The Huffington Post counts something more than 6,000 volunteer blog writers who contribute for various reasons: to join in the conversation, to get a clipping, to push their pet cause, maybe even to claim an affiliation they use to gain access to events or impress a date. With the $315 million deal to merge the HuffPost with AOL, some outside observers are wondering if Huffington should start to pay her content creators. (They are aside from the paid staff of editors, aggregators and reporters.)
Dan Gillmor at MediaActive urges Huffington to pay at least the most productive bloggers :
The Huffington Post has been evolving from its origins, as the left-wing op-ed page of the Internet, into a blend of aggregation, curation, pandering — all of which have been done with some genuinely intriguing if not innovative technology initiatives — and some home-grown content. The first three of those are likely to be, in the end, much more important for the business than the original content....
Indeed, the Huffington Post’s home-grown content, for the most part, has been especially notable for its low cost to Huffington: low as in free. Although some actual paid journalists work for the organization, her blogger network is an amazing achievement; she’s persuaded untold numbers of people to write for nothing, to have their names on the page as compensation for their labor. Exploitive? Sure, in a way, but let’s also recognize the fact that people want to put their stuff on the site.
Also, Thomas Scott Tucker (who writes for Truthdig) is circulating an open letter on the subject.
In the realm of political writers, 6,000 bloggers who write for free may not be a burning issue of justice if weighed and measured in the scales of justice against Arianna’s hiring fee. Not when Egypt (and neighboring Arab regimes) are in the midst of popular turmoil, and not when the class system of the United States grinds so many people into oblivion on a daily schedule. All the same, I am a writer and do have a professional interest in AOL buying the Huffington Post for $315 million dollars.
Whole thing is after the jump.
February 7, 2011
Readers of Open Letter,
Just got the news below. To me, the most significant part of the article (attached below) is the last sentence:
“The work of its 70-person paid staff is augmented by content from news outlets and 6,000 bloggers who write for free.”
Now put that those “6,000 bloggers who write for free” in the wage bracket of Arianna, if a certain Rob Enderle is correct:
“The price that AOL is paying is ‘really just the hiring fee to get Arianna,’ said technology analyst Rob Enderle.”
Do I have a personal interest here? In a sideways dimension, yes, I do. Like Venn diagrams, my personal world overlaps remotely with Arianna Huffington’s. Remotely.
I did attend one eye-opening book signing event at her home in Los Angeles. Back in Philadelphia, I met a few old money Main Line aristrocrats. But the money in Los Angeles is stratospheric. Dizzying. After any heavy winter rain in Los Angeles, plenty of horse manure washes down onto the beaches and surf off Malibu because so many people up in the hills ride horses. And I don’t mean cowboys. Los Angeles is like another planet. So much of the city looks like the cookie-cutter industrial bunkers and gaudy malls and desperate working class sectors of many cities scattered round the world. Generic and brutally ugly, with lots of seductive signs and billboards. Then there is the class divide, and there are the folks living behind very high manicured hedges and in enclaves guarded by private security. That, too, can now be found in other big cities round the globe. But Los Angeles did set the early twentieth century trend rolling forward, and the mass traffic jams also spread like a miasmic meme across national borders. Los Angeles is an education in very late capitalism, which began here very early in the twentieth century.
There is a popular political radio program called “Left, Right, and Center” generally hosted by a “centrist,” with a fairly reflexive guy on the right, and with Bob Scheer (chief editor of Truthdig) representing the left. Arianna Huffington represents “the independent blogosphere” on this radio show, but her views are generally center-left in our official political spectrum. (Huffington’s public life began in the Republican Party, but she ventured out of that party and truly changed her views. All to her credit.) Bob Scheer is by far the sharpest mind and voice in the mix of “Left, Right and Center,” and I don’t say that just because he’s one of my bosses at Truthdig. No, listen for yourself and judge for yourself. Besides, Bob and I freely argue and disagree on some issues. Takes all kinds to make a world, and thank God no two creatures are carbon copies. Truthdig not only pays me the best wages I’ve ever earned as a writer, but respects my independence. And the crew at Truthdig is not only tech-savvy (not my strength at all), but carries over some of the better newspaper skills of the vanishing better newspapers into the brave new world of online news and views.
Arianna Huffington is easily the closest competition Bob Scheer gets on that radio show. She’s often charming, funny, and quite right on specific issues. She’s also quite cozy with the existing class system, though not at ease with radical income disparities and corporate corruption. She understands that capitalism needs reform if capitalism is going to remain a good deal for the middle classes. And if capitalism can’t sustain a middle class, there is a real danger of a more savage beast may be evolving all around us. As for any serious working class politics—no, Huffington cannot be taken seriously in that realm at all.
I am no longer a front line organizer who gets tossed in jail from time to time. I am a 55 year old guy in middling health who is a fairly solitary writer, but I will live and die a socialist.
In the realm of political writers, 6,000 bloggers who write for free may not be a burning issue of justice if weighed and measured in the scales of justice against Arianna’s hiring fee. Not when Egypt (and neighboring Arab regimes) are in the midst of popular turmoil, and not when the class system of the United States grinds so many people into oblivion on a daily schedule. All the same, I am a writer and do have a professional interest in AOL buying the Huffington Post for $315 million dollars. Under any corporate form whatsoever, the Huffington Post is not volunteering to pay decent wages to a socialist writer. And I’m not volunteering to donate my labor to AOL, either. That seems a small story in today’s world? Tell me!