How you can be an expert and get paid for it, the Demand Media way

If you’re an expert on any subject, you can become famous and get paid for it. Even if you’re just writing posts on the internet. That’s the message delivered today by Joanne Bradford, chief revenue officer at web media giant Demand Media.

“Every expert deserves to be followed,” Bradford said.

The problem is that there are sometimes too many experts. Those people turn knowledge into a commodity, the price for that commodity falls in the perfect competition on the internet, and nobody makes any money. But Bradford said it is possible for writers to bring their value back.

The key is to take content expertise and combine it with the data that becomes obtainable based on all of the data collected by web sites.

Bradford mentioned Jerri Ferris, who was a successful home and gardening writer. Ferris was the author of many books on home and gardening and she wrote for a lot of magazines. But she went through a tough period as many of those magazines went out of business as the internet took and the recession its toll on them. About 18 months ago, Ferris took a job for $2.50 per story, copyediting stories for Demand Media. She did four to five articles hourly.

Then she became editor in chief of the company’s home and gardening site and now makes more than six figures. The site became hot because it gathers reams of data on what users like and where they like to read it and gave more of it to them. It then serves advertisements related to the topics at hand, and so the site makes money.

The eHow site’s Home & Garden channel uses an algorithm, like all of the Demand Media sites, that combines proprietary and third-party data to figure out what people are looking for on the web and which content they spend the most time with. Ferris provides the editorial oversight that prioritizes and acts upon that data in her category.

“It is a story of reinvention,” Bradford said. “What has to happen is every writer has to become an expert and get a following.”

Bradford also mentioned Cracked, a crowdsourced comedy site that takes the best ideas from 2,500 writers and then assembles them into funny things to read. The mobile site gets 22 million page views a month and the main site are more than 268 million per month. It isn’t just the work of three comedy writers in a room. It is based on analyzing a bunch of data and funny material and then putting the best stuff out there in the places where it will get noticed.

“You have to take the data and make it valuable,” Bradford said.

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