Posted in Other on April 13, 2011
There’s been a lot in the news recently about The Huffington Post, it’s founder Arianna Huffington, and AOL, the company that acquired The Huffington Post for $315 million in February this year. Most of the coverage has been pertaining to a group of volunteer bloggers who have filed a class action suit against all three parties, stating that they want to be compensated for the content they’ve contributed freely to The Huffington Post, and they feel helped the site achieve it’s $315 million sale price. Most of this action has been led by Jonathan Tasini, a union organiser who has been writing for The Huffington Post since December 2005.
The reason I have decided to bring this matter up, and go a little off topic here on RunawayJane.com, is that I feel these bloggers, and a lot of other people that I have seen commenting on the subject, are failing to see the big picture here. For a start, The Huffington Post is a page rank 8 website. It is also one of the most visited sites, not just in the USA, but in the world! There are millions of visitors to The Huffington Post every year. One link back from HuffPo could give a huge boost in your own site’s SEO, and all round exposure to so many people that the money you would make in the long run writing one article for The Huffington Post would far outweigh the money you would receive writing one article for a much smaller online publication with less audience.
To give you an example, Gary Arndt, the man behind travel blog Everything Everywhere, wrote a comment on one of my other blogs around 5 months ago in regards to a debate I had brought up discussing Freelance Vs Self Publication. In it he referenced The Huffington Post, when the website was asking some established travel writers and bloggers to contribute for free a little while before AOL had actually taken over. This is a section from his comment:
“I’ve written one article for the Huffington Post. I did it for free and it took a few hours of my time. That one article was then picked up by Tim Ferri’s blog.
Between the two sources, that one article has received 25,000 Facebook likes/shares, 15,000 retweets, 500 comments, and had a quarter million stumbles. I was contacted by 2 literary agents, a TV producer and the subscribers to my blog increased by 3,500….which is more subscribers than all but a small handful of travel blogs have total.
As a publisher, how much would it have cost me to get that sort of publicity? Answer: far, far, far more than what I could have possibly received in exchange for writing the article.”
I don’t know about you, but if I had written an article that had as much exposure as Gary’s one post did, I don’t think I’d be worrying about getting paid for it.
There is also the point to be made, that regardless of your views on the rights and wrongs of The Huffington Post asking writers to contribute for free, you have to ask yourself why are these writers and bloggers (who have already contributed several times to the HuffPo website) now asking for money? Take Jonathan Tasini as an example. He has written for The Huffinton Post since December 2005. That 6 years he’s been writing for them. As far as I am aware, The Huffington Post have never said he would be paid, he was always writing with the understanding that he was contributing for free. So why now is it that he is seeking compensation? At the end of the day, if you do not want to write for free, or feel it devalues your work, then you don’t have to! The Huffington Post are not forcing anybody to contribute to their site. The deal is that if you want to write for them then you are writing for free. If you don’t like it, then don’t write it!
I think the key into the main differences of opinion that people have on this debate does come down to whether you view writing for The Huffington Post as being a freelance gig, or something to aid your own publication. I think the main problem is that some people are viewing writing for HuffPo as freelance work, but in actual fact what they are offering is simply a platform for which to expose your own blog to a new and much larger audience. At least that’s the way I see it anyway.
Nobody wants to write for nothing, but just because there is not an immediate monetary value by writing for The Huffington Post, does not mean you are getting nothing in return. Look beyond it and you will see the end result is much larger than the immediate gratification.