I've written this with aspiring writers who are thinking about working at Adfero or Axonn Media in mind, although I would imagine it's also useful for people who are considering hiring Adfero or DirectNews or NewsReach or Axonn Media to support their SEO campaigns. I spent over a year working for them, and I'm keeping this anonymous because I still want to use them as a reference.
I originally SEOd this with the intention of 'working at Adfero' SEO-ing in mind, but a little research indicates that they've changed their name to Axonn Media and are advertising jobs at Axonn Media with this moniker. So if you're considering working at Axonn Media, this is entirely relevant. Axonn Media appears to be Adfero's way of avoiding the negative results that come up when you Google for information about them. If you want to do some proper research, look for information about Adfero as well as working at Axonn Media.
The economy is in the dumps and graduates are ten-a-penny, so if you want to get into writing, you'll probably discover nobody wants to hire you. If it looks like a choice between working at Axonn Media or working in an unskilled job that will not give you any writing experience, I would heavily suggest Axonn Media. I've read bloggers who have turned down a job at Adfero because of the horror stories online and are now toiling away on a shop floor, and personally, I think they made the wrong decision. But if it's a choice between Axonn Media or any other writing work, tell Axonn Media to get lost. An Axonn Media content writer is one of the worst writing jobs in the world - the only positive aspect is that it is a writing job.
Anyway, without further ado:
I got the online assessment, which was pretty simple. They then took me to the office and we did some psychometric testing and had a presentation, and then a few weeks later I had an interview.
In the interview, I told them that I loved writing and that I really wanted the job and that I would complete my required workload no-matter-what. I also lied about SEO experience.
Working hours are 8 till 5, with an hour's break for lunch at a time of your choosing. The office is open-plan and set into desks, each of which handles the news feeds for a select number of clients. Eventually, you'll be writing the equivalent of around 24 150-200 word stories (plus headlines and title tags and meta-data and other stuff), or 12 300-400 worders, every day. This means you'll be penning almost 5,000 words in 8 hours - after a year, you'll have written more than a million words, or around the same amount of text as there is in all seven Harry Potter novels.
You will be tasked with sourcing and writing industry news for corporate websites, all of which will be optimised for search engines. The primary purpose of your role is to increase the Google PageRank of your particular clients' webpages, although the businesses will also want your content to be well-written, relevant and engaging.
Essentially, it is a 'churnalism' role and you will work in a 'content farm', although the company probably thinks of itself with slightly loftier words.
The wage is somewhat derisory, at £16k p/a, and this rises to £16.5k after six months. If you ever want to see this figure edge above £20k (probably what your peers are earning), you'll have to work there for fucking ages. You have to complete certain tasks to rise up the corporate ladder and there are actually documents that tell you exactly what you need to do. You also have to have worked there for a particular period of time to be eligible for these positions.
In your first week working at Axonn Media, you'll read the induction booklets and do some tests. Then at the start of your second week, you'll start taking on feeds. Within a month, the number of feeds will have increased until you're working at full capacity. Initially, you will almost certainly not be able to complete your workload within eight hours, and will work through your lunchbreak and at home in the evening to catch up. I'm still quite resentful of the fact that I used to work for 10 or 11 hours every day, five days a week, for £16k p/a.
You should probably have gotten to grips with the volume of content by the end of your three month probation and you'll find that you've actually got time for lunch. After a year, you'll be speeding through your work and you might even be able to squeeze some freelance stuff and idle browsing into your office hours. But to begin with, the task at hand seems impossible and the stress is unbelievable.
Also, you'll initially have your Desk Head sub-editing your work, and they'll be really anal about it fitting into the company's 'style'. Y'see where I put a comma before the 'and' there? That is forbidden. Once you enter 'the subbing loop', you can let standards slide a little, although you will have to undergo 'quality control' evaluations periodically.
The style guide used to be really restrictive, although I think they've loosened it up a little now. When I started out, you weren't allowed to repeat the same word in a story, which led to pieces reading really awkwardly. If I wrote 'people' once, the next time I'd have to use 'individuals', then 'men and women' or 'members of the public' or 'Brits' or 'Britons'. I'd write about housing, and I'd have to use 'real estate', 'property', 'households', 'dwellings', or for employees you'd say 'workers', personnel', 'members of staff' - Adfero would literally force you to write something awful, because someone who knows nothing about creative writing implemented a blanket ban on repetition.
Furthermore, the office was silent. This wasn't deliberate - it's probably because it's rare for two people to be taking 'down time' at the same time. I'd just read the news or whatever when I was taking a break, and you can't hold a conversation when you're typing so most of the time, nobody is talking. For the first year of my employ, we didn't even have a radio, and when we got one, it was impossible to hear it over the clatter of keyboards. Eight hours of keyboard clatter and hardly any talking is really difficult to deal with after a few months.
That's not to say that you don't talk to your colleagues at all - there's still conversation. It's not 'lonely'. But there might be a total of 20 minutes of chatter every day.
For some reason unknown to everyone who worked in the office, there was a smart dress code, despite the fact that we never saw a client or a member of the public. On Fridays, they let us come in wearing casual clothes, but there is no good reason that we had to wear shirts and suit pants and smart shoes the rest of the time.
Furthermore, it is impossible to book time off. If one person on the desk has booked a holiday, nobody else can because their work needs covering, and there could be seven people on your desk. Holiday days are snapped up instantly, so if your girlfriend says, "lets have a long weekend at the end of this month," you will likely be unable to agree. And if there are too many holiday days in a certain month, they'll stop anyone else taking one. If you phone in sick, you'll be expected to work from home.
As I said earlier, I was expected to write 24 news stories every day. These were to be SEO friendly and to meet the exacting standards of the client's brief and the Adfero style guide. This means that essentially, you get five minutes to actually find a (new) news story about radiator panels or wooden flooring or whatever the client sells, alongside an additional (older) story for 'context', and about ten minutes to plagiarise the shit out of it so it's unique and therefore better for SEO. Then you do this three times an hour, then take 15 minutes to rest your fingers and sub-edit someone else's work. Then repeat eight times a day, five days a week, for the foreseeable future.
Some months have 22 working days in them, while others have 20. You will have the exact same amount of work to do during both months, but ten per cent less time to complete it some of the time. You will notice this.
You'll spend all your time in an office chair staring at a computer screen. While this doesn't seem very challenging, it won't be long until you're experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome and a bad back and until your gut expands. You'll only move around when you're getting a coffee or going to the toilet.
Apparently Adfero charges its clients a fortune, but it pays its staff a pittance and condemns them to penury. Any companies considering taking on DirectNews to write two stories a day in their feed should think about actually hiring an in-house copywriter and paying them just as much. You'll get a better quality of service and a far better SEO and online marketing campaign. There are hundreds of fresh-faced English grads and aspiring journos looking for work - hire one of these people instead.
While the workload is massive and the subject matter is almost always incredibly boring, it wasn't the endless typing that made me hate working at Adfero - as you can tell from this post, I don't mind typing endlessly. It was the little things, like the quiet office, the dress code and the shitty wage that did it.
But I am now in a far better position than I would have been had I turned my nose up at the job. It gave me a foothold on the ladder and valuable experience in online writing and SEO, as well as the ability to write a metric shittonne of words in as little time as possible. These skills have all proven to be very useful and my experience as a content writer has opened up a lot of doors, and when they initially gave me the job, I was earning a crust cleaning hotel bedrooms. So if you're thinking of shelving your ambitions of writing for a living, fire off a CV to Adfero, and if that doesn't work, fire off another one. But plan to leave as quickly as possible, or you'll put your mental and physical health at risk.
I admittedly didn't write this with this forum in mind, but didn't want to put it on a blog that could be traced back to me. However, I'm more than happy to answer any questions anyone has to ask.