Giving the story to the… lowest bidder?

In an economy where layoffs occur often, magazines are folding and other publications are downsizing, the journalism job market is becoming increasingly more competitive. This means that journalists must work harder to stay employed and keep up with the influx of work as they take over what their laid-off co-workers left behind. It also means that editors want to still be able to produce great stories, without breaking the budget or overwhelming their already busy staff.

Here is where comes into play; a Web site where whoever wants to write a particular story–and get the paycheck–depends on who can work for the cheapest rate. It’s like a freelance writing auction… reversed. To some people this is seen as absurd and inappropriate, as networking or having expertise in an area should  (in their eyes) be the way you earn stories.

So how does work? If someone needs a piece to be rewritten, or wants five travel articles, etc. they put a post up on the Web site requesting someone to bid on the assignment. A post often has a description of what the person needs, the budget of what they can afford to pay and a job start date, in addition to other job particulars.

Here is an example from the site:
“I need ten 800-word articles on inflatable boats to promote my new website. Topics to write about include inflatable boat fabrics, boat design and construction features, buying tips, repair and maintenance, inflatable boat FAQs etc.”

Three bids have already been made on this article request that was posted today. The person who made the request wants a writer to “start immediately” and has a stated budget of under $500.

Are we missing out on the highest quality of writing because an editor wants to save a few bucks? Or are we instead getting to hear from journalists who–before this Web site–had unnoticed talent due to a lack of connections? Also, what do you think–is this Web site something that will benefit or hinder the journalism industry?


5 responses to “Giving the story to the… lowest bidder?

  1. I had heard of before, but up until now had no idea what is was. This is remarkable and quite fascinating to me. Writers auctioning their work? It’s like prostitution for journalists!

    To answer a few of your questions, seems like you’d have to be incredibly fast-paced to make any money at it. This creates a problem because we tend to hand in sloppy copy when it comes to pushing work out as fast as possible. And are so-called “journalists” really coming into the limelight through sites like For some reason, I can’t see another Woodward or Bernstein coming out of a site like this.

    All in all, this Web site is just another example of how social media is taking over the world of journalism. When you get right down to it, that’s what it is–another social media site where you get connected and you get paid by putting your best foot forward and selling your words for top dollar. Or, in this case, lowest dollar. Ouch.

  2. How effective is I’ve never heard of it before, and I’m curious if any alum have used it before.

    Anyone worked with it before?

  3. I’ve heard of that!!!

    Do you know what I think? I think this is absurd, almost to the point of inhumanity. I think this website is turning freelancers into Wal-Mart of the writing world: Always low prices. Always. How sad…

    It is true that the Internet is taking over our lives – journalists. It is also true that we need to adapt to it, not trying to change it. But for suppliers like us, it’s sad to see that we have ditch the notion of worthiness and just go for the lowest bidder. You know, writers have pride, too.

    Railroad workers’ve got a union. Factory workers’ve got a union. Why don’t writers have one?

  4. It’s a competitive market. As rotten as this sounds, I’d much rather work for little than be blown off and have the story stolen out from under me. I pitched an article to a local publication this summer only to find out from my professor that not only had they blown me off, but that they’d taken my story idea and written a story on the same thing. Tres harsh! This might not have happened had the opportunity to bid been available. I wouldn’t be quite so embittered, and they could’ve saved some serious cash, too!

  5. I personally don’t know how popular this site is, but I do know that there are a lot of posts on it and apparently a lot of people who do use it. I don’t believe major publications are using it though (but I could be wrong). I think it’s a very interesting concept, but at least the writers and editors know what they’re getting into. I don’t like that cheapest journalist gets the story, but hey, in this economy I guess you have to be creative to get what you want.

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