I reached Clout Level 10 – the highest clout level for Associated Content contributors – in November 2008. It took me a total of 23 months and over 950 published works on AC to get there. You, too, can attain Clout Level 10 within a reasonable amount of time. The journey toward this high honor has taught me some insights with regard to how audiences are attracted and page views are accumulated on the Internet in general and on AC in particular, and I hope to share some of my discoveries with you here. Many of my recommendations will be unconventional, but you can be assured of success if you follow them consistently.
Before I address specific desirable courses of action, I would like to put forth some general considerations that will be extremely helpful in your effort to reach Clout Level 10.
1. You will not achieve instantaneous fame or exposure. An extremely small minority of content producers do manage to publish articles that gain hundreds of thousands of hits over a few days, but probability theory says that you will not be one of those people. This is not a commentary on the quality of your writing; indeed, your work might be better-written and more valuable to readers than many of the articles that get colossal numbers of hits overnight. If you are just starting out on Associated Content, chances are you will need to publish about ten pieces before getting your first hundred page views, not to mention your first hundred thousand. This is quite normal and expected. Persevere and keep writing for greater rewards to come!
2. It is impossible to reliably predict popular content, so write whatever appeals to you most. The popularity of my own content on AC has varied dramatically. Some of my articles have not even gotten ten page views; others received over ten thousand. When I compared those articles, I often did not find anything particularly different between the ones that got tremendous numbers of page views and the ones that got extremely few. There are so many different kinds of readers online that one never quite knows what content will be popular and with whom. The best bet for you to get a lot of page views over time is to write content that genuinely interests you, because what interests you is more likely to interest other people than what does not interest you. If you write about subjects you find personally interesting, then you are more likely to write in an engaging fashion that grips the attention of your readers. Moreover, it might help to consider publishing each article to be like rolling a die loaded in your favor. Sometimes, you will not get much in return for an article, but the articles that do attract a lot of page views will eventually bring in enough to compensate you for the ones that do not.
3. Write a lot; writing hundreds of articles is better than writing a few. Every article you write is a gateway to your other articles. Let us say, for instance, that a reader who really likes your work will go on to read, on average, one-tenth of your other articles on AC. This is a rather conservative estimate, but in this business, it is always best to be conservative and cautious. If you have 11 articles published on AC, then a reader who likes one of them will read one more, giving you two page views for that reader. If you have 101 articles, a reader who likes one will read 10 more, giving you 11 page views for that reader. If you have 1001 articles, a reader who likes one will read 100 more, giving you a much more impressive 101 page views per satisfied reader. This is an extremely plausible explanation for the “snowball effect” that higher-level AC content producers experience. As they publish more works, they have more gateways by which to attract interested readers, who then go on to enjoy many more works by the same content producer.
4. Write consistently. Virtually all of us have busy lives and intense schedules. Thus, it is entirely understandable if you do not wish to spend eight hours a day writing articles for Associated Content. At present, I typically publish only about one article per day on average, but I do so regularly, so my total amount of content builds up over time without any particular strain on my many other activities. During the summer of 2007, I did publish approximately 25 articles per day, but those articles had mostly been written beforehand, and I simply sought to maximize the exposure and revenue potential of content I had already created. If you publish one article per day for even a year, you will have a total of 365 or 366 articles, which will make you a formidable presence of AC.
5. You will not make a living on AC – at least not anytime soon. Currently (as of December 2008), I get a little over 1200 page views per day and a little over $70 in performance bonus payments per month. This is not a living, but it is also not pocket change, and it has been increasing considerably over time. Not every month will yield increases in page views over the prior months, but the net trend is highly positive. Remember also that I reached this level in less than two years, during which time Associated Content itself has experienced massive increases in its popularity and exposure. If present trends continue, AC should be an even more lucrative place to publish by the time you reach Clout Level 10, which will mean more traffic for everyone’s articles, including yours. It is conceivable that someday we Clout Level 10 content producers will be able to earn enough passive income from our articles to support us – but do not count on this happening in the next five years. In the meantime, keep your day job or stay in school. Take your revenue from AC and put it in a savings account, where it will earn you some decent interest over time.
6. Remember that success on AC takes time and patience. Reaching Clout Level 10 takes a sustained investment of time over the course of months and even years. Your commitment can be low-key in the sense that you do not have to let writing for AC monopolize your life or subtract from your other undertakings. However, you will need to understand that, if you want to reach Clout Level 10, there is no way to reliably get around producing quality content in large volumes. There is no magic pill you can take that will exempt you from the hard work while giving you the honors and the money that come with Clout Level 10. What should encourage you, however, is that everything you ever publish on AC will keep working for you, even when you stop to rest. Those first few articles you publish will continue earning revenue for you one, two, and perhaps even ten years from now, so long as AC keeps existing. Even if you earn pennies per month on a lot of articles, that still adds up to considerable sums of money. Give your reputation time to spread and, meanwhile, keep writing and publishing to continue to give people possible ways of accessing your talent.
Now I come to the technical considerations of writing and publishing on AC that will get you to Clout Level 10 reliably and comfortably.
7. Publish content that you wrote for other purposes or will have to write anyway. This includes essays you wrote for classes, articles and blog posts you wrote for other online publications or in the course of debates and discussions, contents of your prior correspondence that could be modified into formal, publicly appropriate articles, and anything else that anyone might find interesting or useful. When I first discovered Associated Content, I already had hundreds of other works published elsewhere online or simply stored on my computer. I made it a priority to publish many of these works on AC as soon as I could, so that they would begin making some money for me. Would it not be wonderful if you, too, could make some additional income from works that you already created or would have to create anyway? If you are a student, now you have some added incentive to make those high school and college papers of exceptional quality. Many of my most popular articles were, indeed, originally created as academic papers or even answers to homework assignments.
8. Use your preparation for exams and other important undertakings to help you make money on AC. During the past two years, I have taken and passed four actuarial exams. As I studied for some of these exams, I decided to help myself in more ways than one by helping other candidates for the exams learn the material as well. Therefore, I published free online study guides for actuarial exams 3F/MFE and 3L. I wrote hundreds of practice problems and their solutions and thereby created free, easily accessible resources that thousands of people could use to assist them in their studying. I have done the same for many of my courses, creating free study guides for fellow students and publishing them on AC for any interested people in the world to access. You can see my Free Tools for Rational Education to get access to a large portion of my study materials. Of course, after doing this kind of extensive preparation, I ended up doing extremely well on every exam to which I devoted this level of attention.
9. Incorporate your articles into series using external indices. One of the best techniques for getting numerous page views from every reader is to create series of articles on related subjects and give the reader a reason to read many of your works at once or over a period of time. For instance, each section of every one of my study guides is a separate article. At the beginning and end of each section, I refer the reader to an index that I host on either The Rational Argumentator or The Progress of Liberty – my online magazine and blog, respectively. Using this index, readers can quickly navigate to other sections of the study guide on AC. Many students who use my study materials eventually end up using the entirety of a given study guide, which results in hundreds of page views for me. This same approach can be followed with other longer works, such as my treatise, A Rational Cosmology, and my play, Implied Consent.
10. Publish at least 200 works on AC as soon as possible. Your clout multiplier on Associated Content is equal to (1 + n/100), where n is your number of articles up to 200. When you have 200 articles or more, you will have a clout multiplier of 3, which will enable you to earn 3 clout points for every page view you get. To reach Clout Level 10, you will only need 333,334 page views with a clout multiplier of 3. On the other hand, if your clout multiplier is only 1.5, for instance, you will need 666,667 page views to get to Clout Level 10 — and it will be even harder for you to reach this level, considering that you will have fewer articles to earn you page views. Your first 200 works will serve as an excellent foundation to get you started on AC; they will add to your exposure and reputation and will begin to attract a steady stream of readers to you.
11. You can publish a wider variety of content instantaneously if you submit it for no upfront payment. At present, I publish the vast majority of my work for no upfront payment because many of my contributions tend to be unconventional in their subject matter and format. The advantages of publishing for no upfront payment include not having to wait several weeks for one’s content to get approved by the Content Moderators, who will often tell you to submit the content for no upfront payment anyway. I get the benefit of seeing my work online immediately and earning revenue from it right away. Sometimes, I can even make available entire series of articles or study guides in one day if some of my readers ask for my assistance within a short time period. I also most often publish using the “Display-Only” option, which gives me the ability to instantaneously edit my work. For instance, if some observant user of my study guides finds that I have made a mathematical error, I can quickly correct the error and ensure that my work remains accurate and of the highest quality. Moreover, if you publish for no upfront payment, you do not have to worry about your content being “mainstream” enough (whatever that means) or popular with the “average person” (who really does not exist, by the way). You will get paid in exact proportion to how much use other people actually make of your content – which, again, can be quite a considerable amount. Of course, if you think any of your works are likely to get upfront payments and are willing to wait several weeks for their approval, by all means go ahead and try. I am doing it with this article, too.
12. Diversify: find niche markets for your work and find many of them while also sometimes writing for the general public. Your articles do not have to be popular with the general public, but it is useful to find a particular group of people who you think will find them useful. Many of my articles are directed toward actuarial students or other higher mathematics purveyors. Others are targeted toward students of economics. Of course, I also have my fair share of philosophical treatises, editorials, and fiction that I aim at the general public. This way, I can be sure to attract a wide variety of readers to my work so that if any one stream of readers dries up for some reason, the others will continue to generate page views for me. Just as with investments, diversification is a sound long-term strategy for getting a steady return on your content. Some niche markets you might be interested in writing for might include students, gamers, professionals, and online shoppers. There are thousands of subgroups within each of these categories, and people in each of these subgroups require some extremely specific information. If you can provide that information and tell them that you are doing it on forums devoted to their occupations, then they will come to AC and read your work.
13. Turn what you know and enjoy into an asset that earns you income. No matter who you are, you are closely familiar with some field of human endeavor. You are extremely knowledgeable about something, whatever that might be, but you, like me and everyone else, often take that knowledge for granted. “Surely,” you may think, “because this knowledge seems so intuitive to me and is so omnipresent in my life, others must have it, too!” In fact, most people do not know the information that you take for granted but would be happy to learn it. Take some time regularly to think about that wealth of ideas which surround your everyday life and undertakings. To others, they may seem extraordinary and fascinating. Communicating what comes easily to you will not be a great challenge and will tend to result in high-quality articles that are quick to produce.
My best wishes to you in your efforts to reach Clout Level 10. May you have the patience, devotion, creativity, and industry to get you there. Now is a better time than ever before to earn money by enabling thousands of people to access high-quality information for free. I, for one, consider myself to be at the forefront of a new Enlightenment, a massive educational revolution that will transform society as we know it in the coming years and decades. By helping inform people of the truth in a wide variety of fields, we can dramatically improve the state of the world and make money doing it.