Content Saturation and its Effects on Your Writing

According to this article about amazing web stats from January 2009, there are an average of 900,000 blog posts published within a twenty-four hour period. Even if the average reader would skim through each post at a rate of one per minute, it would take approximately 1.75 years to read every one.

With this amount of content added on a daily basis, the web is rapidly approaching a point where content is becoming heavily saturated. Content aggregators that point to other people’s content are increasing in popularity, even though the demand for original content is not slowing down.

Content saturation is a challenge that every content creator (i.e. writer) must face sooner or later. There are a few effects of content saturation that are becoming more and more apparent each day, and I’d like to point these out to you:

  • It is becoming increasingly difficult to find the original source of an idea. All great journalists are taught that citation goes a long way toward establishing your credibility as a writer. Because there are so many blog posts created every day, the “original” post may get lost in a noisy sea of words and links.
  • Content saturation fosters plagiarism. When you have 900,000 blog posts created every day, it is very easy for any writer to fall into temptation. After all, if they take one person’s blog post or idea and re-formulate it as their own, who would find out?
  • A writer’s credentials are less important than the post’s or website’s content. In more conservative times, a writer’s background was as important as the content they were writing about. If you were writing about finance, for example, you either had a background in finance or you interviewed people in the field to ensure you got the details correct. In today’s environment, there is little-to-no differentiation between one writer or another, even if that writer has no background or experience in what they’re writing about.
  • It is harder to tell the difference between opinion, observation and fact. Many writers vie for stronger prose to express their point more authoritatively. “Top 10 Marketing Tips for Your Novel” for example, is one topic I’ve been reading up on. Not one of these articles provided proof of concept (e.g. case studies, real life examples) to show how or why these tips were important. While one of these articles might be more factual than another, without citations or credentials, it’s really easy for any author to get confused.
  • A reader’s attention span is nonexistent. Over a decade ago, this article talked about how readers don’t read the web, they scan it. This lack of attention span is forcing writers to write less words for any particular topic, not more. In fact, I did the math after reading this article about the change to WordPress.com’s homepage and found that, on average, each blog post was only 250 words.
  • It is more challenging to write on “original” topics. With that amount of content created each and every day, it’s quite possible that multiple people could be writing about the same topic of conversation at the same exact time.

In an upcoming post, I’m going to show you some techniques that you can use to combat content saturation to spruce up your writing and reading skills. For a different take on content saturation, read: Warning: The Internet is Almost Full.

An Easy Way to Estimate How Many Words You Can Write

One of the questions that a lot of new freelancers ask me is, “How do I figure out how many words I can write?” Several freelancing contracts will address the concept of “word count,” because it’s easier to pay rates by the word than by the project. From a business standpoint, you might often hear authors, freelancers and editors setting rates based on “cents per word.” A publisher might offer anything from 1/2 a cent plus royalties to 6 cents a word on the high end.

Before the contract is signed, there might be a period of negotiation for when the project is due. Here’s where things can get pretty sticky, especially if you have a day job. Many freelancing contracts are 20,000 words. While this may seem like a daunting figure, 20k words is equivalent to one-fifth of a novel or 40 pages in MS Word.

Test Yourself

One page in a typical word processing software program is equivalent to 500 words. The easiest way to estimate what you can write is to do two timed tests. The first test would be to pick a topic you feel you know everything about and write one page. When you’re satisfied with your draft, check the time. Now you have an ideal estimate for writing 500 words that you can use as a foundation for your assignments.

The second test would be based on the other extreme; choose a subject you know absolutely nothing about. The goal of this test is to include the time it takes to research your topic. For example, say you were going to write a one-page article about free MMORPGs. If you were doing your research online to gather links, calculate how much time it takes for you to review sites like Kingdom of Loathing, Game Ogre’s List of MMORPGs, or the Free MMORPG list. Then, write your one-page article as you normally would and determine how much effort it took you. This combined time turns into the upper end of your word count range, and will help guide you for those assignments you’re not 100% sure how to budget your time on.

Tying Word Count to Work

Remember, that the keys to estimating word count is really three-fold. One, it serves as a negotiating tool for you to determine how much you’d like to get paid. Two, it helps you manage your time better and three, it creates a layer of professionalism that you will need to be successful.

Some freelance writers, like Marc A Vezina are forthcoming about what they can and cannot do. Others, like myself, prefer to keep some of that information off-screen. However you choose to bring your word count estimate to market, remember that the more realistic you are, the better off you’ll be in the long run.

Using Keywords to Sell Your Work

As more newspapers struggle to keep in print, like the Capital Times here in Madison, readers, job seekers, and house hunters will continue to turn to online sources to find what they’re looking for.

Hunting through the ClassifiedsThe reverse, however, is also true. Just as you try to find work, there are ways to make your work more attractive to potential buyers by inserting keywords relevant to the market you’re targeting. If you think about it, the idea of using keywords to highlight your resume, query letters, writer’s submissions or portfolio is nothing new. Human resource departments have been filtering out resumes, comparing it to keywords within their classified ad for years. Many writers, though, make the mistake of offering one version of their resume in multiple places, believing that it’s enough.

Earlier I pointed out, that one of the biggest challenges as a writer is whether or not to diversify. By modifying your resume, using keywords found within similar ads or markets, you can navigate the waters of online job markets to find work by turning the tables on prospects so you can appropriate address your market.

Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer

How to Win Top Writing Assignments

Secrets are revealed about what the high-paying magazines really want, how to build relationships with editors, how to ascertain which sections of a magazine are open to freelancers, what kinds of stories are in demand, what to do if a deadbeat publisher doesn’t pay up, how to market reprints, and how to become an expert in one’s chosen writing field.

Written by by Jenna Glatzer (AbsoluteWrite.com)
Published by Nomad Press

Tons of useful information in this book makes it one of my top recommendations. Jenna offers up some great advice that anyone wanting to make a living writing will find useful.

Make a Real Living as a Freelance Writer is available at Amazon.com

Setting More Achievable Writing Goals

If you’re anything like me, you enjoy setting goals for what you want to get out of your career. From writing short stories to novels or non-fiction articles, if you’re passionate about freelancing you’re pretty aware of what you enjoy writing and what market you may have the best chance of breaking into.

Like a lot of different mediums, writing really has an ebb and flow to it. Some months you’ll write a slew of words – others you’ll barely get one page written. Every time you put down your pen or close your laptop, you’ll have to reassess your goals at some point, which can be pretty daunting if you feel you haven’t measured up to your own expectations.

When you’re setting goals, the sky is usually the limit because you’re not necessarily thinking about the time required to complete said goal, you’re simply excited about the possibility for your future success.

So set them. Write down everything you want to accomplish, from hitting the best-seller’s list to working for a top ad agency. Then, calculate the time required to achieve your overall goal. Can’t fathom it? Here’s where the goal-setting gets really interesting. Now, you can take your major goal (aka writing a best-selling novel) and break it out into what I call “mini-goals” or “mini-tasks.” Calculate the time required for these smaller steps by setting limits for your networking and being realistic about how fast your write and when.

Next, you’ll want to have your planner handy. Mentally schedule the hours for your tasks by week and by month. Make sure you leave yourself some wiggle room (i.e. “worse-case scenario” show-stoppers) so you can be more flexible. If you find you can’t achieve every goal, prioritize them in order of importance and map out how long it will take you to get there.

Remember, if you do one thing for yourself or your career every day (email counts!) you can achieve your goals!

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Monica Valentinelli > Work-For-Hire > Freelance Writing

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