Snyde Comments: Evolving into an Open Marketplace

I have made quite a few broad statements at various points in creating this column about where CopyPress is going. First lets discuss where we have been as an entity.

CopyPress, regrettably, began with nothing more than a copy of the business plan companies like Demand Media, TextBrokers and other content mills have used. We built a closed marketplace, where we brought writers in and had them churn as much content as possible for low per word rates.

To be honest, I thought the models’ payment structures were based on contentment from writers. I have never made a similar mistake with a product again; a mistake based on me simply thinking I knew everything.

The reality is in the math:

– A really good writer could whip out about 10/ 500 word pieces of content a day

– The low end of most content mills pays 1 cent or less per word

– This means a good writer can make 50 bucks a day from this system.

– Or roughly $250 a week if they work a 40 hour work week.

– That is $6.25 an hour.

This is $1 below minimum wage! 

We switched gears pretty quickly in regards to how we were operating our closed marketplace. Before Demand Media IPOd. Before Panda.

We didn’t HAVE to change, we wanted to change. We believed in quality content and its value.

The issues we have faced

obstaclesThe biggest issue we faced when we made the change to pay our writers more and try to accelerate the quality was that while we were paying then more, we weren’t training our writers on how to write better quality content.

We expected throwing money at them would fix the problem, but the problem was caused by a broken system, and could only be fixed by a better system.

Here is what we had to fix in order to transition to better level of content:

1. Improved training and certification – It took us 12 months to get this completed, rolled out and mandated.

2. Improved QA and Editing Systems – We had originally setup a self-policing system, and it broke quickly

3. Improved software-based workflows – We process thousands of pages of copy for some customers, and this can lead to major quality issues if managed inappropriately.

These three items took us about 18 months to perfect, and only until the last 6 months have we been able to roll out content that I can say is state of the industry.

The other major issue we faced was what customers were willing to pay.

Sure it’s awesome to pay people a lot, but if the product isn’t selling you can’t pay them anything.  It took us a long time to figure out pricing that would sell in the market for content that would yield a quality workload.

The only way to make it happen was to smash our margins, and that was fine with us, because we see copy specifically as being the foundation we build the rest of our business on, so it can be a loss leader.

So what do we pay now?

Today we pay on average 7X the amount we used to for our product offerings.

Products like sales copy are difficult to pay above 5 cents a word, and we have lost many a contract due to the fact that we go head to head with crowdsourcing setups for this type of work and lose on pricing.

However, we have found a sweet spot with out sharebait product and feature articles. We are also looking to scale out an ebook creation service. All of these products allow for a premium.

It’s still not enough

In order to do what we have planned, we need to continue to add amazing writers to our marketplace. In order to get amazing writers we have to be willing to pay them a premium.

The closed marketplace works against this concept, because there is not a face or name associated with what is being paid.

The next evolutionary step

This means the next evolutionary step for our marketplace is to open up, and showcase our writers. Allowing them to get bylines, and advertisers to get the value of the authors support.

If you haven’t noticed we have been using Community.CopyPress.com to manage our product changes to our marketplace. In the last two months we have added almost 900 writers and marketers interested in learning more about content and getting trained.

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We have used these 900 individuals, which is also made up of our previous marketplace contractors, to test, certify and rebuild our workforce.

Now we are going to utilize this portal to build out profiles for our writers, allowing them to add critical information not only for our customers to utilize in the hiring process, but also their own potential contract work.

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The profiles will include:

1. Basic Information on the writer

2. Specialized categories of knowledge

3. Examples of work

4. Social Network information

5. Certifications earned from CopyPress testing

6. QualityGrade – A score based on an algorithm utilizing customer and editor feedback

7. CreatorGrade – A score based on an algorithm that takes into account where the writer has posted content (PublisherGrade), their QualityGrade, their social graph, and their social influence. A true signal of authorship.

Then we will adapt

In April, we will be launching our introductory SaaS toolset that ties directly into our marketplace.

Concepts like PublisherGrade, QualityGrade, CurationGrade, CreatorGrade, and CopyGrade will help make the process of hiring content creators, distributing their product and converting it into sales, a science.

In this environment, we are looking to push passed copy into video, interactive media and beyond, and for that to happen we must create a collaborative software set. This makes our open marketplace even more important as videographers will look for writers to create scripts, or designers will search for just the right front end developer to make their project come to life.

We see our open marketplace being the kind of easy to use environment that big brands will find not only simple to understand, but through our Grades they can quantify value of the project before it even begins.

This is the kind of place where writers will be able to COMMAND whatever they want, because their value will be quantifiable.

And for writers with less than high CreatorGrades, we will help them grow their scores through training and free tools. We will help them succeed, because if they succeed we all do.

We are also going to begin pushing our customers to include bylines and authorship connections for the content creators, which will yield value for each party. On the flip side we will train writers how to support their content via social media promotion.

Creativity that scales into success.

improveWhat’s next?

There are a few great companies helping to improve the lives of writers. Contently is one that springs to mind, as they look to unite writers and brands. Copyblogger is also creating amazing software to help writers earn money on their own terms.

We want to take that concept to content as a whole, and not just copy. Copy will always be our foundation, but we see collaborative content being a place where innovative creatives can find amazing success.

We need your help getting the word out about our path. We will move quickly over the next few months.

First we would like any and all content creators to join Community.CopyPress.com and create a profile, which is extremely limited today, but will grow in its value over the next 30 days. As I mentioned, you can use this profile as a digital resume, so the value goes beyond CopyPress. We are currently working with advertisers on all forms of content, so we would love to see designers, developers, videographers or any other creatives jump in the mix.

Once we begin to flesh the profiles out more you will begin to be contacted by our Project Managers for work, even before we open up the marketplace in the self-service SaaS platform.

Later this year, all of our profiles will be integrated with our system, and we will open up the marketplace completely in a self-serve model, with maximum transparency.

We are excited about where we are heading, and more will be revealed over the course of 2013. We hope you will come along for the ride.

About the author

Dave Snyder

Dave began his career online as a well respected Internet Marketing Consultant. He has spoken around the world on the topics of search marketing and social media, and has consulted for some of the worlds largest companies on the topics. He has also been an educator and writer in past careers.

Dave’s passion shifted from a purely marketing focus as he worked with more and more entrepreneurs to build profitable companies, to the creation, construction, and management of startups. This passion was the inspiration behind SteelCast.