When I was in Afghanistan, an editor at The Huffington Post wrote about publishing my work on their site. They said I would receive very prominent placement” and a “link back” to my website. No pay, of course, but a link. Exposure. The currency of the web economy: attention.
I said no.
For years many people have kept their mouths shut about Arianna’s abhorrent business practice of not paying contributors for fear of being blacklisted from her tabloid link farm. Had she been a conservative that launched an influential website of this kind, I imagine she would have been branded the Wicked Witch of the Web years ago. (Those sites already existing on the right, she changed her politics. Now she’ll shift to the center with the money.)
Now that HuffPo has merged with AOL for $315 million, her contributors feel duped. Maybe they thought it was a non-profit venture.
Lots of reactions out there. So far I’ve seen some good cartoons from Ted Rall, Mark Fiore, and Matt Wuerker. I was quoted in a Neon Tommy article and chimed in at the bottom of this piece written by a HuffPo writer who claims to be a “slave” who has posted “25 original articles that I value at more than $25,000,for free.”
She values them at $25,000… which is why she gave them away for free.
Arianna is drawing inspiration from Orwell while promoting the deal, claiming the partnership with AOL is a time when “one plus one equals eleven.” Pretty odd math for someone who recently counted to 315 million.
Orwell seems a big inspiration over there. For the HuffPo party line, check out Jason Linkins’ reactionary and childish lashing out at critics. Amid the huffing and condescension comes the following defense of why not paying people is OK since they are not forced to contribute any certain amount of content:
Please note, that part of what “free” entitles you to is a freedom from “having to work.”
I imagine Orwell would have phrased it a little better, opting for the satisfying rhythm of “Working for free is freedom from work.” But then, you’d have to pay for that kind of writing.”