Hearst Killed The Mix. Here’s What Its Short Life Taught Us

Hearst Killed The Mix. Here’s What Its Short Life Taught Us

A few weeks ago, with zero fanfare or warning, Hearst killed its outside-contributor program The Mix.

I first learned the news in a Facebook group for contributors, where reactions were shocked, confused, and for the most part, sad.

I was among those disappointed by its demise. Here’s why…

How The Mix worked

In case you’re not familiar with the platform, here’s a brief rundown of how it worked:

You applied to become a contributor, and if accepted, you’d receive Hearst’s writing prompts (written as headlines) via email each day.

If you saw a prompt you wanted to write about, you had two days to submit your piece. Hearst selected one story for each prompt, which it then published on one of its sites — huge titles like Cosmopolitan, Good Housekeeping, and Esquire.

Published pieces earned $50 (the rate used to be $100), plus $.0025 per view after your story reached 20,000 views.

The platform and its prompts were controversial: Jezebel called it a “personal essay tragedy content farm,” and some said it was “profiting off aspiring freelance writers who need to pay rent.”

But others (me included) appreciated the ability to write a quick story that had the potential to be picked up by a huge publisher.

After all, it’s just a more competitive version of writing “on spec — without having to undergo the pitching process.

My experience writing for The Mix

I heard about The Mix last summer, and in true writer fashion (no deadline? no problem!), waited a while before applying.

Even after joining the network, it was several months before I saw a pitch that really drew my attention.

It was: “Please don’t sit on my bed in your outside clothes.”

As my friends know, I border on obsessive-compulsive when it comes to bed cleanliness. This headline was written for me.

I also assumed fewer people would answer this prompt, as opposed to other, more general ones like, “My boyfriend had a secret that ruined our relationship.”

So, I whipped up a story.

Soon after, an editor requested edits. I still didn’t know if I was going to make the cut, but I eagerly addressed them… and waited.

The next day, a nondescript email arrived in my inbox saying, “Your story is now published on Cosmopolitan.”

WHAT? I was elated.

As the story caught fire, the emails continued to arrive. Your story is now published on Country Living. On Redbook. On Marie Claire. On Town & Country.

It paid off. I’ve earned $1,652.11 for something that took me less than an hour to write.

Why I’m sad The Mix died

For people who normally write for magazines, maybe that figure isn’t that impressive.

But me? I started jumping up and down when I saw that check. It’s exponentially more than anything I’ve made writing a single piece.

So yes, I’m sad The Mix died.

My experience, I’ll admit, probably isn’t typical. The topic of my story (to no credit of my own) was at the perfect crossroads — of really bizarre yet just common enough — to make it go viral.

Still. Even if you never submitted anything to The Mix, but read its prompts, it provided excellent market research. If Hearst was interested in a particular topic, other publications probably would be, too.

It also sparked ideas: I, for example, never would’ve dreamed of pitching a story about sitting on the bed in your outside clothes.

But for me, the biggest benefit of The Mix was this: It made me finish a post.

I don’t know about you, but I have half-written drafts lurking on my desktop and Google Drive — even in the notes of my iPhone.

With The Mix, the limited timeframe and temptation of seeing my work on one of the biggies made me sit my butt in a chair and actually ship something.

Had my post been rejected, I still would’ve had a finished piece to pitch elsewhere; I heard about other Mix writers who had success with this.

What we learned from The Mix

There are a few things we can take away from The Mix’s short life:

Refuse to work for free. If a publication is big enough that you’re tempted to work for them for “exposure,” it’s also big enough to pay you. The Mix’s pay was pretty crappy, but it was better than HuffPo’s, and more importantly, it rewarded you for a successful post.

Sometimes headlines are all the inspiration you need. I’ve now created a list in Wunderlist where I write headlines I might someday want to flesh out.

Pitch and ship. Those half-done drafts aren’t doing anybody any good. So pitch them somewhere. Only once that deadline is looming will you actually get motivated to finish them.

A writing career is not “one size fits all.” Many writers scorned The Mix, and, I’m assuming, the people who wrote for it. That’s okay. For me, it was a killer opportunity, and I grabbed it.

You don’t have to create your writing career like other people. And you really shouldn’t sit on the bed in your outside clothes.

Did you write for The Mix during its short tenure? What was your experience?

Empire Building Kit from Chris Guillebeau

Featured resource

Empire Building Kit

In this course, Chris Guillebeau will teach you how to build a meaningful lifestyle business in one year by doing one thing every day.

11 comments

  • Artur Laizo says:

    Perfect. Thank you for the informations.

  • Rhonda Cawthorn says:

    Could you please tell me where the job board when? I keep clicking on “jobs” and seeing no jobs, just blogs. Didn’t you guys feature jobs for writers on here– gigs?

    Thanks,
    rhondathewriter12@gmail.com

  • Cassie W says:

    Thanks for an interesting article, though, heck, now I’m sad too!

  • Linda H says:

    Thanks for this post, Susan. You’ve inspired me, even though “The Mix” is gone. You motivated me to review those half-finished drafts and do something with them. You also motivated me to get off my butt and connect with online Facebook or LinkedIn forums to share and learn from other writers.

    You also made a great point that many may miss. Even though The Mix was writing shorts about headlines, you followed your gut, submitted something, and in all reaped over $1,600 for your efforts. That IS significant for a freelancer starting out, or someone who is a seasoned writer. You were paid for your work. In this case, it paid out pretty well.

    When freelancers jump on such opportunities we may find that it’ll pay. That boosts confidence, gives you a clip to post in your portfolio, and now you can say you were published in “Cosmopolitan” or at least by Hearst publishing.

    Good lessons shared from your experience. Motivates me to keep looking and never give up. You never know when something will pop up and take you to another level.

  • sharmishtha says:

    I wish I knew about mix before it died! 🙁 sounds good to me!

  • Shanon Lee says:

    I had 5 or 6 stories published (I’d have to pull up my portfolio to double-check) and one went viral, earning bonuses. This was at the $100 per article rate + incentives. I purposely never spent more than 45 minutes tops writing these pieces. I enjoyed it at first, but hated the pressure to submit personal photos because I am private (and they typically went with stock photos anyway – so it was a waste of my time to find a good one). I rarely related to the prompts (i.e. “Here’s how a threesome destroyed my marriage”, etc.) and felt they would have been more interesting and relatable if it had been a female-led editorial team. I stopped contributing when they published my essay about sexual assault annonmously without my authorization. I’m an advocate, people know my work, so it made little sense. The response I received when I e-mailed my concern was so insensitive, I decided to focus my interests elsewhere. I’m so glad I did. What was priceless: Being in the company of so many amazing writers and making great connections.

  • Mary Novaria says:

    Great piece. Thanks so much for sharing. I have very mixed (ha ha) feelings about my time as contributor to The Mix. Yes, the pay was bad (and I will not get my bonus money for my last piece because it was less than $20), but the exposure was great and really helped me beef up my writing resume. Most of the topics were not anything I would ever write about. I had a few where I was told “I love this” and completed the requested edits and then nothing happened and eventually was declined. I found the communication all along and especially at the end really frustrating. Best of luck going forward, Susan!

    • Mary says:

      Yes – Susan, agreed the communication was abysmal! That was the worst part. I didn’t even know something had been published until days later when I randomly checked. Sort of interfered with my ability to be promoting it if I didn’t know, especially since we were getting bonus for clicks.

      I also disliked having to submit photos. I never take photos and they’re not organized anyway, so that was generally the thing that turned me against doing a prompt.

  • Mary says:

    I consider myself a professional writer, and I wrote for The Mix. Yes, the pay was crappy – absolutely – and it felt a bit random and impersonal, and I did have trouble justifying investing the time vs. the probability of getting published, but ultimately I did it more for my personal growth as a writer (which sounds cheesy).

    I’m an entertainment writer by trade and although I love it I’ve been wanting to branch out into more personal essay or personal inserts stories, but my attempts have been inconsistent and I already have guaranteed paying gigs, and time got in the way. The Mix gave me an opportunity to force myself to pursue these avenues and see if I’d have success. I chose my prompts carefully and, sometimes randomly – writing a piece about them decor (so not my thing), but of the 6 things I submitted 4 or 5 were published (one was in final review and slated to be published before they abruptly closed) and yes, then I had ready-made posts to submit elsewhere. Plus of the pieces that published I got to work with a lovely editor who gave me suggestions and insights that pulled my story together.

    I wasn’t always satisfied with the way the mags would strip some of the funnier or more unique bits from my stories to fulfill word count, but I would say it was overall a positive experience to broaden my writing career and skill set. I’m really appreciative that I got the opportunity – even if the pay sucked.

    Sorry it ended so abruptly and it’s a little odd that Hearst never even provided a reason.

  • Ashri Mishra says:

    WoW, What a great Post it is.

Speak Your Mind

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *