People do a lot of things just for the "exposure." It could well be that the concept of exposure is about to become overexposed.
Recently, there was a press release about a new online news publisher that had received some venture funding (not an usual story and not much of a big deal in today's world). While the news went fairly unnoticed in the grander scheme of things, it created several discussions in online newsgroups and email. One individual commented that while the investment was interesting, their business model is still undefined and that they do not pay their writers (a very similar model to that of The Huffington Post). So, why would anyone (in particular, a journalist) write for an online publisher like The Huffington Post for free?
People will do anything for exposure.
Ultimately, the whole point of publishing anything is to get attention and exposure. Check out this blurb from a Huffington Post blog post entitled, How The Huffington Post Can Pay Its Bloggers, from July of 2009:
"It's great exposure, the tone is unapologetically opinionated and if you've ever met Arianna Huffington you've noticed that she exudes a kind of warmth and authenticity that is rare for people at her level in the media world. But not only are people willing to write for Arianna for free, she is also willing to let us write for her for free, something an old guard institution like the New York Times won't even consider... Additionally, and perhaps less capitalistically, The Huffington Post has a responsibility as a new media pioneer to set a payment precedent that values content providers. Perhaps Arianna's only concern is the bottom line, but considering that she is a woman who has been a politician, an author and a radio personality, it would seem that she isn't just in it for the money. She comes across as the type who would welcome the opportunity to shape the future of media in a way that takes into account both profitability and fairness."
You get the exposure there and the money somewhere else. That's the value.
That's the basic premise. They give you the exposure, you build up your own personal brand, and you monetize it however you like (it just won't be with them paying you for what you have written). This works well in a world of gatekeepers (as Seth Godin calls them) where there is a mass audience looking only at a handful of news sources, but how does that scale and grow as places like The Huffington Post continue to add more and more Bloggers (the more, the merrier... the more Bloggers, the more ads to serve)? How does this scale as more and more platforms like the Huffington Post come online and begin to fragment the audiences even further? How does this play out in a world where anybody and everybody can start their own Blog and build their own audience?
Is there a chance that in a world where everyone now has access to gain exposure that the actual value of exposure declines and becomes less valuable?