For a while, I thought that this meant I should just focus on direct response copywriting, giving up on articles completely. However, a couple experiences I have had with certain clients has convinced me it's still possible to get paid for well for article writing, provided the articles aren't meant as SEO fodder.
Here are, in my humble opinion, the best ways to get paid for writing articles. These aren't the be all and end all of paid article writing of course, but they are, in my opinion, the easiest strategies for making good money off of articles:
1. Target private clients who want to create a newsletter.
Newsletters require articles. Because newsletters are meant to be read by actual human beings, the articles need to be good in order to be effective. Therefore, you can charge decent rates for newsletter content, if you're a good writer. It helps to target clients in niches you know well, because you can position yourself as not just a writer, but also an expert.
2. Interview experts, write articles that cite and quote these interviews, then pitch to editors of actual publications.
I could have just said "write for actual publications," but that advice on its own is flawed, because I think that unpaid contributors are eventually going to drive rates for straight opinion pieces down to zero (sadly). So in the long run, journalistic style article writing will need to go the extra mile to really command money, and I think that interviewing experts will your articles that extra kick.
You don't need to interview a rock star to lend a little more credibility for your articles. All you need to do is interview someone who has a little bit of recognition in their field, like a doctor, lawyer, college professor, local politician, or anyone like that.
3. Write press releases.
Press releases are basically just one page newsy articles that cover some news item a client wants the press to know about. But because good press creates so much value for a client, they'll pay $50-$100 for a good one that the people in the newsroom will actually pay attention to. I guess these aren't technically "articles," but they're very similar, so if you like to write articles, you might like writing press releases, but you'll get paid way more money for it.
4. Submit articles on Constant Content.
Clients on that site regularly pay $50 for articles, but to be successful there, you do need to know which niches and topics to target. You can research this by checking in the site's discussion forums.
5. Pitch to blogs that pay contributors.
Some blogs will pay up to $50 for guest posts that really add value. FreelanceSwitch is one such example. You generally need to have established yourself somewhat to get these gigs, so only target blogs in areas where you have established yourself as either A) successful, or B) an expert.
6. Write reviews.
There are plenty of review-writing sites out there that pay decent money (see here: 55+ Get Paid To Write Websites To Make Money Writing Online ), and what's better, you can often get free samples of products when you do this gig. Also, reviews are generally pretty fun to write. There definitely are people in this market who try to pay peanuts, but there are more clients who realize that they get what they pay for, so you can get paid very good money for review writing.
7. Start your own blog and monetize it.
Well, obviously, the "how to make money blogging thing" is a huge topic in and of itself, but in general, the idea you build traffic by writing good content and promoting your site through blog comments, youtube videos and forum posts, and you monetize it with affiliate links and direct ad sales. See Yaro Starak's book, Blog Profits Blueprint: Blog Profits Blueprint by Yaro Starak | Make Money Blogging (note: this is not an affiliate link and the product above is free).
Note: adsense sucks as a monetization straegy; sell your own ads or promote products with affiliate links.
This is just a general introduction to my ideas on how to make money through articles, if you want to add some of your own, I'm sure a lot of people would be happy to hear them!