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Scoopt Words – Interview with Graham Holliday

Scoopt Words Logo-1
A few weeks ago I started getting emails from readers telling me about a new way of making money from blogs that they’d come across by the name of Scoopt Words.

I’ll be honest and say that the emails came at a busy time for me and I didn’t give it enough attention and follow up what it was all about but the emails have persisted (to a point where I get one a day now) and I thought I should take a little more of a look at it.

Scoopt Words is a service that takes a middle man approach between bloggers and editors of publications and which will negotiate the sale of your blogging content for you. The concept is pretty simple really and on many levels makes a lot of sense to me – so I decided to approach them for an interview which they were kind enough to grant me.

What follows is an interview with the head of Scoopt Words, Graham Holliday. Graham has been gracious enough to not only answer my questions but is willing to take some of yours also over the next day or two. If you have any – simply ask them in the comments section below and he’ll stop by and answer as many as he can.

Thanks for your time Graham – Can you tell us a little about Scoopt and what you’ve been doing since you started?
Scoopt launched in July 2005 and was the first citizen journalism photo agency. It has since sold photos to newspapers and magazines all over the world. ScooptWords is in beta, as they say, and launched around 2 weeks ago.

What is Scoopt Words and why did you start it?
At the moment, ScooptWords is simply a payment mechanism for bloggers who want to sell content and editors who want to buy it. We will soon aggregate the best blogs and blog content available under our commercial license. We will then push this content, and the bloggers, to editors who are interested in buying.

We started ScooptWords for a number of reasons. Firstly, there’s a lot of good blog content out there and some of it could walk into magazines, trade publications and newspapers. Secondly, there’s no obvious route to market for the blogger beyond an approach from an editor. Thirdly, your average blogger may not always understand copyright, contracts and what words are worth in cash in different publications.

From my own experience of blogging at www.noodlepie.com I have seen my work stolen, copied and plagiarised on a number of occasions for no payment. I know I’m not alone. However, I have also been commissioned by several editors to write pieces specifically because of my blog, further strengthening our belief that there is a market for quality, commercially licensed blog content.

Lastly, we also believe that all journalists will become bloggers before too long and some bloggers will become journalists. Some will also need a route to market and a trustworthy payment mechanism. We hope they’ll chose ScooptWords.

Why should a blogger let Scoopt sell their content?
Because we’re completely transparent and because, with Scoopt and now ScooptWords, we’re working hard to revolutionise and democratise the media. And because we’re a proper media organisation run by journalists and editors, not just a dotcom dabbling with user-generated content.

What type of publications have been buying this content?

Early days… We’re still very much in beta-stealth mode. Remember we only slipped onto the radar a couple of weeks ago :) We’re pursuing all channels. The response has been very positive from bloggers and editors, but it’s a huge unknown area we’re stepping into here. We hope to have some answers before too long :)

How much do bloggers receive? How to you figure out how much to charge those buying the content?
Bloggers receive 50% of the first sale and 75% of all subsequent sales. The initial high cost is to offset our costs.

As for the price we negotiate with editors: At Scoopt we’re all journalists, ex-journalists, editors and commissioning editors. Between us we’ve written books, edited trade magazines and written for everybody from TIME Magazine to The Guardian, BBC Publications and US and Canadian newspapers. While we don’t claim to be world experts on pricing, we think we have a reasonable idea as to what the fair market price is for words appearing in print publications. And we strongly believe if blog content is good enough to print it’s good enough to pay for.

Do you actively promote content to editors for sale or do editors have to come to you requesting to republish content?
We will. That’s phase 2. Once we have the blogs signed we will push the quality end of those to the right people. We’re also developing a series of smart search tools for editors to find content licensed by ScooptWords. As it is very early in our development, this is a bit of a chicken and egg argument. The more bloggers we have, the more and better content we can push and the better chance of success all round. So, bloggers should sign up now :)

Do bloggers have any say in who takes up their content and how much they are paid or do they sign away these rights?
They have to, and can and should, trust us to make the deal. Editors are ALWAYS on deadline and so we NEED the authority to act INSTANTLY on a blogger’s behalf. So we use the Scoopt pictures model: you come up with the content and we’ll do the hard work. If you want to do your own negotiation, then you’re free to pitch directly to publications, but there’s an art to that. It’s easier said than done and takes time to perfect.

How many times can you resell the one blog post?
Difficult to say. Speaking from personal experience as a journalist I have sold a number of stories several times. I ended up selling one piece eight or nine times to a number of non-competing markets in four or five countries. I see no reason why blog content shouldn’t make resells just because it’s blog content.

Do bloggers get bylines/links back in the posts that you sell?
We absolutely strive to get editors to use a byline and link back where appropriate i.e. if the story appears in the online version of the print publication. We stress to bloggers that this is up to the editor. The reason for that is simple. Some publications don’t run bylines – period. I’m thinking here of publications like The Economist and some of the trade press. While we think it HIGHLY unlikely that an editor will not run a byline if they ordinarily run bylines, we have to cater for all publishing opportunities to maximise the possible number of sales for bloggers. If they don’t run bylines from their own staff journalists, they’re hardly likely to change policy for a blogger :)

What does Scoopt Words require from bloggers for them to participate?
It’s open to all. It’s free. Just sign up and add the button to your sidebar. That’s it. Obviously, a blogger has to believe what they are producing could realistically appear in a magazine or newspaper.

How many bloggers do you represent?
We can’t reveal numbers at this point and nor in the future on grounds of commercial sensitivity. I can say we’ve been pleased with the take up and the interest. Very positive :)

What levels of success can bloggers expect to have from partnering with Scoopt Words?
We simply don’t know and no-one does, but we’re going to give it our best shot. I would say that there is every chance a blogger, writing good, original, literate and well structured posts has every chance of making a sale to the right market. We’re already getting approaches to connect particular editors, publications and media agencies with blogs on niche topics. We fully expect this interest to grow along with the opportunity for making a sale

Do you find different topics have a higher level of selling than other topics? What topics seem to be selling best?
Again – sorry to repeat – but you’re just way too early with this question. As I mentioned earlier, we’ve received a number of media requests for several niche topics. We’re chasing these up. Although we have our hunches, it’s simply too early to say where the real demand is.

Feel Free to ask Graham your own questions via comments below. Also you might like to check out the Scoopt Words Blog.

About Darren Rowse

Darren Rowse is the founder and editor of ProBlogger Blog Tips and Digital Photography School. Learn more about him here and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and LinkedIn.

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Comments

  1. Bill says:

    Regarding bylines, why not just stipulate that if the publication typically includes them then they must do the same for the content you sell them? Publications that don’t use bylines would obviously then be exempt.

  2. Graham says:

    Good point. Off the top of my head, I can’t think of a reason why we can’t reword the FAQs and guidelines this way. TBH – I believe the byline grouch is a bit of a storm in the proverbial. I simply cannot imagine a publication NOT running a blogger byline just because the text source is a blogger not a professional journalist.

  3. That appears to be what they do.

  4. Hsien Lei says:

    I’ve known Graham for a while now and he’s an upstanding guy and great writer. Scoopt Words couldn’t be in better hands.

  5. Graham says:

    True – of course it happens Michael. As I mentioned in Darren’s interview, it’s happened to me. We think the combination of a SW and Creation Commons licence now offers you a decent degree of protection from commercial use of your content. This is one of the key reasons, I think, why Creative Commons were keen on partnering and promoting us. Thanks Lei :) The cheque’s in the post.

  6. Kyle MacRae says:

    I reworded the relevant ScooptWords FAQ on this byline yesterday to read:

    Will I get a byline (credit)?
    We will always try very hard to get you the credit you deserve and in the vast majority of cases the answer to this question is ‘yes’. However, byline policies differ from publication to publication. For instance, some periodicals never print bylines. For this reason, we cannot absolutely guarantee that you will receive a byline for everything you sell.

    Maybe we should strengthen it still further?

  7. mikey says:

    sounds like a load of crap to me.. i say keep all things free and plagurise whooooo…. everyones doing it

  8. raj says:

    Sorry, but as a long-time writer who has interacted with other editors and been an editor myself, I have to cringe. 50% commission? That’s absurd. While I have to applaud the general effort, the last person to expect 50% and get away with was Colonel Parker when robbed The King (Elvis Presley). Even 25% of subsequent sales is high.

    How do experienced editors, etc., justify these percentages? Any good agent would never ask that much.

    While I would really like Scoopt to work, in general, I’m hoping you’ll rethink the process, automate, get pymt in 15 days, etc., and realize that you don’t need to charge that much. Especially, on the Internet, where if you build a good rep, you’ll have lots of bloggers/ writers joining, and lots of editors buying. You’ll have enough volume from street cred to get by on 10-20%.

  9. Graham says:

    It is something we’re chatting about and are totally open to changing as soon as we see where the market is. Give us some time to iron out the creases.

    Re: payment in 15 days. You say you’re an ex-editor, I applaud you if you ever/always made payment within 15 days. You are the exception as far as my experience goes. 30 days is standard for freelances before payment reminders are sent out. It’s not ideal, but it’s the accepted norm. At least in our part of the world. I would say most publications I have dealt with do not pay even within 30 days.

    Automation will come. As soon as a publication makes it’s first purchase, the process is automatic as we agree an individual rate card. In future buyers can click and go.

  10. Ryan says:

    As an ‘occasional effort writer’ (if that’s not been coined, stamp a Creative Commons on it for me!) I like the NightCap idea of being able to submit the content you deem a bit better than the rest.

    I agree that with a 50% and then 25% cut you’re setting yourself up for a lot of suppliers that don’t really see this is a valuable source of income, but don’t mind plugging up your systems with it.

    One question for you Graham. The intro page for bloggers (and the whole “button on your page” idea) leads me feeling like publishers/editors will have to source out your blog first, and then get redirected to Scoopt Words. Perhaps I’m unclear, but can you explain in which direction the traffic flows? From my site to yours or from yours to mine? Are you bringing potential buyers to me, or just handling them once they’ve found me?

  11. Graham says:

    We’re just handling payment for you. At the moment traffic is one way – from you to us. But, the important bit is the next phase when we agregate SW commercially licensed blogs and push your content to the editors who are interested in buying it. Then, traffic will be two way.

  12. Ryan says:

    Thanks for the quick reply Graham. That second bit sounds interesting… but for the length of time it took me to sign up, install the button, etc… I could easily have posted a new page in WordPress with information on how to contact me regarding republishing rights to my content.

    I’ll be tuning back in when you can bring me business… not when I can bring it to you.

  13. Kyle MacRae says:

    Just chipping in here to respond to Ryan…

    Yes, of course you can invite editors to republish your content. But imagine you;re an editor. What do you want to do:

    a) Contact a blogger whom you don’t know, who is probably in a different time zone and unable to respond quickly enough for your deadline, who probably uses a different currency, who might know nothing about licensing or the value of words… and then, assuming you do manage to broker a deal, repeat the process time and time again and then persuade your accounts dept to set up a hundred different accounts in 3 or 4 currencies in order to pay suppliers on a one-off basis…

    OR

    b) click the ScooptWords button and deal directly with a single agency that makes your life really easy and gives you access to (potentially) all the content I need?

    ScooptWords aims to serve your needs as a content creator but also a publisher’s requirements as a content customer. It’s similar to Scoopt pictures. If you take a snapshot of a newsworthy event, there’s nothing to stop you phoning a newspaper and trying to do your own deal. But the reality is that the guy on the picture desk a) probably won’t call you back unless you have something REALLY special, and b) doesn’t really want to deal with you for all the reasons given above. It’s just too hard. He doesn’t have time. He wants an easier life. He’d rather deal with a professional agency that understands his issues and deadlines and pricing policy and license requirements and supplies him with what he wants when and how he wants it.

    So yes, with the explosion of user-generated content anybody can sell anything to any market. In principle. But in practice it helps to have an agency representing you and doing the business.

  14. Elle says:

    Do you have guidelines on which content you would rather have in the joining blogs?

    I have a handbag blog, and sure some handbag blurbs might fit in with print magazines, or something, but I’m not sure about most of it, as there are fewer actual articles compared to discussions on handbag styles.

    The thing is I’m quite interested in joining mainly because your website said you go after sites that steal our words, and I would love that for this blog.

    Really, the next question is, do you go after splogs that steal our content (they do try to make money off of ads)?

    If so, your site will be the best thing for bloggers in a long time, as long as they write the right content, I assume. Splogs are definitely a huge problem.

  15. Ryan says:

    Hey Kyle. Preachin’ to the preacher. I was assistant editor for four national Canadian magazines. Am a trained journalist, and freelance in my “free” time. I understand the system.

    I agree with what you’re saying in that an editor is going to go after a trusted source from an agency over joeblow. The problem with your example is you’re not calling the news desk to pitch my photo/story either. I’m still calling the news desk (hosting the button), hoping they’ll see that my agency is you and that they’ll care about that.

    The multiple currencies is a bit of a non-issue, as having a PayPal account entitles you to their automatic currency conversion for money from CAD, USD, GBP, JPY, AUD and EUR. Now granted, there’s a chance someone might want to pay in a currency other than these … but for the majority it’s unlikely.

    Sorry to be so combative about this idea. I understand that the bulk of your users are going to be people who’ve not got the first idea about selling their content to publications and you can be their shepherd for a steep 1/2 – 1/4 fee. However, I just don’t think you’re earning that fee under the current system. Even if I didn’t know what my words are worth – you can bet to keep 25%-50% more of my earnings, I’d take the time to learn.

    Arbitrary numbers here. It takes 2-3 hours of time online to educate yourself in becoming a paid writer (not quality of what you write, but knowledge of the system, of course). Lets say you sell three articles through Scoopt at $100 a piece (obviously these prices range greatly, but arbitrary)… that’s either $300 in your pocket with 2-3 hours killed online (something we all do far too much anyway as bloggers), or $200 and you can spend that 2-3 hours trying to get that CSS just right, or aimlessly clicking on new Bloglines articles. Personally I like the $100.

    You guys have a great idea empowering community journalism, and a way for amateur journalists to consider getting money for their writing. Incorporating RSS feeds of your members’ content to targetted publications would be an excellent service (as Graham mentioned is in the works). Having staff to review and suggest this content in a targetted way would also be a good service. Both of these might justify that huge cut you’re taking to pay your bills. Without it… I just don’t agree.

    I’ll continue to watch and see. Perhaps I’m just too early to the game and pointing out problems you guys haven’t had the time to solve yet.

    Writing, the kind that gets published, is a lot different than selling sensationalized situational photographs. A situational photograph is just you happening to have seen a politician cream some kid on the freeway and got a photo of it on your mobile. Writing involves sitting down, thinking something out and structuring it in an organized and readable fashion. Using the same business model for both just simply can’t work.

    Darren, sorry to post such a long comment. Reviewing this, I double-checked your comment policy just to make sure I wasn’t in violation ;-). I’m not right? There’s no length limit is there? Guess I’ll see in a second.

  16. raj says:

    Graham, don’t get me wrong. I’d like for your idea to work. I’m glad to see that someone has thought a service like this out. Bloggers need it.

    I was planning to create a plugin (for WordPress) which would allow writers to sell directly to editors/ webmasters, with payment made immediately through Paypal. (Hey, people charge immediately for their e-books through clickbank, etc. Why not for articles? It may or may not fly.) However, as you pointed out, in the print industry, pymt is typically 30d, with a rare article advance. My idea may not work. What I was thinking for Scoopt was that, with your eventual street cred, you could negotiate 15d. But maybe that’s just crazy.

    I’m not sure what kind of rates you’re negotiating. You give no indication of that. I’ve been paid $0 and I’ve been paid $1300 for my articles. But I negotiated those for myself. When agents represent someone, protocol dictates that you tell them what range you are negotiating. Maybe not publicly, but while you’re negotiating a piece. (Although, with a lot of bloggers, they’re not previously writers and will not know what they are worth.)

    But as Ryan says above, as you have presented your services on the Scoopt site, you don’t appear to offer much for 50%. Unless I’ve missed something in the details, or unless you have some extra “free” services in mind that you’ve not yet revealed. At the very least, you’re going to want to promote authors on your site and build your own traffic. Otherwise, why should a blogger want to place your icon on my site(s)?

    Please do set me straight if I’ve misunderstood.

  17. Graham says:

    Elle – Firstly, apologies for the delay…. You never know, handbags may work :) When you join ScooptWords you select the categories that most suit your blog. I’ve made a note of your circumstances and I’ll keep it in mind as editors contact us and we contact editors.

    Ryan – interesting follow up. Great comments. I think we may have more on this for you soon.

    Raj – we really can’t talk rates as it’s meaningless. One mag will pay $1 per word, another 10 cents. It all depends who, when and what. Every deal is different. But, you raise an interesting point. maybe should make our rate cards we have and will negotiate public at a later date. And, as we have mentioned, promoting bloggers and particular blog content and pushing it to the right people is key and is coming. Give us a chance. I will add that we are already making sales… So sign up, hang in and if you’ve got faith in your own blog, maybe someone else will enough to pay for it.

  18. Kyle MacRae says:

    Right, the 50% cut on first sales has gone! :-)

  19. Graham says:

    How’s that for open source decision making ?

  20. Ryan says:

    Wow… that’s great guys. Definitely a good way to do things too. As Darren’s blog is completely the demographic of your site, it shows a lot of foresight to take the comments here very seriously. As I mentioned, I’ll be staying tuned (already signed up) and seeing how things develop.

  21. raj says:

    Graham, Kyle: bravo!! And congrats that you are already making headway.

  22. Sam Baker says:

    Do you think you can give me some information on how you got your website page ranked on Google.

    Sam B
    http://www.xelr8blogs.net

  23. Darren says:

    Sam B – check out this post

  24. Dane says:

    I am a blogger/web developer and I would love nothing more than to kick the side job out of the way in order to blog full time. I would not mind paying Scoopt a 25% commission if the details were not so sketchy. Some of the following changes would be welcome.

    1) Free content appraisal – As part of the sign up process bloggers should be able to list links to 2-3 typical entries. Scoopt would then appraise the content and submit to the blogger an idea of what their general negotiation range might be.
    2) Content Minimum Prices – It would be extremely easy for bloggers to set a minimum value on their content. Within url of the “buy this content” button bloggers could easily set a min dollar value. It might look something like this. http://scoopt.com/words/user.php?v=20
    3) Critiquing – Scoopt editors could periodically email bloggers with ideas on what they could do to improve their work. This could include grammar corrections, style…whatever.

  25. Graham says:

    I like the idea of a blogger submitting 2 or 3 representative entries along with their application. However, negotiation range is reliant on the rates of individual publications not the bloggers talent for writing as judged by us.

    The minimum value model was discussed extensively when we set up SW in quite a similar way to the one you describe. However, we really don’t think undercutting (and potentially devaluing) blog content is the way to go. If you publicly tell an editor your minimum word rate is, for example, $100 per 1000 words believe me, most – probably all – will take it :) And $100 per 1000 is bollocks…

    Critiquing is again something we’ve discussed, it *may* come later. For now, we are concentrating on lining up the best blogs in niche areas and pushing them and their best content to editors in those areas.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Problogger has an excellent interview with Graham Holliday of Noodlepie about Scoopt Words. Cruise across the blogosphere to Noodlepie in Vietnam and you will see a little icon in Graham’s sidebar saying “buy this content.” The idea is that a magazine or newspaper editor can buy straight off the website. It’s an excellent idea. My apologies for allowing Problogger to scoop me on Scoopt. Graham did let me know, but I let it slip, as I was deep in podcasting and other business. We will be signing up, and will post some longer length articles in the hope that an editor with good taste drops buy and takes one to the cash-out. [...]

  2. [...] 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. [...]