One of the pillars of our Media Guild’s vision is to become a creator-first media publication. We want the Media Guild to be a way for writers and creators to build careers in web3.
Previously, we published a general framework for figuring out contributor rewards. Since then, we’ve taken our own advice and remixed it to build a compensation framework for our Media Guild.
At Cabin, our initial bounty was 10 ₡ for the writer and 10 ₡ for the designer regardless of the article’s length and required research. (For the purposes of this article, we’ll set the conversion at 25 USDC per ₡.) We struggled with this because the quality of our articles is worth a lot more than that. This one-price-fits-all approach handicapped us from putting out larger scope, high-impact, industry-level writing projects that would require multiple writers, designers, and editors.
From a DAO mission standpoint, the toughest pill to swallow was that at 20 ₡ per article, a Cabin writer will have to publish 25 (!!) articles with us to make a full-time core contributor equivalent compensation of 500 ₡. And that’s if they don’t have to split the bounty with a designer and/or an editor.
This article is a stake in the ground on where we are. It’s both a think piece and a field guide to share what’s worked, after a season of writing articles, forming article teams, and negotiating compensation with contributors.
In this article, we’ll cover:
Let’s get into it.
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There’s two ways that web2 content writers charge for their services: per word or fixed price.
Content writing industry rates tend to be on the abysmally low side, with rates usually decided on a per-word basis. At content marketing industry rates, $350-$500 is considered average for intermediate writers and pretty good-quality articles. That’s around 40¢ per word for a 800-1,500 word article. These articles would usually entail an interview with an expert and some research to pull up numbers to back up the point.
Once a writer has gained experience, they tend to make the leap to charging a flat rate per article. Top writers charge upwards of $2,000 for thoroughly researched articles or reports of at least 1,500 words. These take weeks, possibly months to put together, with surveys, multiple expert interviews, or even direct industry experience.
With these longform articles, the per-word payment breaks down. It incentivizes the writer to pad the article, as opposed to producing a quality article, irrespective of the word count. Flat rates result in better quality but still suffers from misaligned incentives. This model encourages the writer to put in as little time into the article as possible, irrespective of the quality of the final output.
So what’s the solution?
We want to pay people for the end product.
While everything else is variable, the level of depth or difficulty of the article isn't. An expert, a DAO thought leader, or a skilled writer can take fewer hours than a novice to write about the same topic. We want to compensate for quality as a result of skill, expertise, and effort, rather than hours spent.
At Cabin, we take the following factors into consideration, in no particular order:
With this criteria as a foundation, let’s get into the tactical bounty system we’ve designed.
In Cabin’s Media Guild, we use a 3-tiered system to determine article bounties for the team:
Before we go in depth into each tier, let’s dig into how we decide which tier an article falls under.
At the kickoff of new article projects, the article team and the media guild facilitator will go through a checklist to determine the article’s tier. This could be in the form of a weighted spreadsheet where the team can toggle the weights, total bounty, and bounty split depending on the factors below:
Each article gets the base rate (20 ₡ for Tier 1, 40 ₡ for Tier 2, 60 ₡ for Tier 3) based on the topic difficulty or depth. The variable bonus is weighted based on their proof of work: expertise, writing skill, and the designer's and editor’s contribution, especially since more complex topics will benefit from more design help).
Let’s use a Tier 1 article as an example to illustrate how writers at different levels of skill will tackle it.
Note: Compensation for a Tier 1 article begins at 60 ₡ and could go up to 80 ₡. An article could push the upper end of the range if the writer is an industry insider, Cabin leader, or a web3 thinker whose writing might need massaging, but whose ideas and insights are solid. A higher compensation might also be negotiated for a great writer who considers web3 and DAOs their “beat”. Finally, we’d be excited to increase the compensation for someone who has both thought leadership and great writing skill — someone who we should thank for agreeing to write for us.
Now let’s look at the details of each tier.
These are often 750 – 1,000 word articles. They are standard articles, announcements, and releases. These articles don’t require a lot of research or context and require one graphic as a header image.
Standard compensation for articles should be:
A note on the 0 ₡: Simple articles might not need an official editor, especially if the writer can self-edit. This said, we encourage people to give feedback when they see the drafts posted and can include them in the byline once the article is published.
This article is part of our core contributor profile series. This article required Will, the writer, to interview Rafa once and write a 750 – 1,000-word profile. We also worked with Sofia, one of our designers, to design the header image and had Étienne give feedback on the article.
Most of our articles are Tier 2 articles.
These are at least 1000 words, include multiple graphics, and/or require in-depth context or research. Here’s a typical split between roles in the article team:
If we or the author feel that these are too low for a given article, then the scope could be split into multiple articles to stay within the ranges.
For larger articles, we want to set aside and allocate a budget. These should be more team-driven and will likely involve substantial research. We should therefore determine compensation based on the scope of the article and set it aside as a budget.
We wrote this article in response to an influx of Cabin contributors who want to stay tax compliant while working in web3. Apart from writing, this article was a result of many hours of research, conversations and presentations with financial professionals, DAO operators, and Cabin contributors. We recruited Umar to write the draft based on Zakk’s presentation. Nate designed the 3 graphics in the article and Ali gave feedback.
The article you’re reading right now is a Tier 1 article.
These are at least 1,500 words and require in-depth context or research of the topic to produce. They might also require multiple graphics to articulate the main points.
Here’s a typical bounty split between roles in the article team:
Note that these ranges are merely guidelines for the facilitators and the teams. For complex Tier 1 articles, the ranges reflect the skill level and the increased need for collaboration amongst the team. It’s normal for the roles to be more blurred between the writer and the editor. It’s also normal for the editor to pitch in earlier, in the outline or ideation stages. Finally, in complex articles like these, the designer needs to have a lot more context into the topic.
Example: DAOs and the Future of Decentralized Branding
This Tier 1 article derived examples and ideas, both from outside and within Cabin. This required a lot of expertise and research to bridge ideas from traditional branding into web3 decentralized branding. Finally, this article laid out how to think about branding in general and how Cabin did it. This took an entire team many weeks to publish: Mel — Cabin’s Pixel Mage — offered her expertise. Jeff wrote the article. Ali edited and gave feedback. Marulli provided graphics.
Once we've nailed down the initial payment for writing squads and we have the bounty payments system down, what’s next? The following advanced-level suggestions will take more technology, possibly ones we don't have yet.
For now, the media guild facilitator decides how the bounty is split between the writer, the editor, and the designer. But this has its limitations. The facilitator might not know the actual effort each team member puts into the project.
For example, the article we mentioned earlier on “How to Work in Web3” is a comprehensive one with screenshots and three graphics. To get the article out on time, the writer did a lot of work. Umar described the desired output and created mockups for Nate, our designer, who was a newer member of the DAO. Without knowing this, I (Roxine) ended up splitting the bounty evenly between them, even though Umar had a lot more context on Cabin and put in more time.
Similar to undergraduate group projects where team members grade each other, in the future, we want the teams to decide how to split the bounty themselves.
This is another experiment we want to test in future seasons of Cabin. We want to test selling NFTs of our articles as tickets to a DAO operator workshop on the topic, run by the article team. 100% of the proceeds from the sale will go to the article team who will have access to Cabin’s platform and support to plan and run the workshop or Q&A session.
This aligns all the stakeholders:
Once the technology has caught up, we can continue building on top of this idea of NFTs to capture more value. For example, a writer could get airdropped tokens for hitting a certain number of impressions or conversions.
This allows writers and thought leaders to capture the long tail value of their work and to generate passive income.
Content has always been the undervalued currency of the internet. At Cabin, we want to set a precedent in web3 by paying well for good content that is aligned with our mission.
This article lays out a foundation for how creatives should be compensated for the value they create. As DAO leaders, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to improve on the incentives that exist in web2, including compensation for the people who make up the Creative District of Cabin’s decentralized city.
A recurring theme throughout this piece is that writers and creators are tired of web2’s algorithmic take on compensation. Each article needs to be an asset that pays in more than just backlinks and thought leadership. Similar to how artists and musicians are paid with upfront recording contracts and then royalties, DAOs have the chance to experiment with similar models for the middle class of online creators and workers.