Posted on | February 9, 2011 | 34 Comments
Imagine a future in which AOL, the online portal for millions of people, farms out its news content to the Huffington Post. Imagine a future in which Yahoo!, the online portal for millions of similar people, hires the deputy publisher of Talking Points Memo to launch its blog network.
For a progressive who thinks the Internet is increasingly driving the narrative, this is heartening.
No more Koch money for you, Dave!
OK, so now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s talk a bit more about the HuffPo/AOL deal, with Tom Blumer documenting the fundamental issue:
Since start-up, HuffPo hasn’t paid its bloggers either, despite getting [more than $35 million in capital investment], and achieving [annual] revenues of about $30 million. . . . AOL is gambling that HuffPo’s apparently across-the-board gratis arrangement with its content providers, who as of mid-2009 numbered about 4,000, will continue. Why in the world should it?
Read the whole thing, because this points to an inescapable problem with the group-blog “community” site concept: If you are relying on unpaid contributors for a significant amount of content at a site where the proprietors are earning enough revenue to pay full-time salaries to some people, how do you justify paying nothing to most of your contributors?
Where is the incentive for “chopped liver” contributors — evidently not valuable enough to merit salaries — to keep feeding free content onto your site? If some people are expected to write for free, on behalf of “the cause,” why are other people getting paid to write for “the cause”?
Oh, right: They do it for the prestige of being able to call themselves a “Huffington Post contributor” (who isn’t good enough to get paid).
If Arianna collects a lump sum of $18 million plus a job with a $4 million annual salary, shouldn’t HuffPo contributors feel that they’ve been shamefully exploited?
Dana Milbank asks: “Did Arianna Huffington just sell out her fellow progressives?” Someone could make a handsome profit selling “Honk If You’ve Been Sold Out by Arianna Huffington” bumper stickers.
If this is how Arianna rolls, why should anyone do anything other than roll their eyes at her declaration that she “hopes to turn AOL into a center of ‘citizen journalism’ in advance of the 2012 elections?”
In that context, “citizen journalism” can only mean: You work for free, and we’ll cash in if you do good work.
Speaking of cashing in: AOL closed last Thursday at $22.24 and closed Tuesday at $20.89. If you owned 1,000 shares of AOL, you just lost $1,350 for “the cause” in the span of three days’ trading. How do you feel about your $1,350 loss, compared to Arianna’s $18 million gain?
Also: People are now trying to get Google-bomb traffic out of the HuffPo/AOL deal. Yeah, it would be a shame if people started Googling for “Arianna Huffington nude” or something like that.
UPDATE: Weigel insists that I’ve misinterpreted what he said and that he did not actually mean to declare himself a “progressive.” By way of apology, I’ve offered Dave the “Arianna Huffington sex video” Google bomb.
The “Arianna Huffington sucks” Google bomb was already taken.
UPDATE II: “Search engine optimization won’t work forever.” True. But it didn’t have to work forever, just long enough for Arianna to sell out. And I’m sorry, Farhad Manj, but you’re too late to claim the “Arianna Huffington blows” Google bomb.