Last week I read an article titled "Why Odyssey Is Unethical" that was actually published through the millennial-driven platform mentioned in the title, the very same platform I am writing on right now. After being confused for a second, I assumed that the title was just click bait. I mean, why would you decide to write for a medium and then bash them on their own site? So, doing exactly what the author wanted me to do, I clicked.
I read the article, waiting for there to be a catch in the story or a change in thought. However, this never happened. The author, Wes Gustin, honestly did a good job with the article. He backed up his thoughts with facts about the company and their earnings pending ad revenues and even verified in the comments that the stats came from the sales team at Odyssey. Although, side note: I interned with Odyssey in their New York City editorial office this summer, which means I actually knew all of these numbers already and other fun facts that Gustin may not know.
Odyssey is a start-up.
Believe it or not, Odyssey has been publicizing online for around two years. They are the very definition of a successful start-up. However, they are still a start-up. They are still dependent on investments to keep the lights on, which keeps us all published on their site. Essentially they are making money off of their content creators writing more or less for free, however, they are not making enough money to monetize the investment. Plus, have you seen all the changes that Odyssey has been making? Week after week, I constantly see changes on the website that ultimately are positive. Plus, I even hear they are wanting to start an app. I bet they need money to do that too...
Most articles do not generate revenue.
With Odyssey having over 14,000 (yes, that number is correct) content creators, there is no way to pay for every single person. Why? Because Odyssey only makes $3 off of every 1000 page views, meaning that most writers are not making the company money. With any job, you have to prove your worth. If we paid per article, that means Odyssey would be losing money. That makes no sense. However, if you have an article that does well, you do get compensated for it up to $1000! Can you imagine being in college and getting hundreds of dollars because you wrote an article about something you love? I know people that can, because they did. (Another side note: the above writer is someone I on-boarded to be an editor with Odyssey this past summer, so shout out to me.)
Odyssey is a business.
At the end of the day, consumers are constantly forgetting that nothing in life is free. Odyssey is the exact same way. Why? Because Odyssey is a business. They are trying to monetize and make money. They are creating salaries for over a hundred people and giving opportunities to thousands more. No, you are not getting a paycheck from Odyssey regularly. However, if you are still in school and can get paid to write, I applaud you.
Yes, when you write for Odyssey, you give them free content to make money off of, if you do it well. The return investment can be invaluable, though. You get the chance to be published on a site that has anywhere from 30 million to 50 million views per month. You get the chance to build up your portfolio and start your career. You get the chance to expand your brand and be an advocate for whatever you are passionate about. You get the chance to have a conversation with the world. Plus, you now own all of your content still, which is very generous in my opinion.
There is a problem with traditional media.
Also, I think it is important to mention why Odyssey was founded. Did you know that every day all the editors at the New York Times come together to decide the front page for the newspaper? And then they determine the front page of every other newspaper that they own? And then they send out their front page to every other major newspaper in the country? Yep, that happens every single day. So every day one media outlet is basically deciding what the nation as a whole will have on their paper for that day. That is terrifying, regardless of how many people actually read the paper daily.
That is also the reason that Odyssey exists. It serves as a platform that democratizes content so that all voices from every background can be heard nationwide. This is unlike anyone else in the industry, so much so that people are trying to mimic our model, trying to redo our concept. That is when you know you are a part of something special; when someone tries to remake the brand when you are just starting out.