Actor and Geek Icon Wil Wheaton went to town on the Huffington Post yesterday after HuffPo reached out to Wheaton and asked to print one of his stories for free of course, because it would give him “exposure”. This is the same scam the the media giant has used since its inception while reaping in millions upon millions of dollars of profit every year,
I’m very lucky to not need exposure or “reach” or anything like that, at least not right now and not this way. I’m also very lucky to be able to walk away from things like this because I believe it’s the right thing to do. If I’d offered this to Huffington Post for nothing, because I hoped they’d publish it, that would be an entirely different thing, because it was my choice.
I don’t know what the going rate is for something like this. At six cents a word, which is SFWAs lowest professional rate for short fiction (not a perfect comparison, but at least something to reference that’s similar), it would be $210. That’s not nothing, but it’s not house payment money. Maybe I should have just taken their fabulous offer of exposure?
I don’t think so, because it’s the principle of the thing. Huffington Post is valued at well over fifty million dollars, and the company can absolutely afford to pay contributors. The fact that it doesn’t, and can get away with it, is distressing to me.
The exchange I had with this editor wasn’t unpleasant, and I know that she’s doing what her bosses tell her to do. I don’t blame her for the company policy. If I’d brought this to Huffington Post and asked the site to publish it, it would be an entirely different situation, I think, (I already posted it on my Medium account, anyway), but this is one of those “the line must be drawn here” things for me. I don’t know if I made the right call, but I do feel good about standing on principle, and having an opportunity to rant a little bit about why I did.
Although I am aquantances with two of Huff Po major players; Noah Michealson, Executive Editor of Gay Voices at The Huffington Post and Michelangelo Signorile HuffPo’s Gay Voices Editor-at-Large I 100% agree with Wheaton and have said the same thing for years. I will go even 1 step further and say that Huffington Post helped kill the blogosphere. (Well the gay one anyway.) And while HuffPo refuses to even pay a stipend to its “citizen journalists” unfortunately they are not alone and this situation is not unique. Many popular “blogs”, ranging from Daily Kos to Hot Air to Talking Points Memo do the same thing. But NONE of these sites make over 30 million dollars a year in profit. And as for “reach” and “exposure” lets face you are not going to be offered a job from another website or even at HuffPo no matter how much content excellent content you create and send to them for free.
To quote Los Angeles Times’s Tim Rutten “To grasp The Huffington Post’s business model picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates.” And its well past time for the slaves to revolt.
Don;t give your work away. If HuffPo won’t pay open up your Blog again. Fewer people may see it. But at least you’ll make a few bucks in ads, have only your own guideline and won’t be supporting a culture where the top makes money off the backs of people working for free.
Or maybe just maybe the Huffington Post is Republican. Who knew?