Creative Loafing Atlanta began posting stories to AltWeeklies.com when the site was first launched last year. We sold our 50th article on June 13 — about a year after the site went up. In light of our successful use of the site, the Editorial Committee of the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies asked us to offer a few selling tips to other AAN members.
- One person in the newsroom should be in charge of posting the articles: That person (in our case Lea Holland, who oversees our copy desk) acquires the technical expertise to post stuff quickly and also has a better understanding of which articles to post. Lea is listed as the contact person for every article we post, regardless of the section. That takes the pressure off section editors and writers to post their stories, and it offers consistency to our postings. Buying papers always deal with the same person, the AAN staff always deals with the same person, and the payments are always processed by the same person. It helps that it’s a person who happens to be good as this sort of process, too. Lea has trained an intern to help with this, but the point is that she’s the go-to person, and we don’t have a bunch of writers trying to re-figure out how to use the site each week.
- Post stories that have universal appeal: We’ve had the most success with movie reviews (we have great film critics), as well as with book reviews, CD reviews, band profiles, cover stories and specialty columns (our wine and war columns have done best). We don’t waste our time posting strictly local stories like a suburb’s smoking ban or a city council controversy.
- Create standard minimum resale fees for freelancers (both writers and photographers) — based on a set percentage of the amount you pay the writer: That way you don’t have to negotiate with each freelancer every time you put a freelancer’s story up. At first, a couple of freelancers balked at us including in our standard freelancer agreement our right to peddle their wares for a minimum fee (which is usually one-fourth the amount we pay them). But eventually they realized it was mutually beneficial, because it just made getting more income to them a less cumbersome process. Staff writers receive 100 percent of any sale under $60. For sales over $60, the company takes one-third.
- Set standard fees on AltWeeklies.com for different classes of articles, and avoid placing “fee negotiable” on the site: We think this is crucial. Having a standard rate for, say, film reviews, helps all the way around. It means Lea doesn’t have to track down writers to work out a price each time, and it means buying publications can automatically buy without having the hassle of an on-deadline negotiation process. Also, we have a two-tiered scale for smaller and larger papers. And we offer our columns — Don’t Panic (on the war), Corkscrew (on wine), Karma Cleanser (advice) and Hollis Gillespie — at a lower rate for multi-week purchases (in effect a syndication rate).
- Ask for help from AAN: Editor Ruth Hammond and Assistant Editor Ryan Learmouth have been amazingly helpful, whether it’s by responding to a technical question or by giving advice about what keywords to use so a story will show up when a reader clicks on one of the site’s “hot topics.” Ruth’s also been very flexible and responsive in helping us place articles in the appropriate categories and even in adding story categories so that, for example, “Karma Cleanser” now falls under “advice columns” and “Don’t Panic” can be easily found under “commentary.”
- And, oh yeah, it helps to have great content.
We hope these tips help and happy selling!
Lea K. Holland is operations editor of Creative Loafing Atlanta, and Ken Edelstein is the paper’s editor. The paper has posted 660 stories to AltWeeklies.com and has sold 56.