Warning! Bias alert! Yes, this post is biased. I don't care for Demand Studios (or Demand Media Studios, or whatever they're calling themselves these days). I don't make a secret of that. And as a blogger it's not my job to always serve as reporter, staying completely objective. It's to share my thoughts, my experiences, and my viewpoints as ones to consider whether they match your own or differ.
Today I want to take a look at some criticisms of Demand Studios other than the low rate argument. And I'm going to give you facts -- lots of them -- so you can make your own decisions about some of these issues and whether or not writing for Demand Studios is a smart move in your situation.
So today I want to follow up on Carson Brackney's recent post on Demand Studios where he mentioned that he's giving Demand Studios a go for himself so he can form firsthand opinions (which is something I respect by the way). I did have a wee issue with one thing though -- his mention of the DS debate, and the focus on criticism revolving around rates they pay writers.
Rates are Just the Tip of the Iceberg
Yes, it's true that many people have criticized the $15 rates for much of their content and even some of their higher rates. On one level I agree with those people. On another level I really don't give a damn. Why? Because I know the writers who want more, who are worth more, and who are willing to work for more will get much more in their freelance writing careers.
As for those who are happy with Demand Studios? Good for them -- I'm genuinely glad they're happy, and as I (and other writers) have said repeatedly there's a place for content mills for some writers. And those who want more but who don't want to work for it or who are too busy making excuses to try? Well, then they're probably right where they deserve to be right now in their careers, and hopefully they'll take steps to improve their situation in the future.
But here's the thing. You can't really have an honest conversation about the Demand Studios / Demand Media supporters and opposition unless you go beyond the rates. That's far from the only criticism out there, and I think many are valid. Personally, my biggest issues with DS include the occasional misleading marketing they engage in to try to solicit writers, the frequency at which they contradict themselves, and what appears to be special treatment from Google (although that's an issue we'll discuss far more thoroughly at a later time, and it's more an issue with Google than Demand Studios itself). For now let's get back to the issue of "bias."
More About Bias (Mine and Theirs)
(Note: I really can't stand the whole "martyr" card some bloggers like to play with their readers. So let me apologize up front, because I know this next segment might sound that way.)
As much as (coming from a PR background) I hate the buzzword, I still am a big supporter of transparency. So I think it's only fair that I explain my background in this topic area so you know where I'm coming from, where my insight is based, and why this issue is something I'm so passionate about. And even though my past with these sites is already publicly well-documented, I'd rather refresh you on that than have someone come crying later saying "how can you speak out against mills when you write / wrote for them?" I don't write for them. So let's be clear on that up front (since someone asked me that on Twitter the other day). But I used to.
I have a lot of experience with content mills, content farms, content networks, or whatever you'd like to call them. There were positive elements. There were plenty of negative ones.
I've worked for these sites as a writer. I've worked as an editor. I used to be one of the most outspoken supporters of one in particular -- Suite101. I've tested others for the benefit of my readers here, including Associated Content and the article marketing site EzineArticles.com. I've been around. And since then, Yo has picked up on that testing with other mills and networks here on the blog. But back to our flashback....
Not long after leaving About.com, I was hired by Suite101's new management team / owners as their Technology Editor. Around the same time I was also writing for a network (now gone I believe) called All Info About -- their model was a bit different (they put an ad on your site in their network, but you could also place your own to directly earn income, so there really wasn't any guesswork involved).
I try not to judge single sites based on the whole lot. That would be silly. My opinions were, and are, formed individually. Had I judged them based on issues with others, I never would have given Suite101 a try after the editor overturn drama with About.com at the time. But Suite101's editor-in-chief (no longer there from the last info I heard) convinced me that they were different; that they really cared about the writers. And even though there had been a bad history under the old owners before them, I think they really did have decent intentions in the beginning. They did actually listen to the editors and writers. Unfortunately things got to a point where I felt that changed.
So not only am I well aware of all of the arguments for content mill writing, but I used to wholeheartedly believe them. I know what it's like to feel passionate about them, and to get really angry when people bash them. So as much as that can drive me crazy today when people take general comments personally, I do understand what they're feeling. The difference is that I was there on the backend long enough that I finally woke up. In the end, it's about money -- the big content sites want to make it, and they make it by paying you far less than you could be earning by pursuing gigs elsewhere. They appeal to the lowest common denominator (which is reflected in every single one of us sometimes) -- what's "easy" starts to look like what's best for us.
What really bothers me isn't that I used to very aggressively support content mills and speak out in their defense. It's that I convinced other writers like you to believe that. It was my job to tell you the regular gig made it worth it. It was my job to tell you residuals were better than a much higher up front payment (that could have paid down your high interest bills or gone into savings and investments to earn interest for you rather than for the content site). It was my job to tell you that working for a content site was an amazing thing you could do for exposure (with no regard for the fact that there were better things you could do for exposure while earning far better money, even as a beginner). And I did my job. And as I've said in posts here before, I'm still ashamed of that fact.
I'm ashamed because I've always cared about the writing community in general. And I should have known better. I should have crunched the numbers sooner. I should have stopped thinking of it in terms of what it could be, and instead seen it for what it really was. Even while recruiting writers (many of whom I'm happy to say left with me or shortly after me, and several of whom I'm still quite friendly with), I did what I could to help them earn more. I volunteered a lot of my own time to teach a select group of Suite101 writers about Internet marketing and SEO -- things to help them promote their sites and increase their earnings. But it wasn't enough.
And that's why I'll always try to do more here at All Freelance Writing to help writers realize their options before they end up in the mill rut. It's why they'll never be promoted here as a great option for writers, even though I (and other contributers) have tried to treat them fairly in that we've generally acknowledged their place for some. But we don't write for hobbyists here. We write for freelancers who are looking to build professional careers.
That is the context in which you should take the rest of this post.
And keep something else in mind. There's very little in it for me to write this post. We've seen tremendous traffic growth without it, and no amount of traffic or links will make giving up nearly all of my free time for two days, plus extra hours up late each of those days worth it -- I value my time too much, and if you've been a regular reader here for a while, you already know that.
I get nothing out of telling other writers they can do better. If anything, I increase the competition within my own target market. In fact, I've recently been coaching a Demand Studios writer, bringing her not only into my target market but right into my own personal client base. It's not about me. It's not about this site. I only get this worked up over an issue if I truly believe in it. And I believe Demand Studios is a bad thing for most freelance writers trying to build serious careers.
Now ask yourself -- what's in for them when they spin things, give multiple versions of a story, and post misleading marketing copy to add more writers to their ranks? How about those $200 million in sales (and more expected this year)? I don't think there's anything wrong with wanting to earn money. That's just business. But I don't care about Demand Studios' business. I care about the writers who build the backbone of that business. You can believe what you want. You certainly don't have to agree with me on every point. You don't have to agree with me at all. At the end of the day, your decision to work for Demand Media Studios doesn't affect me.
When it comes to Demand Studios, I've talked to a lot of their writers (I've even hired some). I've read and listened to the executive interviews. I've heard both sides of the debate. I've read as much of their guidelines and other documentation as I could before forming opinions (some of which is linked and cited here). I've done my research. And now I've gathered a large collection of sources for you, not necessarily to convince you to think just like I do, but to cut through some of the PR speak and show you not what the critics are saying, but what Demand Media representatives actually have to say when you take the time to really look.
Remember, bias isn't just having an opinion and sharing it. Every time one of their reps gives an interview, it's biased in their favor. Every time someone they sponsor endorses them or features them, it's biased in their favor. Yet they criticize the critics, call us biased as though they're not when they're being employed by or otherwise paid by Demand Studios, and treat us as though having an opinion means we're not worth considering. Demand's CEO has even said that people who criticize Demand Studios just don't understand them.
And to that I say, "Oh really?" Their model isn't exactly rocket science. SEOs have been doing the same thing for years. The primary difference? They implemented algorithms to automate the keyword and ad spend research to make their process more efficient. They pay little per piece, so they can earn significant profits.
Look, it's one thing to change your mind about an issue. I've certainly done it (as detailed above). I'm not one who tries to hide their past views by deleting blog posts or comments. That wouldn't be fair to my readers, and it wouldn't be fair to me. Everyone is allowed to learn and grow -- two things I hope I never stop doing. But what you'll see below doesn't look to me like a case of someone changing their mind when you look at the dates and the actual information coming from these Demand Studios reps.
Then again, maybe I'm wrong. Maybe we all are just ignorant when it comes to Demand Media. After all, their own people can't seem to get their story straight, so who could blame the laymen like us for not understanding the full picture.
Let me give you a few examples -- here are some of Demand Media's / Demand Studio's claims, with a few follow-up facts for good measure.
Claim: Demand Studios Isn't Journalism (or Trying to be)
A big criticism of Demand Studios comes from those who worry the site and company will have a negative impact on journalism, on top of that industry's existing problems. There have been multiple instances where Demand Media's CEO Richard Rosenblatt has tried to say they're not targeting journalism, aren't participating in journalism, or are not creating news. At the same time, they've been seen advertising specifically targeting journalists. I think Rosenblatt sums it up nicely:
"Only the journalists call us journalists."
- Richard Rosenblatt - CEO, Demand Media [WebProNews, March 18, 2010]
I beg to differ:
"We're basically service journalism."
- Steven Kydd, Executive Vice President [Keynote for International Symposium on Online Journalism - University of Texas at Austin, 2010]
"We knew the life of a piece of online content was indefinite, so we focused on creating evergreen, "news that you can use," quality content"
- Jeremy Reed - Senior VP of Content and Editorial for Demand Media [TheWMFreelanceConnection.com Interview - February 2010]
"We are primarily looking for people with solid researching and reporting skills, and ideal candidates have had their work published in print or online."
- Robyn Galbos - Director, Demand Studios [Interview with WOW! Women on Writing - April 8, 2010]
"What is wrong with coming up with a way for thousands of writers–who have been laid off, by the way, from news organizations–knowing exactly how much they make, selecting their own topics and publishing when they want?"
- Richard Rosenblatt, CEO of Demand Media [BusinessInsider.com - January 11, 2010]
"Service Journalism Openings"
- Job posting soliciting writers [ProBlogger.com]
"Minimum of 3 years as a Managing, Line, Features, Section or Associate Editor at a newspaper, magazine, book publisher or publication (Please do not apply if you have fewer than 3 years experience)"
- Required qualifications listed for DS Copy Editors in a job ad from the company [JournalismJobs.com - open job ad that expires June 28, 2010]
"Educational and/or professional background in writing, journalism, blogging, etc." and "Familiarity of writing in AP style preferred."
- Job ad from the company [JournalismJobs.com - open job ad that expires June 24, 2010]
"Experience writing about health-related topics in a medical or health magazine, newspaper, journal, blog or other health website"
- Job ad from the company, hiring medical / health writers [JournalismJobs.com - open job ad that expires June 21, 2010]
As you can see, not only have Demand Media / Demand Studios executives referred to DS as a form of journalism, contrary to Rosenblatt's comments, but they've also quite actively recruited those with a journalism background. I consider that misleading at best, and a downright lie at worst. But it makes for great spin when you're being interviewed and you want to discredit some of your naysayers.
Claim: Demand Studios Isn't Meant to be a Full-time Job
Another criticism of the company has to do with the idea of the sustainability of using DS as a full-time job as opposed to a more limited and / or temporary freelance writing gig. That's because of the potential to push writers and other producers to burn-out levels.
The point is this: when you pay people very little and you know they desperately need that money, you put them in a position where they have to work for you so often just to get by that there's no time left for them to target better markets and grow their careers.
Executive VP, Steven Kydd doesn't seem to agree with that concern, because he says Demand Studios isn't about creating full-time jobs:
"We're not trying to create full-time jobs."
- Steven Kydd, Executive VP [Keynote for International Symposium on Online Journalism - University of Texas at Austin - 2010]
I guess their motives differ from their marketing...
"Work as much as you want, from wherever you want. Fill gaps between full-time jobs or work with us full-time – our freelance jobs are as flexible as you need them to be."
- On DemandStudios.com [Homepage copy]
"Some filmmakers use Demand Studios to fill time between other gigs, while others focus on Demand Studios assignments as their full-time job. We welcome both types of filmmakers and everything in between."
- On DemandStudios.com [Page recruiting filmmakers]
... and their executive pitches:
"First, take the application process as seriously as you would for a full-time position."
- Robyn Galbos - Director, Demand Studios [Interview with WOW! Women on Writing - April 8, 2010]
"Many of our freelancers are happy making a full-time living off of Demand Media assignments – as we’ve removed the “hustle” from freelancing that allows them to focus on what they love to do and cut out all the hassle associated with pitching ideas, finding assignments, chasing down payments, lather, rinse and repeat."
- Jeremy Reed - Senior Vice President of Content and Editorial for Demand Media [ TheWMFreelanceConnection.com - February 15, 2010]
Maybe they didn't all get the memo.
Claim: "Group Health Insurance" (Various)
This was a prime example of Demand Media releasing misleading information to market their site to new writers. The basic claim? Eligible writers can get inexpensive group health insurance, just like a "real job."
On the surface, I know that sounds great, especially to writers who are out of work and in serious need of new insurance coverage. But not all of the information they provided was 100% true. I mean, all you have to do to see that is read the actual insurance documents they eventually provided. If we were talking about a traditional comprehensive insurance plan here (you know... the things employers usually pay into partially), I'd think it was a great option for those who truly had no other option. But that's not the case.
I'm not going to get into all of the specifics of why this is misleading, the issue of promoting it to sound like an actual insurance benefit versus what's more of a discount plan (if they technically offer "benefits" they risk contractors being re-classified as employees by the IRS), and what freelancers need to know and discuss with an insurance professional before even considering moving to Demand Studios' health plan -- our resident licensed insurance professional already did that. I want to focus on three of the most alluring aspects they promote to make it sound great to writers, and then I'll share what the health plan documents actually say.
The health plans have been promoted at times in a way that could make them sound to an average reader like they're a substitute for traditional health insurance or self-purchased individual plans. Considering how these plans sound could influence whether or not writers sign up and churn out 90 articles to become eligible, I think that's a problem. Here are two examples:
"By offering guaranteed access to health care benefits as well as twice weekly payment, we are lightening the burden and removing more of the risk for those who want to follow their passion."
- Steven Kydd, Executive Vice President of Demand Studios [Company-issued press release announcing health care benefits - October 21, 2009]
"You may be able to enroll in the plan after 90 days if a ‘qualifying event’ occurs (such as you or your spouse losing a job which provided health insurance)."
- Demand Studios Health Plan FAQs
And here's what the actual insurance document says:
"Flex Shield pays indemnity-based benefits for a covered injury or sickness. Flex Shield is not traditional comprehensive health insurance and should not be considered a substitute for comprehensive health insurance or major medical coverage."
- Demand Media's Flex Shield Benefit Program Documentation [Page 2]
Here's what the on-site marketing pitch says about both deductibles and co-pays:
"No deductibles or co-pays"
- DemandStudios.com [Plan Highlights]
Sounds simple enough to me! Until you read the fine print. From a promotional perspective, this works, because to an average reader when you say something like "you don't have to pay any co-pays during your doctor visit, and you don't have to pay a deductible," it sounds like you're saying their monthly premium is all they have to pay. However, the plan is actually so limited in the amount of benefits paid, as well as the frequency at which benefits can be paid for certain things, that the person with the health plan actually can pay a lot out of pocket. Go ahead. Take a look at the fine print and coverage limits to see for yourself:
- Demand Media's Flex Shield Benefit Program Documentation [Page 7]
There's one more big "selling point" for the health care plan from Demand Studios that I take some serious issue with. It has to do with coverage for those with pre-existing conditions. Here's what they say in the marketing material on their website:
"Pre-existing conditions are covered. The only exception is if you know you are pregnant, you cannot join the plan for that purpose. (Other than in California where there is no such requirement)."
- DemandStudios.com [Plan Highlights]
Now if you read the documentation, you'll find that's just downright false. It's not the "only exception." There's another limitation involved with significant wait time before you'll get any kind of coverage for your condition. And if you have a serious health condition that's driving your decision to join Demand Studios in order to get this health plan, you might be in for an unpleasant surprise if you believe what they say on their site. Here's the actual exclusion language from the documentation itself:
Other Demand Studios Criticisms
I have page after page of additional research material here pointing to even more hypocrisy from Demand Media / Demand Studios. And they're behind other valid criticism of the sites. But given the length of this post already, I'm just going to summarize, as I think we tackled some of the biggest.
- Claims of an interest in quality content for readers and not just search engines - While on one hand Demand Studios wants writers to put together authoritative pieces, did you know they also have a resource blacklist that lists sites writers aren't allowed to use as sources? I'll give them some credit for blacklisting user-submitted and user-edited content like that from Wikipedia. I'll even give them credit for having a suggested reference list. But they also blacklist much more authoritative sites if they're competition in the search engines -- for example writers can't cite WebMD as a source if they write for Demand's Livestrong.com property. I don't know about you, but I'd call that a pretty clear-cut case of writing for search engines before readers.
- Claims that Demand content saves readers time -- This was one of the more laughable things I saw from Rosenblatt. He claimed that Demand Studios helps readers save time (among other things). Really? How is putting more content with the same information into search results helping people save time? If the information isn't there yet, then maybe. But that's not the case for the vast majority of their content I've come across. In those cases, at best they're taking the same amount of time to find the material. At worst they now have to sort through even more content to find the most reputable sources available. If you want to save me time with quality information (as opposed to just trying to rank in search engines for a variety of longtail search phrases for the same thing), then I shouldn't need more than one article from you on how to train a dog to sit. Instead, buy one high quality article covering a few different methods -- if quality and saving time are really your goals at least.
- Claims that Demand Studios is concerned with conflicts of interest -- Apparently that's only when it might be involved in their search engine rankings. On the other hand, they have no problem "sponsoring" others to write about them, as though that's not a similar conflict of interest affecting Web readers. I guess it just depends which side of the table you're on.
- Claims that Demand Studios improves people's lives -- Sure, I could see the occasional article "improving people's lives in big and small ways" if they're accurate, if there wasn't already more reputable information out there on the topic, etc. But before making claims quite that lofty, I do have to point out some gems of examples from their "contributing writers" (which, if I understand correctly are the ones producing through Demand, and going through their editorial process -- correct me if I'm wrong and I'll sincerely apologize). Do you know what their writers can teach you to improve your life? Here are a few examples: How to make yourself fart (because, really, who doesn't want to know how to do that?), How to have sex in order to get pregnant (apparently sexy lingerie will cure your baby-making woes -- although I didn't see their famous credible sources cited on that claim), and best of all How to pass a drug test for opiates. As for that last one, not only might they be helping people get away with breaking the law, but fact-check-fail: marijuana is not an opiate. I could have written a much better, much shorter article on that topic for them. Here it is: If you want to protect your "legal freedom and job eligibility," don't do illegal drugs, you f*ing dipsh*ts! See? Now that's information designed to "improve people's lives."
- Claims that Demand Media pays writers on par with an average journalist's salary -- This one turned out to be much more than a "summary," but I think the numbers are important. While we won't get into the "is $15 per article fair?" here, there is one other issue regarding rates that I think is worth mentioning. It has to go to Demand's defenseof those rates.Not only did Rosenblatt claim people who criticized Demand just didn't understand them, but he also demonstrated that he doesn't understand the difference between independent contractors and salaried employees -- at least as far as pay being comparable goes. How? Well, in his manifesto he claimed "… we generally target an hourly rate for writers that is comparable to the average salary of a journalist."I wonder what journalists he's talking about. I mean, if you look at their various interviews and job ads you'll see quite a few average hourly pay estimates from folks at Demand -- $15-25 per hour, $22-25 per hour, $15-30+ per hour. Okay, so let's take that middle range and give them the benefit of the doubt and say the average pay is $25 per hour (remember -- we're talking about their typical writers, not an exception to the rule, no matter how happy you might be to be one).Now let's take a look at what journalists typically make. I can't even begin to guess where Rosenblatt got his average (even the government notes that salaries for these folks vary widely). Given that they produce such super-duper, source-cited, fact-checked content, let's give them the benefit of the doubt again and go with the information provided by one of their writers -- $22,000-50,000 per year (and here's the updated info from their source).Yikes. That's another big range, and that's only supposed to account for starting salaries (and not including journalists with advanced degrees, which their author notes should add another $10-20,000 to that starting salary). So let's pretend that Demand never looks for people with advanced degrees and doesn't want any actual "journalism" experience since that would mean a higher comparable salary they'd have to meet -- again, giving them the benefit of the doubt.
Let's assume not all DS writers are living in the lowest cost of living areas and go somewhere in the middle -- $30,000. So, for your basic $15 DS article, how many do you have to write in a year to earn a comparable "salary?" That's 2000 articles over the course of 52 weeks in a year; that comes to a requirement of writing 38.46 articles per week, or 7-8 articles every week day.
Could you write that many articles every single work day with no vacation time, sick time, holidays, personal days, etc.? (Keep in mind the DS job ads estimate an average of 30-60 minutes per article). But let's assume you can. Now let's also assume you're so good at what you do that you never get asked for an edit or a rewrite and you certainly never have an article rejected. You're also lightning fast at finding and claiming articles, dealing with editor communication, etc. to the point where we can pretend that time doesn't even exist. Cool.
You just might make Rosenblatt's point look legitimate. After all, if you plug in those same numbers for working days, number of weeks, etc. you'll find that poor little journalist only comes to around $14.42 per hour. Damn! Makes it look like DS writers live like kings, right? Well, yeah, when you twist stats to make it look that way, sure you can make it work. But here's the problem.
Freelance payments and the earnings of salaried employees are not directly comparable. For example, as a freelancer, you'll pay twice the Social Security and Medicare taxes as an employee (where the employer pays half). That puts you at 15.3% just for those taxes. Big difference.
You also technically do have business expenses, even if DS is your only paying client and you don't do any marketing -- at least a portion of your internet connection is a business expense, possibly a portion of rent and other utilities if you have a home office, etc. Now that might not sound like much to some, but there's even more to expenses.
To make freelance rates directly comparable to the earnings of an employee, you must compare those freelance earnings not to the employee's salary, but closer to the employee's total cost to their employer. In other words, all other things have to be equal. Unless Demand Studios is paying not just what that $30,000 per year journalist is earning as a salary, but also the value of any benefits (like health insurance, 401k contributions, sick time, vacation time, etc.) that the average employer is paying, the comparison is irrelevant because the salaried journalist is actually getting much more.
Remember, as a freelance writer, you're a business owner, and what you charge clients has to cover all of those things if you want to treat them as comparable. Salary.com does some nice breakdowns of this for you. So let's take a look at the difference in their base salary and actual cost when factoring in those benefits. Here's what we find:
Their U.S. national base pay is just over $31,000 (pretty close to what we estimated earlier). However, once you factor in average benefits, the journalist is actually getting the equivalent of a little over $47,000. Now what's the percentage increase? 51.6% That's pretty significant. That means you'd have to earn more than $45,000 per year working for Demand to really be paid on par with those salaried journalists with a $30,000 base salary (whose hourly "rate" now actually comes to around $21.63 per hour - again, big difference, but it falls within the general range Demand mentions). Okay. Let's crunch the numbers and see how it adds up.
To earn that $45,000 with Demand Studios, you have to write 3000 articles over the course of a year. That's 57.69 articles per week, or 11.54 articles per day on average. Then again, we focused on the journalist's real earnings specifically so you could account for things like time off (which you still pay for as a freelancer, just out of the rates you charge clients).
So in reality, you're probably not going to work 5 days a week, 52 weeks per year. Let's assume pretty modest vacation time, plus sick time, plus personal days, plus vacation days at four weeks off per year (off 20 working days). Now that comes to 12.5 articles per day, every week day left during the year. Based on Demand's estimates of 30-60 minutes per article for most of their writers (again, remember we're not talking about the exceptions, but the typical case study), that means you would have to write 6.25 - 12.5 hours every week day to actually make money comparable to the earnings of a starting journalist.
That still doesn't even account for your added taxes, and any business expenses you have that the employee-journalist does not. Nor does it account for any other time involved in working for Demand Media -- and let's be honest here, you're not perfect, and you're not robots. So sure, you could fudge the numbers to make them work by ignoring the business element of freelancing. And if you're willing to ignore that and are willing to work an average of over 9 hours per day, you might be able to say Demand Studios pays on par with an entry level journalism job.
But then again, when Demand Studios likes to tout their writers' experience, why should those more experienced writers consider that a point for Demand Studios? There's no logic to it. And keep in mind, that's not even on the upper end of the starting salary range. Not only that, but since Demand's CEO claims they're not journalists to begin with, why choose a starting journalist's salary as a base model, especially when journalists are commonly thought to be underpaid anyway? Again, there's no logic to it -- at least not if he's trying to make a case FOR writing for Demand Studios. And really, the math is moot anyway. Remember, Rosenblatt didn't say they pay on par with the typical salary for a brand-spanking new journalist. Just the average salary of journalists in general.
And that's all to say nothing of the general Google partner issues, the sleazy SEO keyword-stuffed links at the bottom of the DS site, the issues of "writers relying on a 3rd party that relies on another 3rd party" business concern, etc.
I think that's enough for now. Clearly, the issues with Demand Media / Demand Studios aren't all about the rate debate. Sometimes it's just about the stupid sh*t those associated with them say and do.