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Themestream.com is Closing its Doors: Another Door Will Open
Perhaps it's time for another door to open?

18th April 2001

There are a lot of sore writers out there.

Who can blame us?

Inkspot.com’s demise left many of us scrambling for new sources of community and resources on the web. Themestream.com announced its self-imposed euthanasia last week, effective last Friday.

What does this mean for writers on the web? How are we going to cope?

It’s not as dismal as many of us think. To be honest, I only made $280.00 at Themestream.com. I only found one client at Inkspot.com.

I won’t miss the money one bit. To be honest, while my online writing career began at Themestream over a year ago, I made the least amount of money from it than any other company I worked for. Themestream bought me a few weeks of groceries, but writing for the web on a professional level paid the rent plus paid for some great perks.

Themestream’s Achilles Heel: Writing for the Community

Of course, what I will miss is the great articles, resources, and support these forums provided. I’ll miss the great writers as well as the not-yet-great writers. I’ll miss the community that resulted from Themestream.com, but I won’t miss the Themestream.com editors. (I am sure we’ll see them all in another venture, maybe not soon, but we’ll definitely see them again!) I’ll miss real-time comments from my readers. I’ll miss the sense of community, but I won’t miss the sense of “unfairness” or the strange cliques that formed. Themestream.com, despite its best intentions, became a forum somewhat like Usenet or other news boards.

The first round of people to join Themestream were in it for the opportunity. They were ready to join a new revenue opportunity and hailed Themestream.com for its instant gratification. They were also ready to have their writing taken seriously on the web.

The second wave of people to join Themestream.com were in it for the money; Themestream was deluged with articles about “Making Money at Themestream” and spam became a way of life for these Themestreamers.  Of course, these Themstreamers made the most money, but quickly lost their subscribers!) Themestream decided to weed out these individuals, set new policies, and change its focus.

In a short time, we all lost our titles as “Authors” and became “Contributors.” Themestream again changed its focus; they wanted articles from anybody who felt passionate about anything.  Instant gratification brought in droves of unlikely participants; religious leaders, politicians, stay-at-home dads, ordinary people with a message they wanted to convey. It was wonderful for “would-be” writers, and at the same time, it was bad for the content business.

It was wonderful that people who had always wanted to write found the bravery to share their words with others, and it was bad that the experienced writers became enmeshed with the very new, very fresh writers. Because of the sporadic quality of articles, there were very few outside readers, and Themestreamers turned to each other for support. They also referred their writer friends, rather than “enthusiast readers” to join the revolution. Themestream was by writers, for writers from this point on. For some reason, nobody bothered to tell them this. :-)

Developing writing skills and creating content became interchangeable at Themestream. Writers learned their craft and published it in its various stages as they went along. It provided a wonderful learning experience, and a bleak revenue experience. Themestream had unwittingly become a safe haven for the writing community; but because they weren’t selling writing products, they didn’t make ends meet. The fees paid to contributors continued to be cut. Categories were changed and downsized, but Themestream somehow couldn’t find a way to draw revenue for their users.

The users of Themestream WERE the contributors; they had over 40,000.00 contributors, and they never tried to sell them a thing they would be interested in! What does any aspiring writer want? They want to continue to write! While Themestream continued to sell advertising to general interest companies, they continued to ignore the needs of their writers-improving their writing! Networking with each other! Surely a few of the “newbie” writers could have used a few books on writing or professional critiques.  Professional writers are always looking out for cool software that helps them streamline the submission process.

Somehow they didn’t see the forest for the trees.

Where Can Online Writers Go From Here?

Because the sky isn’t really falling, it’s important for writers to know that the writing community hasn’t fallen away into a void in cyberspace. There are still hundreds of great venues that accept and market your writing for you. They don’t ask you to invite your friends and they don’t give you instant gratification. However, they do pay and they do help you navigate your way through the editorial process. Most venues online DO have an editorial process, which you may actually think is pretty cool. Having an editor to answer to is much easier than having a customer service department that won’t return your email. You get the personal attention you crave. Of course, if you’re writing isn’t up to par, they may reject your work or ask you to resubmit it. But having a bad piece of writing is like having a cowlick. You’d rather know about it and fix it than put it out for the world to see.

A few slow-growing, (which I, as a dot-com refugee, interpret as stable) marketplaces out there for writers are:

http://www.indipen.com
From their website: “Indipen is the first fully functioning online literary/press agency and syndication service. Our aim is to help professional and semi-professional freelance writers promote their work to thousands of publications worldwide, while simultaneously providing editors with a valuable resource for written material.” They also sent me an annual report recently, which shows that they communicate well!

http://www.powerprose.com
From their website: “PowerProse is the Web’s freelance content marketplace.” They buy second-time rights as well as solicit material from freelancers.

http://www.secondrights.com
From their website: “If you are a computer/technology writer: This site will help you resell your articles, linking you with magazines, newspapers, and Web sites that want to buy second rights to (republish) computer & technology articles. “

There are also thousands of websites that are topic-specific that need freelance writers. Finding them may be tricky, but they’re out there.

Separating content creation and the writing community from the writing itself is essential; how are we to be objective when we are only writing for writers as an audience? Writers write to reach people. Excluding the rest of the world from our writing would be boring, redundant, and exclusive. Why deprive the world of the insight and creativity we have to share? We still have our message; we just have to find other ways to get it out there. New writers need experienced writers to mentor them and lead the way; and vice versa.  We can learn a lot from each other.

If you’re looking for a resource or community to “fill the void”, check out the following websites:

While each of these websites focuses on different aspects of writing, they all serve the needs of writers across the globe. Isn’t that what the writing community needs?

The Final Word

Content creation is a result of research, knowledge, elbow grease, writing skills and style. With these elements combined, writing on your favorite pastime, hobby, or issues can still be profitable.  Content creation is a great career, freelance or full-time, if you know your markets and are prepared to work.

By joining a writing community, you can get the tools you need. You can’t get an instant critique, but the “separation of content and creation” can help further your writing career more than you ever imagined.

I’ve heard that it is always great to specialize and know your topic inside out. Why not try to make a living out of it?

Perhaps that what all writing on the web really needs:

Content creators that write for the people, and writing communities that critique and mentor each other.

Author Information:
Melissa Brewer is a freelance writer and web content consultant based in the Dulles Corridor Area. She hosts a website for writers at http://www.contentcounts.net and currently teaches online classes in “How to Make a Living Writing for the Web.” By joining her online newsletter, writers get access to over 100 job hunt resources. You can join her online newsletter, get resources on writing and freelancing, as well as the latest web writing industry news by visiting:

 

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