Making Money With Fortitude

Is there a way to build a site that offers very good, interesting, unique content without a paid full-time editor? And if you write for such a site, can you make any money from it? These and other questions will be answered as I take a look at Fortitude, a new website that operates on a model likely to make many professional writers and editors cringe.

Fortitude is the brainchild of Nick Oba, former owner of another website I’ve reviewed here, namely Qassia. In fact, I did a two-part review of the site. In the two years since then, the site has changed its name to Qondio, and seems to be doing quite well. So what is Fortitude, and how is it different?

First, a quick review of Qondio. It’s set up for those who want to promote a website. You’re only allowed to have one account, ever, for which you pay $5. You can then submit content to the site (which it refers to as “intel”). Your content is reviewed and rated by several other site members before it goes live. You can include a link in your content – and this link is explicitly a do-follow link. Qondio has a number of controls in place to discourage spammers, and at last count has reached a PR of 6, which isn’t bad.

Okay, so how is Fortitude different? Well, this site is specifically intended for people who don’t have a website to promote. You can still link out in the content you submit, but all of your links will be no follow, which can’t help you in the search engines. And the site still expects you to submit good, original content. So why would you?

Simple: Fortitude actually pays for content. You can earn anywhere from $1 up to $100 per item you submit. But there are significant catches that make this site different from any other publisher.

First, there’s no guarantee that you’ll get paid, or how much. Second, you actually have to pay to join the site (around $25 for a year’s membership). For that price, you get to submit as many articles as you want; you can also review as many articles as you want. That’s right – members review articles, just as they do on Qondio. In this case, though, you also get paid for reviewing an article – two cents per item. That’s what you get for putting your two cents in.

The review isn’t anything complicated; you just rate the article from one to ten. Fortitude’s algorithm, which Oba says was fine-tuned on Qassia/Qondio, does the rest. Submissions that score below a certain minimum number of points do not get published – and their authors do not get paid. As with Qondio, there are safeguards in place to prevent members from gaming the system.

Okay, if you’re a writer (as I am), you’re probably wondering about copyright issues right about now. Fortitude does give an answer of sorts in its FAQ. According to the site, “Pieces published on the Front Page become the property of Fortitude. However, authors are automatically granted a limited license to republish their material on their own sites and pages only. Pieces not published on the Front Page are owned by the author, and Fortitude is automatically granted a limited license to republish the material on Fortitude’s own pages only.”

Fortitude bills itself as a daily magazine, which means it has a huge appetite for content. The site’s goal is to publish at least ten articles every day, on as wide a range of topics as it receives submissions. That’s one nice thing about the site; it doesn’t limit what its submitters write about. So there are articles about online dating, small town America, Benedict Arnold…I could go on and on. And I must admit, the items that make the front page are enjoyable and interesting to read.

But writing and editing aren’t the only ways members can make money with Fortitude. There’s also referring others to the site. Everyone who signs up gets a link that works in Fortitude’s affiliate program. Members receive commissions for referrals through their links; they also receive $1 for every piece published on the front page by a user referred by them. (Yes, I have a referral link too: http://fo.rtitu.de/1101 if you care).

Fortitude also runs periodic promotions…and this is where, in order to maintain my professional integrity, I must disqualify myself. You see, they’re currently running a promotion to get the word out about the site. I was going to write this article anyway, but mentioning the promotion disqualifies me from being in the running to earn anything from Fortitude for it. (That’s only fair; I’m already getting paid to write this article as part of my regular job, after all!).

Okay, you’ve seen some ways you can make money with Fortitude. Just how does Fortitude itself plan to make money? Well, currently, it isn’t carrying any advertising on the site, but that will probably change in the future. In fact, that very question is answered in the FAQ. “The unique and high quality of our content will attract a strong readership, which will generate strong advertising revenue. In addition, we will be leveraging our intellectual capital by, for instance, publishing books (ebooks or in hardcopy) of compilations of the pieces that made our front page, as well as reselling article rights on an individual or package basis.”

So when will Fortitude start accepting advertising? It looks like the site is targeting October for the earliest that it will run ads. That fits with information elsewhere on its site that states its current payout rates are good through September of this year; after that date, they will be adjusted because the site will “begin transitioning to operating income as opposed to start-up capital, and may adjust our rates for Front Page pieces upwards or downwards according to market conditions.”

Can you use Fortitude to promote a product or a service? You probably can, if you can write well enough about it…though if you can do that, you should probably have your own website on which to do your promotion. Fortitude can work if you’re looking for an outlet for your passion, but don’t want to maintain a blog and don’t necessarily want to focus solely on one topic. Oba is hoping to harness the power of people’s passions to make him – and the members of his site – a decent amount of money.

There’s something to be said for being able to write about anything and just possibly get paid for it. There’s also something to be said for being able to read diverse articles as a reviewer and get two cents a shot, if that’s what you enjoy. If you don’t mind paying $25 to have someone else handle things like whether there’s advertising on the site and whether you get paid for your items…and that there’s a sort of limit on how much you can make based on how much of you can read and get published…well, Fortitude may be for you.

But it’s worth keeping in mind that Fortitude has been open to the public for less than two weeks. Despite the fact that its editing model has been tested for two years, it’s still a new site, and there’s no telling whether it will make it for the long haul. In this situation, it’s very much the case that you pay your money and you take your chances. Time will tell.

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