Wednesday, January 12, 2011

$85 Outrage: The Media Exploits Itself, Too

I usually don't discuss my business here except to point to various pieces I've done. But the email I received this morning steamed me up so much, I just need to tip myself over and pour it out.

It came from Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler, an editor for something called SheKnows.Com, which was, according to Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler's email signature, "voted the No. 1 Women's Website In the World." Now we know this is either a fictional or manipulated poll because SheKnows.Com and VegasHappensHere.Com have about the same significance to Google:

Knowing the data for my site and seeing this from Google Page Rank, I'm thinking this boast on SheKnows.Com's site...

...might be a little dishonest. Y'know?

So, anyhow, Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler sends this note:

Hi Steve,

I recently contacted the City of Las Vegas looking for a freelance writer to work with me on the new SheKnows CityGuide. [PUBLICIST NAME REDACTED, BUT IT WAS ACTUALLY SOMEONE FROM THE LVCVA, NOT THE CITY] forwarded me your information so I wanted to touch base with you and see if you would be interested in working with me.

The CityGuide is a themed guide of the Top 10 “places” in each city. For a CityGuide assignment, you would include 10 places in your area, addresses and descriptions of each place. Each description should be around 100-125 word. A photos is also required. You would also need to include a brief introduction of your city. The rate is $85 per guide. We will be doing a lot of guides in the next few months so there is an opportunity for this to be an ongoing project.

Here is an example of a great description:


Let me know if this is something you would be interested in doing. I look forward to working with you! Have a great day!

Now, I don't know how many of you have seen this YouTube video, but it's not just hilarious but the role of the robot editor for this performance will be played by Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler:

I re-read Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler's note several times to make sure I got it. She wants at least 1,000 words, plus 10 photos, plus an introduction all for the bargain basement price of... 8,500 pennies! And, psst, there's more where that came from!

I wrote Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler back:

While I appreciate that [VERY NICE PUBLICIST NAME REDACTED AGAIN] thought of me, pay of $85 for 1,000 words is offensive. Please contact an amateur. I'm sure there's some incompetent, desperate fool out there who would do it, but damned if I'm going to help someone so exploitative find him/her.

The trouble is, there actually are writers -- and not terrible ones, either -- so desperate that they'll do this. And I probably should've bit my tongue. But I just found it so outrageous I wanted to make sure everyone in Vegas and the rest of the freelance journalism world knew about Sweatshop Operator Jaime Fowler and this ridiculous racket of a website that believes journalists and their experience are worth significantly less than minimum wage. If you actually have ever heard of that site and/or read it, this is your warning that the information is probably going to be worth about as much as they paid for it.


Anonymous said...

According to, has an average 3 million unique visitors per month. or as you call it "" has an average 6,292UVMs. Not sure how they're comparable but whatever you say...

Houston Freelancer said...

Hmm. Any which way they're still a shameful operation. If this site and that have the same google page rank, then they're doing something wrong in terms of drawing links. If they have 3 million a month, that's less than 6% of the 50m they claim, so they're lying to advertisers. And if they do have that audience and think this pay is appropriate, that gives you an idea how greedy or how little regard they have for quality.

Pick one, Sweatshop Operators!

Anonymous said...

Judging comparable page ranks is meaningless. Your Vegas related blog is going to rank differently to Google than her online women's magazine.

Page VIEWS on the other hand, is the telling factor. I couldn't find anywhere that registered a pageview report for VHH, which is indicative of meager traffic numbers. On the other hand, Google estimates SheKnows had 35 million pageviews last year, which would make most site owners green with envy.

JeffW said...

I think you summed up the problem when you wrote, "The trouble is, there actually are writers -- and not terrible ones, either -- so desperate that they'll do this."

Of course, "the information is probably going to be worth about as much as they paid for it."

JH said...

Above anonymous commenter totally missed the point. How can these city guides be in any way readable or worthwhile for $85? Do you propose to pay a graphic designer 1/10 of what they're worth, or a web designer, or plumber? Don't take these jobs, people!

Lena said...

Go Steve! I completely share your antipathy toward sites who claim huge readership and then want to pay pennies. What SheKnows was offering is indeed an insult.


Anon: Doesn't matter. They're lying by claiming 50m women -- if they get 3m UVM and ALL of them are women, it doesn't add up to 50m in a year EVEN IF EVERY MONTH THEY GET 3M DIFFERENT WOMEN, which they don't.

And the idea that they can get quality, professional content for insulting wages is obscene.

Keep spinning for them. Any way it is sliced, they're liars and exploiters.

Count Snarkula said...

Please let us know if you get a reply to your e-mail!

Anonymous said...

"Above anonymous commenter totally missed the point. How can these city guides be in any way readable or worthwhile for $85?"

Right, but they're offering STEVE $85, which is more than generous. said...

This guy can't expect anything remotely decent for what he is paying.

For comparison: We pay hobby writers $25 for 3-5 paragraphs (we leave it to their discretion to get the point of their story across because I hate to edit out something a writer is trying to mention) plus admission for two people to whatever we're having them check out.

Side Note: We obviously pay more for in-depth articles or longer write-ups. I'm not going to send someone on an overnight trip and pay them jack.

I realize that $25 is a VERY nominal amount. But I'm also not trying to hire writers who have been published in various levels of print. Just people wanting to get their foot in and do a decent job. People who would probably do the write-up for free in return for what they get to go and do and see.

But I believe that even nominal pay at that level is important. And... if they are not assigned for a while, they all write telling me they want another assignment. And have referred other writers. So, I'm guessing they are happy for now. If any of them go on to bigger things, I'll be their biggest proponent.

Given what I can guess this site makes from looking over their advertising clients and ad packages, they are bringing in some nice cash. Even in this economy. I checked their site and noted that they are trying to hire editors. Good mother-effing luck at the wages it appears they are paying for experienced talent.

P.S. Didn't he check out Friess' background/resume before contacting him? Hell... I do that with the entry-level writers that we use. If someone has written big-time stuff, I come right out and tell them that we are a small operation and couldn't begin to pay them what they are worth for what they do, and that writing for us is more geared to hobby writers.

Ted Newkirk
Owner/Managing Editor
Access Vegas