Experience Counts for Little With a Writing Sample: The Inquisitr


Screenshot of The Inquisitr recruitment page
It is interesting to note that The Inquisitr, which appears at first glance to be a content mill which requires 100 plus articles per month from its “staff,” require applicants to provide three examples of work published and then ask for a written sample. When submitting your three urls of past work they then state that to save time you may want to write a sample article based on topics provided by them.

After submitting prior work they then inform you that the sample must be written anyway. Fair enough. It is, after all, their company and if they prefer to not mention up front that the sample article is a requirement, so be it.

At no time are any guidelines offered for this sample. After punching out a fluff piece on Heidi Swedberg, a former Seinfeld cast member, I waited over the weekend with no response from my contact at The Inquistr. No email stating that they had received the sample and no feedback. After following up my submission with two emails, the first was a one-word query, “Feedback?” The second asked if they had even gotten the sample.

After getting a response saying that they had and it was being evaluated, the very next day I learn that they do not like the sample and it has not “passed the quality” evaluation required. Could I please write another one.

Uh…That would be a no.

Since 2011 I have written 2478 blog posts for my personal site, I wrote just under 2000 articles for the Guardian Liberty Voice, where I worked as Deputy Managing Editor for Entertainment, 40 articles for Viral Global News, since December 2014, around 7 for Rogue Cinema, I left to work at GLV, and around 3 or 4 for another company called WhatCulture! the last two sites paid nothing to their writers. These stories include interviews, film reviews, television recaps and reviews as well as other types of articles.

I did mention that I’d worked at the Guardian Liberty Voice for 18 months, my position and even provided a link to the site, where I wrote my little heart out, for pay. Their response was that they still required the sample. Again, fair enough. Except for the lack of guidelines, apart from it had to be around 400 words, I had no real issue with the requirement.

Such a short bit of work was a “walk in the park” and took little time to put together. Ensuring that nothing was plagiarized (to the best of my knowledge) and that it contained the “trending” information relevant to Ms. Swedberg was not a problem. This was to be, after all, a sample article, not to be published but used, I thought, to show what I could do. A little something that they would use to provide proper feedback on what they were looking for.

This was not the case. Their response? Write another one which may show your skills a bit better. There was no explanation of what I did “wrong” or what they were expecting. Entertainment pieces are not “real” journalism per se, I should know I’ve been writing these pieces for the last two years, so the bit I submitted should have been fine, on the off chance it was not, I expected a reason more forthcoming than “sorry, it’s not good enough.”

This “writing in the dark” process of applying for what appears to be a content mill site may work fine for them, and for other writers, but I am not playing this game. For one thing, it tells me that this is some sort of power play thing where they can tell then me I cannot write, ergo justifying a lower wage for my product. Either that or they surprised me and read my other blog post where I voiced my suspicions that they were either a sweat shop or content mill publication. I sincerely doubt the latter as they seem to have a system in place that does not recognize other work.

It seems that the requirement to submit three url’s of published work is nothing more than a chance to prove you have been published. The real part of the application is the sample article which does not include any guidelines.

Perhaps I am being picky here. They may be assuming that the basic journo rules that have been in effect for ever and ever, amen, are enough in the way of guidance. Fair enough, if that is the case, but when writing fluff, aka gossip, aka entertainment, the rules bend…a lot.

I already write for a site, which may or may not ever pay me anything. I do not contribute on a daily basis for a number of reasons which includes divvying up my time between memoirs, their site and my own personal blog all while trying to get my site monetized. On top of these time consuming things, I have no Internet, apart from my slow iPhone hotspot so I must ride to either the library or Burger King for Wi-Fi on my bike. Depending on which way the wind is blowing, the trip takes a minimum of 45 minutes one way.

Living on a pittance, and believe me it is a pittance, and trying to come up with money for Internet and still be able to eat is a challenge and one that I will not attempt until I can get a few more paying jobs under my belt.

I will end this long winded rant with one thought.

I worked for almost two years on a site that recruited new writers constantly. Hundreds applied on a regular basis and out of the stream of applicants who thought they could write, very few actually could string a sentence together and many of them knew English only as a second, or third, language. So thanks, but no thanks chaps at The Inquisitr. I’ll not play your game. Many will, I have no doubt, but I refuse to believe that my work failed a “quality” check and will not submit again (as I stated in my short email back).

Your loss.

9 June 2015

Michael Knox-Smith

Author: Mike's Film Talk

Former Actor, Former Writer, Former Journalist, USAF Veteran, http://MikesFilmTalk.com Former Member Nevada Film Critics Society

8 thoughts on “Experience Counts for Little With a Writing Sample: The Inquisitr”

  1. Hello Mike,

    Speaking as someone who “made the cut” during about the same window as you found out how…interesting Inquisitr standards are, I can honestly say you dodged a bullet. They don’t pay by word or by article…but by pageview. This is one of the oldest scams in the book and I had the misfortune of having to learn exactly why the HARD way.

    You see, no matter HOW good your article is, how many times it’s shared on social media sites like Facebook or Twitter, you will ONLY get paid according to how many people actually read the article. Their sliding scale (which they adjusted a few months ago to cheat writers out of even MORE money…) model makes it seem like you can earn hundreds of dollars per article. In actuality, you’ll be lucky if you earn $12. And that’s regardless of the actual length of the article.

    That’s not including the fact that you’ll be competing against other writers both within the Inquisitr and at other click-baity sites, some of whom will BLATANTLY steal your work and get away with it, because nobody cares.

    It’s a well oiled machine that makes a very few people a lot of money, but most writers are lucky if they make peanuts. Save your hard feelings, Mike. The Inquisitr did you the biggest favor of your life by leaving you out in the cold.

    You seem like a great writer with a lot of valuable experience. I trust that there will be far better opportunities coming your way — and much better pay.

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  2. It is nice to see someone who got a proper response. My experience resulted in no feedback whatsoever, just a please try again. No feedback at all, not one iota of explanation as to what they did not like about the sample, yet they asked repeatedly for another sample. As stated in the article I responded with a request for feedback. Never received one scrap of feedback. Perhaps they do pay well, but I was not impressed thanks for sharing matey.

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  3. I fed into it also. I took their test and got a 95% after sending sample work, which was just a few of my links. (My name is everywhere on the net!) I’ve recently graduated with a 3.69 GPA and a degree in writing, feeling confident of my skills.

    The first feedback I received informed me I had not correctly cited the photo used. Looking at my article, the editor had replaced my image and not cited it. When I told the Inquisitr worker this he replied with, “Just don’t let it happen again.” What? A couple of times, even though I cited the “labeled for free use” Flickr photo and artist, I was asked for the direct link so it could be verified. Then I was told that after my article was edited by their editor, it was too short.

    “Pittance” is right, when you talk about the pay. The income ends up less than minimum wage. On top of that, there’s a statement that says the articles will be sent back out for others to rewrite about every four hours. Surprise! An hour later, someone used my research and photos for their own article.

    The final blow was that I had signed up for a PayPal card so I could access my funds right away, rather than waiting a week longer than usual to receive the money. Directly after Christmas, on the day we were to be paid, I received an email stating our checks would be late due to the holidays. Although I’m fine with waiting a few days without a cell phone, my kids are upset they can’t talk to their dad.

    If you are willing to be smart enough to pass the test, but desperate enough to work for $3.50/hour, this job is perfect for you. I’m certain there are plenty of openings.

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    1. You obviously got a better “recruiter/editor” than I did, at no time did I receive any feedback on the submitted article, just “do another one please.” This is a standard practice to get free articles to post. At three emails back from them asking for another sample, I told them point blank to stop. Sadly, unless one takes the time to work on their own website, other publications all want writers, of any calibre, to work for pennies, sweatshops and content mills, the worst is The Guardian Liberty Voice, but there are not many who want to pay for decent writers, as for passing a test, I had almost 2K professionally published articles on a news website, worked as the managing editor for entertainment as well as deputy manager, none of these “qualifications” counted, except for a “sample” of my work, they wanted the test article and then offered no feedback. Avoid these idiots…Thanks for sharing matey!

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      1. Hi guys,

        So sorry to hear about your experience.

        I, on the other hand, got in after my first attempt, writing a story about Zayn Malik and his anticipated album release.

        I’m somewhat puzzled by MJ’s claims, stressing that the pay is awful. It’s actually the complete opposite. Depending on how quick you are at what you do, the pay is exceptionally high, including the bonuses that are added to your weekly earnings.

        Michael, I was literally laughing when I read that you worked at Guardian Liberty Voice. I, too, happened to work there for a couple of months as “senior entertainment editor,” but eventually moved on because everything was very clumsy over there. It goes without saying that, despite having written 200+ articles, I only received $200. Keep in mind that these were 500+ word articles.

        “If at first you don’t succeed, try again.” — Aaliyah

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      2. Rather interestingly, another former GLV colleague is working for the company. She apparently had a much better experience as well. Obviously not all recruiting editors are created equally as the chap, or woman, have no feedback whatsoever on the “test article.” Nice to see that someone else had a “better” experience. Aaliyah may well say “try again,” but not this chappy. No feedback indicates a very poor way to recruit writers. Thanks for sharing matey.

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  4. Well it’s tough .. this impersonal internet thing. You’re working in the dark. Communicating with who exactly ? And what REALLY is there agenda? What are they doing with your stuff? They obviously don’t – or can’t – care about you anyway. And all we’re trying to do out here is survive. You could be communicating with a Bot for we we know?! That’s what it’s coming to.

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    1. Precisely. They cannot do a lot because I begrudgingly wrote their “sample” article and when they asked for another one, I declined. While I would not have turned down a chance to work for the site, they look too much like all the other “news” sites out there who comb the Internet and borrow from other more reputable agencies for stories. In other words, a content mill. Stating that my work failed their quality test was not only insulting, but ignorant as they had no bar to be met. Their articles are no different than many other sites out there, and my writing, if I do say so myself, is of high quality. In plain parlance, “F*** em.” This was, more or less, an experiment to see just what one of these sites required to get in. Oh well…Thanks for sharing old friend…

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