There are many different online publishers for the freelance writer. Many, but not all, accept news content. Some ask the writer to stay within a specific category, others hand out specific assignments, and some allow the writer a free hand to craft whatever content they wish.
Online freelance writers generally write for more than one publisher. If not, then it's likely that they've at least tried a number of others and settled on the one or ones, they like best. That means that any group of online writers represents a wealth of first hand experience about many different sites which accept and pay for content submitted by freelancers.
For what it's worth, then, here is my experience with and analysis of Examiner.com as an publisher.
I've been writing with Examiner for over two years. Examiner.com assigns each writer a specific category or topic in addition to a region. The writer can select the topic from a lengthy list on the Examiner application form, or even suggest a new topic. When I applied, I asked to write about Forests and submitted a sample article about listening to woodland bird songs. My region was the nearest listed city to my home, Manchester, New Hampshire. Examiner accepted my application, but asked me instead to write about bird watching within the recreation category.
I was initially attracted to Examiner by the page view bonus rate which, at the time, was about $9.50 per 1000 page views. (Currently, it's tracking about $6.65 per 1000 page views for me, but it varies depending upon a number of factors). Of course, higher page view rates only matter if their are enough page views to matter. Examiner has also announced a pay rate change beginning in May. The new rate will be tiered based upon quality of the articles, amount of promotion done by the author, and a handful of other criteria designed says Examiner to reward higher quality writers with higher payments. We'll see how that goes... I am cautiously optimistic.
One of the good things about Examiner, for me, is that it allows slide shows and videos to be directly appended to articles. If I am talking about a particular birdwatching location, I can include up to 20 photos of that location to add depth to the reader experience., for example. Bird watching, in particular lends itself to pictures and video.
As with Associated Content, it took a little while for my articles to start getting significant page views. Examiner does not currently track page views by article, so it is difficult to say how popular any particular article may be. New articles can be judged by the relative increase in daily page views when it is published, but it is difficult to judge the quality of specific evergreen articles.
I found that after a brief learning curve, I began getting decent page views. I'm sure much of it is built on the performance of my library of articles and photos. How much do I earn there? That's the bottom line question that everyone asks. Here's the answer:
For calendar year 2011, I am averaging $17.47 for every article that I have submitted this year in my local bird-watching topic. I also regularly receive free bird-related books for review from several publishers, and last year, I was invited by the Jamaica Tourist Board to spend a week bird-watching in Jamaica and staying at several eco-lodges on the island in order to allow me to write about the many bird-watching opportunities of Jamaica. That included free air travel, food, in country travel, and all expenses. I've also been contacted by local bird watching event organizers who have invited me to attend birding cruises and other outings in my official capacity to report on the events. While these extras don't put money in my pocket, they definitely merit entries on the plus side of the ledger when I tally the benefits of writing for Examiner. Theses extras also help provide me with a rich assortment of contacts and experiences to write about, making the job easier.
The fact that Examiner writers focus solely on a specific topic makes the writers more visible to event organizers and groups involved in that topic than sites that allow writers to be generalists, writing about a variety of topics, in my experience.
I have added two more categories to my Examiner account. I asked to write about Oceans at the national level and they invented the National Maritime Headlines Examiner title for me. national titles at Examiner focus more on news and are exposed to the national audience rather than a regional audience. Both appear on search engines with seemingly equal rankings, though. national titles seem to have a higher upside potential. I can hit more than 10,000-20,000 page views in a day with a good national topic, whereas local topics generally do not pull those kinds of quick numbers unless they happen to be of national interest on a popular news topic. However, the local articles detailing local birding venues, species profiles, and the like, have longer shelf-lives and will pull viewers over a much longer period of time than flash in the pan national news articles. The result is that for my Maritime Headlines Examiner position, I am averaging $10.71 for each article published in calendar 2011.
I also have a Manchester Green Living Examiner title that is relatively new and has little content thus far. For that title, I am only earning a non-viable $1.45 per article this year as an overall average (with only three articles submitted, year to date). That does not compare at all favorably to my Environmental Issues News beat at the Yahoo! Contributor Network which offers $15 guaranteed per article upfront, plus $1.15 per 1000 page views published at Yahoo! News. If it is a newsworthy topic, or fits within the Y!CN beat guidelines for allowable environmental issues evergreen content, I publish it there, instead of Examiner. If, however, I were to visit a wind farm and take a few dozen good photos, I might be more inclined to publish at Examiner, because of the, in my opinion, superior rich media options. I remain confident, however, that as I increase my library and following for this Examiner title, my earnings per article will grow.
Overall, page views at Examiner were lower than at Y!CN or Y! before the Google algorithm change. I haven't noticed a significant drop-off at Examiner since the change, but we all know what's happened to Y!CN and Y! page view numbers (although this differs for each individual).
Examiner requires writers to publish one new article each month in order to keep their accounts fully active and to continue earning page view royalties on existing content. Examiner also pays a generous bounty for referring new writers through a referral link. Here's my referral link if anyone is interested in signing up and giving it a try; Apply to write at Examiner.com.