Demand Media is no stranger to controversy, and while the company has clearly taken a much firmer stance on content quality this year, it's leaving some writers lacking a significant source of income.
Editor's note: This article has been updated from its original form. Just so everything's clear right up front: Demand Media does have a new program called "First Look" but the company says another program that's been discussed in various reader comments, "eHow Select" is "a scam". Please see the end of the article for statements from Demand Media.
The company recently announced it would be cutting down on the number of writing assignments - something that a lot of writers will tell you was already happening. Now, it looks like it will be harder than ever for some of these writers to get their hands on assignments.
The email indicates that Demand is implementing a new program that gives its "highest-rated writer" first dibs on new assignments.
Thanks to reader Kim for sharing the email:
We are excited to announce a new program called First Look. It is intended to reward our highest-rated writers by giving them the first look at new titles. Starting this week, the highest-rated writers will have advanced access to view and claim new assignments for 48 hours before they are released into the Find Assignments pool.
We’ve all invested a lot and we want to further reward writers who best exemplify the attributes of good writing. The eligible group will be those writers who maintain an average structure of 4.0 or higher for their last 50 articles.
The score will be recalculated with every new article. While we plan to add this updated score to your Work Desk, it will not be immediately visible. We may also at some point modify this method of calculation. If your average falls below 4.0, you will lose First Look privileges until you bring your score back within the qualifying range.
In an attempt to be mindful and fair to all eligible writers, all writers’ assignment claim limits will be set to 10. As with the current system, once you submit an article, you may claim another assignment. We will notify those writers eligible for First Look via email. All changes will go into effect in the next few days.
We will continue to listen to your feedback and invest in programs like this. Please visit this forum thread if you have any questions
Jeremy Reed, SVP Editorial
Update: There was some question about the legitimacy of the email at first, as we had some trouble getting confirmation from Demand Media (which is not typical), but Noah Davis at Business Insider says he's been able to confirm it, though he says too in his own article that he's so far been unable to get further comment from the company thus far.
Information about the "First Look" program is scarce on the web. There is not even a post about it on the Demand Studios blog.
Finally, another reader, Geoff, shared a different email allegedly from eHow about something called "eHow Select". This one says:
Dear eHow Select writers,
On behalf of the eHow Select project team, I would like to thank you for the articles submitted to the program so far. We are all extremely proud to be working with such a dedicated and passionate team of writers, as evidenced by the lowest rewrite and rejection percentages among all eHow sections.
Based on those encouraging numbers and on several other factors, we have decided to introduce a new feature that will allow you to nominate other writers for future inclusion in the program. At the bottom of each article published on eHow, you will now find a “Nominate” link that allows you, in effect, to vote for its author. The portfolio of writers who have been nominated by current eHow Select members will be reviewed by our team and, if their portfolio meets our quality standards, may be given access to eHow Select.
This new feature, however, does not affect the current recruitment procedure. Our team will continue to review non-nominated writers, as well as applications made through the HelpDesk.
We would also like to remind you of the confidentiality of the project. As outlined in the guidelines that were sent to you, discussing the project on third-party websites or in the general sections of the Demand Studios forums can lead to having your eHow Select privileges revoked.
Lydia Content Manager eHow Select
Geoff says, "More proof that Demand Media deliberately LIES to its writers. It has a section called eHow Select that the company pretends doesn’t exist, yet it has many assignments available. DMS forbids the writers within this section from telling other writers about it. This at a time when most sections over at Demand have zero titles for writers to write."
Some replies to this comment indicate that this email was fabricated to make DM look bad. Others are defending it.
At this point, it's looking like the First Look program is legit, but questions remain about the eHow Select email.
We will update as soon as we get response from Demand Media.
Update: Demand Media's Kristen Moore tells us about First Look:
"We’ve just announced First Look to our writing community, and the formal launch is planned for tomorrow. In short it’s a program that allows us to reward our highest rated writers. For writers who maintain an average structure score of 4.0 or higher over their last 50 articles, they’ll have advanced access to new assignments. They’ll be allowed to claim those assignments 48 hours before they’re released into the general Find Assignments pool. In order to keep it fair we will only allow those with First Look access to claim 10 assignments at one time."
"This is all part of our ongoing focus on quality and expertise. Let me know if you have any questions about the program."
She also tells us: “'eHow Select' is indeed a scam. It’s not an eHow or Demand Media program."