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Canada’s Suite101 Writers Profit, Expanding to France, Spain

by Craig Morgan Teicher

VANCOUVER, B.C.: “I sometimes see us more like a service to writers than just a publication. We want to make them successful,” said Peter Berger, the German CEO of Suite101, a company whose online magazine features articles on, well, just about everything — from choosing the best fly-fishing vest to doing PR for a small business during a recession — as well as a unique approach to Web writing. Suite101 isn’t a magazine about any particular subject; it’s more of a huge online community for freelance writers looking to find readers seeking a particular kind of expertise, one whose reading habits translate into dollars for the writers.”

Relaunched by German investors three years ago, Suite101.com now garners 15 million visitors a month, 70% of which come from the U.S., 10% from Canada, and 20% from the rest of the world, according to Berger. Based in Vancouver, the company has already launched a German version of the site — Suite101.de, which now gets one million monthly visitors — and is set to also open offices in Paris and Madrid in the fall, with corresponding sites in French and Spanish.

Here’s how it works: a writer with a hankering to sound off on a particular topic — say, how to play the guitar — applies through Suite101′s Web site. The Suite101 editorial staff evaluates the writer’s application materials to make sure the applicant is a skilled writer and has a thorough knowledge of their subject. “The typical writers on our site are experts. Many of them have published books. We work to try to find good writers — who can write, who can do the research, who can write the proper story — and help them write well for the Web,” said Berger.

Suite101′s editors work to shape stories for optimal Web traffic before they go online. Once posted, the articles appear with Google ads on the side to generate revenue. It’s a little like Wikipedia, with professional editors checking out the prose and with profit as the main motive. “We share the revenue with the writers,” said Berger. “We pay them based on what their content is making.”

Most readers initially find their way to the site through search engines, and the most successful writers build up a following that brings readers back. Berger said that the best earners on Suite101 can pull in as much as $2,000 a month. Some Suite101 writers make their living by writing, while others write to supplement other sources of income.

Though the company is based in Canada, it is important for the company to establish offices in the country to which they are catering. According to Berger, the German site was set up on the same principal: “We set up an office in Germany, simply to be within the community. That proved very successful — we got a much higher profile”

The site is founded on a specific idea of what Web readers are looking for: “We think that what people on the Web want is quality content: nonfiction articles with an educated reader in mind,” Berger said. “Within those limits we are completely open.”

Ultimately, Berger believes Suite101 “is a great opportunity” for writers, particularly in this economy in which many traditional news organizations and publications are shedding talent. If the sites in English and German are any indication, Sutie101 should start paying off for French and Spanish writers very soon.

TOPICS: Available on Suite 101

CONTACT: Suite 101 directly, via communications director Marci Hotsenpiller

WRITE: For Suite 101 (in French or Spanish)

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