Friday, June 5, 2009

AdAge on Arianna

Sure, I like HuffPo as much as the next liberal, but i couldn't agree more with AdAge's Simon Dumenco. He points out the irony in the fact that Syracuse's Journalism School is giving its "Fred Dressler Lifetime Achievement Award" to the woman whose business model relies on kicking journalists to the curb.

Arianna pays writers in "exposure". Not money. Which is great, if you already have a day job, or don't need one. But whether her fault or not, the problem is that the model has spread to any number of digital news sites that are reluctant to pay for content. (Content. What is that, exactly?) And expect writers to not only thank them for the privilege, but come back for more:

Write for us! We'll give you visibility! We'll pay you by the click! You never have to leave the building! All you have to do is riff on other people's work!

I've ranted (okay, riffed) about the insidious practice here, here and here, among other venues. No good can come of it. Not for writers. Not for readers. (er, users?)

From the post:

I've been raging about HuffPo's devaluation of content -- and, ergo, content creators -- since late 2007, when HuffPo co-founder Ken Lerer told USA Today the company had no plans to ever pay its bloggers: "That's not our financial model. We offer them visibility, promotion and distribution with a great company."

At the time, a HuffPo contributor, Blake Fleetwood, wrote an open letter to Jim Romenesko's media blog, saying, "For HuffPo to have paid their posters from the beginning would probably have doomed the experiment at its inception." Well, fine -- except that last year The New Yorker was reporting that HuffPo was already basically break-even. And insiders have floated a valuation for the company of $200 million. I've questioned that bloated figure in this column as recently as January, but even if HuffPo is worth half that or a quarter of that, well, it's unconscionable for Huffington and Lerer and the backers of HuffPo to create millions for themselves on the backs of bloggers duped into working for "visibility." Especially since the most obvious beneficiary of the HuffPo visibility dividend is Arianna Huffington herself.

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