Axegrinder has to admire the chutzpah of Hufffington Post UK editor-in-chief Stephen Hull who has a novel justification for the fact that his site is largely based on content from an army of 13,000 unpaid bloggers.
When asked about the rights and wrongs of this on Radio 4's Media Show, he said: "I love this question."
Warming to his theme, he said: "If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.”
Axegrinder suspects many of those bloggers are being paid by someone.
His inversion of Samuel Johnson's adage that "no man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money" has led to raised eyebrows around the journalistic community.
"Presumably he can’t go out to eat at restaurants, because the food the (paid) chefs cook him is inauthentic. And when he’s ill, he must have to research his symptoms online instead of visiting a GP, because their salaries mean the diagnoses they give aren't real. He must have to walk to work because of all those pesky salaried workers driving tube trains and buses, ruining the authenticity of the daily commute."
Media Guido notes that HuffPo UK's can afford to pay but won't and that policy extends to journalists calling in with stories.
One has an email quoting the response they were given from a HuffPo editor: "Your angle sounds v interesting. However, unfortunately we don’t commission any freelance content on HuffPost, so not sure how you’d like to proceed. You are welcome to write a blog for us (uncommissioned, unpaid) or you could supply quotes and info and I could credit you? Let me know if either of these work for you."
Axegrinder blushes to admit that the days when he could afford to pay tips for stories are a distant memory. But he likes to think that if, like HuffPo owner AOL, he had revenue of $2.3bn a year he might be a little more generous.