Arianna Huffington: Blogger 'galley slaves' are not pursued to write for free

Arianna Huffington has responded to the suggestion that she has sold-out her website’s army of unpaid bloggers by accepting a $315m offer from AOL.

Huffington herself is rumoured to have made $100m from the deal which must be galling for many of the site’s 9,000 registered bloggers who write for free.

Tim Rutten, writing the LA Times, recently said: “To grasp the Huffington Post’s business mode, picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates.”

He wrote:

“…it makes all the Post’s raging against Wall Street plutocrats, crony capitalism and the Bush and Obama administrations’ insensitivities to the middle class and the unemployed a bit much.

“The fact is that AOL and the Huffington Post simply recapitulate in the new media many of the worst abuses of the old economy’s industrial capitalism – the sweatshop, the speedup and piecework; huge profits for the owners; desperation, drudgery and exploitation for the workers. No child labor, yet, but if there were more page views in it…”

In a fascinating interview with The Guardian today, Huffington responds to this saying:

“People who blog blog whenever they want – some of them blog every two years, they blog because they have ideas that they care about and they want to express them. It’s no different from people going on TV to promote their ideas. We’re hosting people who express their ideas and if they want to write, fine, and if they don’t, fine. We get thousands of submissions so it’s not like anyone is pursuing people to write for free.”

I find it very surprising that you can attract 9,000 bloggers without pursuing them a bit. But perhaps she is right.

On the other side of the coin, AOL’s journalism plans seem largely based around cynical manipulation of the Google search algorithm via a content-farm style approach, as explained in the Rutten piece.

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