50 per Qualifying Blog up to a maximum of ten (10) Qualifying Blogs per month." Of course it specified that the Blog must be in English, must be at least 300 words and so on. And then this: "ZD shall determine whether a blog is a Qualifying Blog or not in its sole discretion".
So, if I'm reading that contract right, anything I submit becomes theirs to use but they decide whether it is worth paying for. Curious, I took a look at the site and read a few articles others had submitted. They weren't awful, but it's hard to imagine anyone paying $50 for the ones I read. They weren't anything special, not really very technical and nothing you can't find all over the internet. In other words, the site is a content farm. I doubt they pay for much.
So I wrote back once more, asking if my interpretation was correct. If they decided that my article was not worth paying for, would I be able to withdraw it and use it myself?
So far, no answer to that question.. it's only been two weeks so I'm hoping they'll let me know soon :)