Clicking on This Story Won’t Pay Anybody


Noah Davis is running an experiment: how much will he earn off writing a news story about how much freelance journalists are paid. Like many freelance writers today, part of his compensation is based on the number of pageviews his article receives.

Writing was never very lucrative, and the transition from a printed world to a digital one has not been kind to freelance writers. Venture capitalists have supercharged content publishers’ finances and pay-rates for the web are approaching those of print. But the good times can’t last:

The question is, how long will the relative good times of getting paid to write on the web last? Even venture dollars are exhaustible. While a few sites will probably survive, the existing (and future) business models can’t support all the ones that are currently vying for writers and eyeballs. “The people who make money off the internet are Facebook, Google, and Twitter and their billionaire executives,” David Samuels, a contributing editor at Harper’s and frequent contributor to the New Yorker

Ian MacAllen is the author of Red Sauce: How Italian Food Became American (Rowman & Littlefield, April 2022). His writing has appeared in Chicago Review of Books, Southern Review of Books, The Offing, 45th Parallel Magazine, Little Fiction, Vol 1. Brooklyn, and elsewhere. He tweets @IanMacAllen and is online at More from this author →