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newsroomPopular financial news and commentary website Seeking Alpha seems to have a pretty sweet setup — the site has built up a large readership (40 to 45 million pageviews per month) with articles that are written for free. So the announcement that the site will start paying its contributors looks a bit odd — why start paying for something you were already getting for free?

The move seems especially risky since Seeking Alpha’s Premium Partnership Program will pay a rate of $10 per thousand pageviews. That means a big chunk of the money the site makes from each article will go to the writer. (On the other hand, Seeking Alpha founder and CEO David Jackson told me last week that the site charges its advertisers premium rates thanks to its high-quality audience.)

So why change things? Jackson said it’s because the pay model allows Seeking Alpha to reach a new set of writers. Until now, most contributors were financial advisors or other professionals who saw their articles as a way to build their reputation and attract new customers. But there’s a big pool of writers who have expertise in a specific financial subject but aren’t looking for customer leads (for example if they’re retired, or if they’ve built up knowledge as an individual investor). Those writers need a different incentive to contribute — namely, money.

The ultimate goal, Jackson said, is to become “the eBay of financial content, to put people in business who otherwise wouldn’t be in business.” Your average Seeking Alpha article receives between 2,500 and and 20,000 pageviews, he added — which means a payment of between $20 and $200. (The payments will be made quarterly, and to reduce the company’s overhead, you won’t get paid until you’re owed at least $100.) For some contributors, the payments will just represent an extra bit of spending money, but for others it could be a nice income.

Some of Seeking Alpha’s existing writers will switch to the new model, while others will not, Jackson said, because if you want to get paid, the site will require exclusive rights to the article.

One of the risks of the pay-per-pageview model is that it might encourage sensationalism for the sake of chasing traffic (and making more money). Obviously, the site wants to grow pageviews, but Jackson said he’ll be relying on its editorial team to act as a quality filter as the amount of submissions grows.

Seeking Alpha already has 4,000 registered contributors, Jackson said. The site’s investors include Benchmark Capital, Accel Partners, and DAG Ventures.

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