Feb 08 2011

Sorry, Ariana and Markos, No More Free Content For You

(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I know all too much about writing for free.  I do it here all the time. It’s a labor of love.  I’ve been at it for more than 900 blog posts and more than 5 years.  I know about writing without being paid for it.  Despite that, and despite my understanding that when I post at group blogs I know I won’t get paid, I am absolutely furious about the AOL-Huffington Post Deal.  Why?  Because the writers are getting screwed, and they’re not going to get a cent out of the deal. Not a sou.

The news this morning–  I’m sure you haven’t missed it–  was that that beleaguered, dinosaur of dial up AOL has bought Huffington Post and made that doyenne of self promotion and faux progressive politics, Arianna, an AOL executive.  Here’s the essence of the story from the New York Times:

The two companies completed the sale Sunday evening and announced the deal just after midnight on Monday. AOL will pay $315 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock. It will be the company’s largest acquisition since it was separated from Time Warner in 2009.

The deal will allow AOL to greatly expand its news gathering and original content creation, areas that its chief executive, Tim Armstrong, views as vital to reversing a decade-long decline.

Arianna Huffington, the cable talk show pundit, author and doyenne of the political left, will take control of all of AOL’s editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement will give her oversight not only of AOL’s national, local and financial news operations, but also of the company’s other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone.

Meanwhile, the bloggers at HuffPo, the ones who provide the “original content creation”, that was just sold for $315,000,000.00 get, wait for it, nothing.  Zilch. Nada. Zero.  And in an email this morning to bloggers, Ariana told them not to worry, no te preocupes, they could still churn out “original content creation”,  just like before, and well, continue to get the same nothing for it:

The HuffPost blog team will continue to operate as it always has. Arianna will become editor-in-chief not only of HuffPost but of the newly formed Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all of AOL’s content sites, including Patch, Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, PopEater, MapQuest, Black Voices, and Moviefone.

Together, our companies will have a combined base of 117 million unique U.S. visitors a month — and 250 million around the world — so your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation. That’s the only real change you’ll notice — more people reading what you wrote.

Far from changing the Huffington Post’s editorial approach, our culture, or our mission, it will be like stepping off a fast-moving train and onto a supersonic jet. We’re still traveling toward the same destination, with the same people at the wheel, and with the same goals, but we’re now going to get there much, much faster.

When I first read this, I was furious.  I quickly penned an essay, which I published at dailyKos in which I argued that the bloggers, the writers at HuffPo were being screwed because they weren’t getting a cent out of the $315 million dollar deal.

To my amazement, many of the comments to that essay told me that I was off base.  Did I write for free and publish my writing at daily Kos?  Yes. Didn’t I do that because it would expose me to a wide audience?  Yes.  Didn’t I write it all for free, without hope of money?  Yes.  Didn’t I?  I did.  What kind of loon (I’m paraphrasing here) would think that he should write hundreds of diaries for free and that when the platform was sold, he should receive something?  You’ve already received something, it was argued, you got the exposure and a larger audience for your writing.  You don’t, it was argued, deserve anything more.  You get bupkis from the $315 million deal; you don’t deserve more than that.

That just may be so.  I never posted an essay or a comment at HuffPo.  So I don’t deserve any of the $315,000,000 Ariana and her investors are being paid.  I figure that if Ariana put 1% of the deal up and gave it to the writers, there would be $3.15 million to distribute.  How many writers could there be?  If there were 1,000, they could each be given $3,150.  They could be told, “Thank you for writing for free.  Because your writing helped me make a bundle, I’ve decided to send you this small check as a token of my appreciation.  Your writing is worth far more than this amount, but this is something I want you to have as a token of my gratitude.  It’s not pay.  It’s a gift.  You helped me make a big score, and I want to thank you for that.”

MSNBC is reporting that HuffPo had 6,000 free bloggers writing for it (last sentence of linked article).  If that’s so, the 1% gratuity would come to about $500 per person.  And the number of people who wrote so that Ariana could be well paid would be enormouse.  

At any rate, you’d expect some acknowledgment of the bloggers and writers.  You wouldn’t expect anything less from a progressive.  When somebody at the race track gives you a tip, and you bet the horse, and it wins, you always give the tipper some of the winning.  When a football quarterback wins a big game, he takes the linemen out to dinner and drinks.  You have gratitude for those who make it possible to win.  When someone in business helps you out and you have gratitude, you send flowers or wine or a fruit basket.  Or you pay for a meal.  These are expressions of gratitude for help.  They are always appreciated, especially if your original deal was that you wouldn’t be paid.

Is Ariana going to get out her check book and write a check, or is she going to sit on it?  Probably the latter.  So I won’t be signing up to write at HuffPo at any time soon.  And I’ll support Al Giordano and others who have decided to take down their writing from the site.

Which brings me to Markos and dailyKos.  I have loved writing for dailyKos over the years.  But if today’s events tell me anything, it’s that dailyKos might well be the next group web site to be sold for hundreds of millions of dollars.  And it’s the same as HuffPo in this:  there are many, many talented people writing diaries there.  There is some brilliant writing.  That writing is the value of the site.  And that writing is being given to the site and its readership for free.  And when the site is ultimately acquired by the capitalists with the big check books and they write Markos a gigantic check, what then?  Same story, different day.  I’ll be told that I agreed to write for free, that I had a large audience, and that is all.  I got what I deserve; I will get nothing more. Things will be the same with the new corporate master.   Why, I wonder, should I or anyone else contribute our writing, increase the value of the site, and then, poof, have it be sold while we receive nothing?

As America’s former poet laureate tried to say, “Fool me once, shame on you.  Fool me twice, shame on me.”  So, no, I’m done.  I will not be moving to DK4 when the site changes over this week.  I will not be publishing any further diaries at dailyKos.  I am not willing to continue to provide value to dailyKos that will eventually be sold without any payment of any kind to me.  No.  I’m done.  I’ll stick to my blog and to the Writers Port Alliance.  You can join me there or at the other Writers Port Alliance sites (all listed at the top of this blog) .

cross posted from The Dream Antilles  



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  1. davidseth

    The specter of valuing our writing.

    Thanks for reading.

  2. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    I could not agree more with you!  However, I have a HUGE caveat, one that I hope that you will understand.  By the way, I have NEVER even read The Huffington Post, honestly!  Hearing about it was enough to puke me off of it (that is an old Arkansas expression, as something so foul as “to puke a dog off of a gut wagon”).

    I shall continue to contribute to the big orange because of the community, not the administrators.  This is extremely personal, but I was accused of a crime (that I did not commit, but all ex-cons say that, LOL!  I was never convicted of anything more than disorderly conduct, and spitting of the street can get you that) and was literally despondent.  Family did not want that much to do with me (until the matter was cleared up, in my favor), friends shunned me, and I was, well, about one round away from oblivion.  I lost a very high paying job as well, and have been living off of savings since.  That stings, since when I get old I will have essentially nothing.  But I know how to build a fire, pitch a tent, and cook vermin.

    The people there, not the administrators, encouraged me to get better.  Many of those folks are still there, and a small trinket of my thanks to them for, quite literally, keeping me alive are my contributions.

    You have to allow that the big orange gets a lot of traffic, and I have since many months ago originated all of my posts here, not there.  Honestly, though, for all of the responses that I get for my unpaid efforts, 98% of them are there.  This is because of the huge amount of traffic there.  I owe those folks who helped me to live.

    I will make this deal with folks here.  I shall encourage my loyal readers (and there are a LOT of them, because I almost always make the Jotter list of High Impact Diaries, to read my work here rather than there.  I suspect that in a couple of weeks that I will be banned, but what the hell!

    I hope that you can understand why I will continue to contribute there, even if it makes money for them.  The people there literally saved my life, and that is quite a debt for me to repay.

    So, let’s get busy to make this confederation to get more traffic!  I will continue to contribute my science and cultural essays, and more if it looks good, but we also have to have day jobs, too.  The bigwigs at huff and orange have their day jobs as their sites.

    Does this make even a whit of sense?  It is not the administrators,  it is the PEOPLE!

    Warmest regards, and any thoughts would be appreciated,


  3. Translator, aka Dr. David W. Smith

    to seem more deeply thinking if you would just have said hello.  Perhaps you were already asleep.  By not paying any interest, you sort of sound like the rest of them.  I hope that I am wrong.


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