Scoopt Words: Money for Content

Update: Scoopt Words is closed. Other services, such as Yepic and BlogBurst, currently provide alternatives.

More and more bloggers are winding up in the mainstream media than ever before. Where once a freelance journalist had to work endlessly to earn even a few bylines, today they are being courted actively with newspapers, magazines and online publications seeking them out instead.

But while the tables may have turned on publishers, who are now struggling to keep up with the rapid pace of Internet journalism, the process is far from smooth. Despite desire on both sides to work together, the process from blog post to newspaper page is anything but smooth.

Companies, however, have stepped up to try and ease that transition. One such company, Scoopt, which has been placing newsworthy photographs in mainstream publications since late 2005, recently released Scoopt Words, a similar service for bloggers and online journalists to get their articles into the pages of interested publications.

It's a service that enables bloggers not only to get their works into the mainstream media, but also to get paid for it. This practice has drawn a great deal of attention, and a modest amount of criticism, to Scoopt Words and has made the service very popular with bloggers hoping to monetize their content.

Comparisons with BlogBurst

Since Scoopt Words came out of beta testing a month ago, it has drawn many comparisons to Pluck's BlogBurst. While the comparisons are natural in that both services strive to get blogger content into mainstream media outlets, they do so in very different ways and serve very different functions to the bloggers that they work with.

BlogBurst, which has been covered previously on this site (latest post), works by grabbing content from a submitted blog's RSS feed and then makes that content available for reuse to a limited group of licensors that have registered with the program. The licensors, which include many major newspapers, use the content, offering BlogBurst a portion of the advertising revenue. Bloggers, on the other hand, receive no money, at least at this time, but are given a prominent byline and, theoretically, receive a large volume of traffic from the reuse.

Scoopt, on the other hand, works by getting bloggers to place buttons on their site advertising that their content is for sale. An editor, or anyone else interested in purchasing the content, would click the button and be forwarded to Scoopt's site. From there, Scoopt would act much like an agent, brokering the deal, getting the best price and handling the paperwork. Scoopt then takes a fee from the sale, 25% to be exact, and then passes the rest on to blogger.

Though the end result is the same, the blogger's work appears on a mainstream media site, the benefits offered the blogger are very different. With BlogBurst, the blogger gets a prominent byline in a major news publication and no profit.

However, with Scoopt, the blogger gets paid  but the publications could be anything from a major newspaper to a very small trade magazine with few readers. Also, attribution isn't guaranteed if the publication doesn't carry bylines.

Benefits of Scoopt

The most obvious benefit of Scoopt is that bloggers get paid, potentially quite handsomely. While, according to Scoopt, every article and every publication draw different rates, Scoopt has, loosely, mentioned rates between ten cents and one dollar per word.

For a five-hundred word article (Note: Most articles on PT are over 1000 words), that creates some significant financial rewards. Even if only a handful or articles sell, it could be possible to make a decent secondary income off of it.

Also, even though attribution is not promised in the ScooptWords contract, most publishers do carry a byline that could, in theory, help promote the blogger and their site. While the byline won't be as prominent as one provided by a BlogBurst post, nor will it necessarily be in such a heavily read publication, it can provide some very well-targeted promotion.

Finally, Scoopt does bring a fair amount of knowledge to the table. According to their site, their staff all have "editorial backgrounds and a deep knowledge of pricing in a wide spectrum of markets and countries," and can not only better judge what is and is not fair market value, but can also handle copyright, licensing and other issues. While this might not be a major deal for a professional content writer, for the layperson it can be a tremendous help.

After all, if a blogger just wants to blog and wants to leave the content selling up to a third party, Scoopt is likely a very good choice.

However, Scoopt isn't without its detractors and criticisms. The service, while very popular in some circles has been derided in others.

Criticisms of ScooptWords

The biggest and most often repeated criticism of ScooptWords is that it provides very little as a service and that many bloggers would be better off, at least in terms of money, if they simply sold the content themselves.

The reason is that, at this juncture, ScooptWords does not provide any promotion for the articles in its network. Rather, the blogger simply adds the button to their site and hope that an editor will find it and click on it. If the blog isn't already being seen by people with the interest and capability to purchase content, ScooptWords will do little to help them find it.

Second, many feel that ScooptWord's 25% commission is high. With most literary agents charging below 15% for domestic sales, 25% seems very high, especially for a service that is merely and intermediary and doesn't do any promotion of its own. Several have wondered what justification there is for sacrificing a 25% commission when a regular literary agent will do much more for much less.

The obvious counter is that a literary agent can be very tough to acquire, even for a well-known blogger, and ScooptWords is completely open and free for people to join.

Still, these criticisms greatly reduce ScooptWord's usefulness. Bloggers with little traffic will not see much benefit from ScooptWords as their work will not likely be discovered by those seeking to buy it and professional bloggers already comfortable in the business will likely find ScooptWords too pricey.

However, ScooptWords is still a very new service and has hinted at future changes that alleviate, if not eliminate, most of those concerns.

Future Possibilities

ScooptWords, at barely a month old, is still in beta testing in many ways and is actively working to release new features or bring promised ones online.

One of the most important changes for its "phase 2" of operations will be the promotion of quality of works directly to publications. While it is unclear how they will determine what is and is not quality content or what publications they will be working with, this would change ScooptWords from a mere intermediary to something more closely resembling a literary agent. While it will still have higher fees than most agents, it will be one that nearly any blogger could register with.

Speaking of price, Scoopt has also said that they are open to changing the price scale at any time and have already done so at the request of bloggers (changing the first time commission from 50% to 25%, the same as subsequent sales). Clearly, the price is not set in stone.

Finally, one of the most exciting possibilities for me as an anti-plagiarism advocate is found under the protection heading of its blogger FAQ which states as follows:

Stealing words that you write is wrong but many bloggers are finding themselves the victims of plagiarism. One of the benefits of joining ScooptWords is that we will aggressively protect your content. If you have a ScooptWords button prominently displayed on your blog and somebody copies your words for commercial use, we will fight for payment.

It could be very useful to have a powerful, knowledgeable and well-backed agency with a financial interest in protecting your work. While they haven't taken any actions on the behalf of a blogger yet, this is an element of their service they intend to bring online at a later date. This could, in theory, become a very popular element of ScooptWords as a service, perhaps one well worth the 25% commission.

Clearly, we have not seen the entirety of what ScooptWords will become and, hopefully, it will continue to expand both in services and value becoming more and more useful to a larger number of bloggers.

Conclusions

ScooptWords isn't for everyone, however, no syndication or monetization service is.

Fortunately, since it is non-exclusive, there is nothing stopping a blogger from both joining BlogBurst and ScooptWords at the same time. In fact, it is entirely possible to license your work three ways, first to BlogBurst, then to Scoopt and then again with a non-commercial Creative Commons license for everyone else. (Reminder: I am not a lawyer)

Still, it seems likely that most bloggers are going to make a choice between the two services, deciding whether they value the money making potential of ScooptWords or the promotion possibilities of BlogBurst. The choice will largely come down to what the blogger wants to get out of their blog and what their current situation is.

In the end, it will be interesting to see what happens when and if either A) BlogBurst starts to pay bloggers for their content or B) Scoopt begins to work on actively promoting blogger's works.

Once either of these things happens, there will likely be a great deal more overlap between the two services and that will put them in direct competition, which they do not appear to be right now.

If that happens, their success will be a measure on how well bloggers are accepted by the mainstream media and the impact the Web publishing revolution has had on journalism as a whole.

[tags]Scooptwords, Scoopt, Content Theft, Plagiarism, Copyright, Copyright Infringement, Syndication[/tags] 

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