The Internet has both provideth and taketh paid writing opportunities from writers. While many sites rightfully pay their freelance writers (the latter usually by word-count, experience, expertise, etc…), other sites, like Huffington Post, famously do not. Yet, despite the amount of flack non-paying web sites get from the writing world, FanCloud.com, a sports news outlet, is attempting to go where no site has gone before. They’re proposing that interested bloggers actually pay them to write for FanCloud. Yes, you read that correctly.
For a “lifetime membership,” prospective writers have to pay the site’s founders fifty dollars, enabling them to publish anything from “Who Should Close for the New York Mets in 2013″ to “An In-Depth Look at My Son’s Pee-Wee Hockey Team.” But, there is some incentive to write articles closer to the former.
According to the site’s “publishing” section:
“As a member of FanCloud Publishing, you will have the opportunity to be rewarded with equity for reaching certain milestones. Through these milestones we are committed to giving away 49% of our publishing division to our members by the end of the first year. Each month FC Publishing will give away 16 awards of .25% equity (for a total of 4% equity) in the company for milestones achieved. There is no limit to the amount of equity any one writer can earn.”
Before you writers/potential shareholders start dreaming about cashing in your stock and buying that house in Hilton Head, keep in mind that certain “milestones” first have to be reached. For instance, FanCloud lists: most unique pages views across all of an author’s content, highest average article rating, most unique views for a single article, most articles published, lowest visitor bounce rate, and most comments as prerequisites to earning any shares of the company. Not only are these goals a bit on the ambiguous side, but also, it would take a heck of a lot of time and energy for a writer–one who is most likely juggling a variety of jobs that pay in a real currency–to make this offer worth its while.
But, for a moment, let’s say you’re an aspiring sportswriter, you have no other job (and no life expenses either), and simply cannot land a paying gig. Based on your disposition and aspirations, you decide to make it your sole priority to become FanCloud’s most prolific blogger, and subsequently, its greatest non-founding shareholder. There’s just one remaining question then: “What exactly do minimal shares in a identifiably-profitable company entitle you to?” It’s a valid question.
Usually when you’re in-line to become a minor, medium, or major investor in a company, it is standard procedure to have access to said company’s financials. Yet, the only impressive number listed by FanCloud is the supposed twenty-two million visitors per month the Yardbarker Network averages. While FanCloud is a subsidiary of Yardbarker (which is owned by Fox Sports), the popular blogging umbrella is home to blogs for every single team in just about every sport known to humankind. Yardbarker might collectively enjoy the viewer-ship of twenty-two million visitors per month, but there’s little-to-no analytical proof that FanCloud will see even a small fraction of that. So not only does FanCloud have to compete with mainstream giants like ESPN or CBS Sportsline (and a plethora more), but it even has to compete with other similar sites within its own umbrella.
The final variable to weighing FanCloud’s potential success as a sports news outlet comes down to the quality of writing the site will offer its potential readers. If literally anyone (and their mother) could be a writer, how will there be any quality control? Even though sports enthusiasts vary in intellectual expectations for written content, it is unlikely that the model “written for sports fans, by sports fan” will generate a compelling enough grass roots campaign to oust the most mainstream, and non-stat-heavy giants like ESPN’s and CBS Sportsline’s of the world.
Even in the case of Huffington Post, which has both paid staff writers and unpaid contributing bloggers, there is good reason the news-mammoth has such a rigid payment ideology. According to Nate Silver’s article The Economics of Blogging and The Huffington Post, Huffington Post’s paid political articles receive twenty times more comments than the unpaid political articles. Since Silver uses “comments” as a means to roughly determine the site’s page views (as Huffington Post does not release its page view numbers to the public), Silver’s analysis exposes that the average reader is a heck of a lot more likely to read an article by a paid writer than an unpaid writer; perhaps insinuating that most readers still tend to gravitate towards articles of greater quality (or unfortunately, of “celebrity” status).
There is no doubt that FanCloud will face an uphill battle to discover top-shelf writing talent and the big readership needed to retain that talent. But then again, those who thought Huffington Post’s ideology was too iconoclastic to become successful saw that publication laugh all the way to the bank.