Tuesday 8 May 2012, 12:50
Writer Will Stape represents part of the new cohort of US citizen journalists.
After the New Jersey native found modest fame in the 1990s submitting a few successful scripts for Star Trek: the Next Generation, and Deep Space Nine, he found a new following in late 2006 by becoming one of the most read contributors to the web publication company Associated Content.
Recently bought by Yahoo!, the Associated Content site has thousands of registered contributors who submit an eclectic range of articles that go through a central approval process prior to posting.
For writers, the model is pretty simple: alongside some modest upfront payments, the more page views you have, the more you get paid. If nobody reads your pieces, the PayPal account stays empty.
Despite the relative brutality of the business model, Will is cheerful and optimistic about AC's future under Yahoo!'s ownership, although some commenter-contributors are already muttering about how the strong sense of community that seems to bind them together could be eroded by corporate pressure to extract more profit.
Will doesn't see himself replacing the professional journalist on the local paper; more as a part-timer who is enthusiastic about coming up with his own story ideas in areas that he is passionate about.
His chosen field is Arts and Entertainment, but that means he writes about everything from local Italian restaurants to Churchill's apparent brush with American UFOs.
AC promotes a kind of class structure based on page views, and Will has 'featured' writer status, which puts him among the elite. However, he is clear that getting rich is not an option, and he is also exploring the prospect of writing for other similar sites - as well as developing his own martial arts reality TV show.
We met in the slightly surreal surroundings of a Cuban restaurant on the edge of a New Jersey shopping mall, just across the river from Manhattan.
Here are the web pages shown in the video:
Associated Content does not currently pay writers outside the US.