Should you be paid to Blog?
If you want to create a lightning rod of discourse in the online channels, just ask that question. If you want to make that lightning rod look like a mole hill, ask the same question but add in the words, "for The Huffington Post" at the end of the sentence. Don't worry, this is not another Blog post that will evaluate the business model of The Huffington Post (in full disclosure, I write a regular column titled, Media Hacker, every two weeks for The Huffington Post that gives me great pleasure). In today's Montreal Gazette (another publication that I write for and love), there was an article titled, Huffington Post Quebec Loses Bloggers. This is not a geographic story, but a great indication of how traditional media fails to grasp what new media has brought. The crux of the story is that Huffington Post Quebec will be launching next week and nine "high-profile contributors... who had agreed to blog... have now pulled out over controversy they'd be writing for free."
Writing for free is not controversial.
Traditional media seems to believe that unless a writer is being paid, that there is some kind of inequity in the relationship or that someone is being taken advantage of. This is both silly and incorrect. If your full-time vocation is being a writer, you have a choice to get paid to write or to write for free. Simply put: sometimes you're paying the bills and in other instances you are both building a platform and getting promotional benefits from adding your voice in a new and different place. Many of the Bloggers at The Huffington Post leveraged that by-line to get book deals, other writing gigs, speaking opportunities or as a way to bolster their resume (which led to new employment or promotions). I wonder how many of the Bloggers who wrote for free at The Huffington Post and then got a book deal offered back some of that advance to The Huffington Post because without that byline (and the ability for the Blogger to leverage that platform to promote the book), the book deal may not have happened? But, I digress.
The majority of people who Blog for The Huffington Post are not professional writers.
In fact, the majority of the bigger names who contribute to The Huffington Post don't even have a Blog. These politicians, celebrities, artists and thinkers are leveraging (or using) The Huffington Post's massive reach and platform for promotional means. They're using it to put their ideas out there. That was always the spirit of what The Huffington Post offers and it continues to be that way (if you also dig a little deeper, you'll note that The Huffington Post has been hiring a lot of writers, journalists and editors over the past few years). If nine high-profiled individuals have decided that the only way that they would like to take part in a platform like The Huffington Post is to be paid, then they should look at getting a writing gig at some of the newspapers, magazines and TV stations that are promoting a non-news items like this one. If you're not being paid to contribute and anyone can contribute, did The Huffington Post actually "lose" anything? I guess they also lost the other eight million people who live in Quebec who have decided not to contribute?
Does new media undermine journalism?
It's not just about The Huffington Post. There is (still) a tremendous push from professional writers and journalists that providing content for free to online media channels undermines journalism because the content should never be given away for free. The more ardent supporters of this theory will say that it's also killing local writers and taking food away from their families. As a former professional journalist, my reaction is: crazy talk. This Blog has given me both credibility and audience. The output of it has been requests from editors to contribute to magazines, newspapers, TV shows, a significant book publishing deal, speaking opportunities and - most importantly - countless new business opportunities for Twist Image (the main reason we started this Blog in the first place).
Do I get paid to Blog? No. Does Blogging pay? Big time!
I contribute to The Huffington Post and Montreal Gazette for the same reason: to get my name out there in the hopes that it drives many new and powerful opportunities into Twist Image. And - in case you were wondering - so far, so good. If my sole income was based on me selling my words, I would not stop this process at all. In fact, I would recommend ratcheting it up. Why? The more I write for free, the more other media properties want to pay me to write. How strange is this: I have been offered more paid writing opportunities since starting this Blog and contributing to The Huffington Post than when I was a full-time freelance writer back in the nineties.
We live in a free and capitalist society (like it or not). Nobody is forcing anyone to do anything against their will when it comes to contributing to a Blog. It's a choice. If the publisher benefits and the writer benefits, I would argue that everyone benefits. If a writer feels that the publisher will benefit more, there is a very simple resolution: don't do it and start your own. If the writer benefits more than the publisher, maybe the writer should do something to correct that inequity as well. Traditional media is built on a scarcity model (limited space to tell a story and vetted by a small number of editors). New Media is driven by the abundance model (anyone who can contribute is welcome to and the audience will decide what gains traction). It's up to these journalists, writers and bloggers to decide which platform mix works best for their careers.
Now it's your turn: do you think Bloggers should be paid?