Wednesday, January 16, 2008

How much is exclusive (all rights) worth?

For those who missed it, there was a big flap today over on Associated Content. They made an announcement on the writer forum that they were no longer going to consider non-exclusive content for upfront payment. There was a lot of protesting, and by the time that you read this AC has changed their minds and decided to put this policy change off for awhile longer.

But it is coming; you can see the storm building over there. As time has gone on, AC has been rejecting more and more articles for upfront payment. You can still put them up for performance bonus (page view payment), but it has been getting harder to get them to cough up anything up front. Even when you are offering them exclusive rights (also known in the business as All Rights), it is getting harder to pry any upfront from them. And forget about getting a fair amount for anything (ten dollars is a really low all rights payment); even if you can crank out something in an hour, there is no way that their upfront offers will cover your time and energy.

Face it, economics has caught up to AC. They are hoping that decent writers will make enough from the performance bonus to stick around. And as it is they have a ton of writers flooding the stacks with stuff anyways. There are always new writers (unpublished and eager for that first byline) waiting to line up and write for them. It is only us established writers (those of us with more than one outlet for our work) who are going to bolt at the very idea that AC is trying to turn us into work for hire slaves.

Personally, I have already quit trying to get upfront payment for non-exclusive content from them. Outside of my first piece published there, I figure that anything I have used or plan on using elsewhere is off-limits when it comes to upfront payment. I use AC as a secondary income source for my work, not my primary one.

The only articles I consider giving them exclusive rights to are actually News (which are hard to sell on most websites unless you have a relationship already built) and those which felt into AC and that I can't think of any other place that I would ever use them. The problem with News, quite simply, is that it has a really short shelf life. The instant that it passes that point, and becomes no longer of interest, it will expire like month old fruit cake, forever on the web, but with earnings no longer coming from it. For instance, the last piece I offered to AC as an exclusive (Hillary Clinton speaks at Auraria Campus) was one that I figured could last until either the Democractic Convention this summer, or be dead in a couple of weeks. After all, it was political, things change there fast; and once a politician is out of the running, no one cares anymore.

On the other hand, I figure that an article about improving one's credit score will have some shelf life. And I can figure out more than one place to use it, so why offer it for upfront payment consideration; after all, I have to live with myself and I do have some ethics to my name. Besides for an non-exclusive, they are probably going to offer nothing; I can hit publish now and start generating page views from it.

AC and its content producers (writers) are both struggling with opportunity costs. AC realizes that they can focus on exclusive for upfront payment consideration and not lose much while the writers are realizing that the upfront payment on an exclusive is not worth the time that they spent writing the piece. It will be awhile, but we can expect to see more changes there as the supply and demand curves keep moving towards equilibrium.

No comments: