covid-19: see advice in the Freelance.

Online/digital media

The distinction between online and paper media is, of course, blurring - especially as many newspapers and magazines adopt "online-first" publishing strategies that in effect mean printing a digest of the website. Meanwhile a few online-only publications, such as salon.com, have achieved prominence and some may even be making money.

Regrettably, many online-only publications continue to pay lower rates than their printed equivalents. Some dual-mode publications try to pay less for work that appears online only. In both cases they do this because they can get away with it, not least due to the supply of enthusiasts wanti to see their name on screen.

The position is further confused by the phenomenon of the digital tail wagging the print dog in setting editorial priorities. This happens despite the fact that in almost all cases it is the print edition that pays your fee - and the salary of the person commissioning you. This may be worth noting when you negotiate rates for work that will appear in print.

Production work

For design and advanced production work for online publication, norms from the world of computer programming may still apply - and are often significantly better than those for magazine and newspaper production.

The "editing and production" section covers work for website production, website design and management only.

Online/digital media rates:
Online/digital media advice...

See also the Illustrations and cartoons section of this guide and the sections for newspapers and magazines. The Society of Authors' Quick Guide to Publishing Contracts covers some aspects of electronic book publishing. Links are below.

Editing and production

Rates for editing and production of websites and other digital media vary enormously. Simple sub-editing on a stable production system may pay little more than magazine sub-editing, even though more technical knowledge is required and mathematically rigid style constraints may be essential to the production working at all. In the middle, editing and design work that involves the use of authoring and styling languages (HTML and CSS at a minimum, increasingly often XML and even PHP scripting) can pay on the scale of computer programming work rather than sub-editing. On the far other hand, some jobs are in effect business consultancy - what the client needs to know is how a website can change the way they make their living.

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Writing and research

There are an increasing number of outlets for journalistic work whose first publication will be online (or in other digital media). Rates and terms vary, however, often depending on whether the client originated in book or magazine or newspaper publishing, broadcasting, public relations, or as a new media start-up.

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Text © Mike Holderness & previous contributors; Moral rights asserted. The collection (database right) © National Union of Journalists. Comments to ffg@londonfreelance.org please. You may find the glossary helpful.

The National Union of Journalists must not, can not and would not wish to dictate rates or terms of engagement to members or to editors. The information presented here is for guidance and as an aid to equitable negotiation only.

Suggestions apply to contracts governed by UK law only. In any event, nothing here should be construed as legal advice.