Have HuffPo bloggers been hard used?

Not a bit of it. I’d be inclined to make a moral claim on behalf of some of HuffPo’s worker-bees, but not for those of us who merely droned on.

Keith wants to know whether I, as a sometime Huffington Post blogger, think I have a claim to some of Arianna Huffington’s nine-digit profit from the HuffPo/AOL merger.

No, I don’t. Not at all. Not even a little part of me thinks it has a claim for even a little bit of the money.

Arianna risked a chunk of her cash on an on-line magazine that might easily have folded. She put her own energy into making it happen. In doing so, she provided me, for free, with a platform to promote my ideas (and, for that matter, the RBC).

Arianna never asked me – or anyone else, so far as I know – to write for HuffPo as a favor to her, or to serve some wider purpose. When it was advantageous to me to post there, I did so. Otherwise, I didn’t.

Back in the days when fresh blog posts went on the HuffPo front page until displaced by later posts, I discovered that I could cross-post something from RBC at 11pm Pacific time with a good chance that it would still be on top when folks on Eastern time started to log on. So I did so fairly frequently when I thought I had something especially interesting to say, and got a pretty decent audience. Then the system changed to eliminate that ploy, and I went on HuffPo less often.

I’d be inclined to make a moral claim on behalf of some of HuffPo’s worker-bees, but not for those of us who merely droned on. No one has ever mistaken me for a saint, but it doesn’t take an ounce of moral energy to avoid feeling any resentment in this case. There’s simply nothing to resent.

Now the people trying to make a living by getting paid for their writing on a piecework basis, or looking for salaried jobs as journalists, have a legitimate beef against the HuffPo business model, and for that matter against the unfair competition provided by bloggers who, like me, get paid in other ways. But that’s a different gripe, and part of the larger problem of paying for non-rival goods.

I’m delighted that a basically Blue site, on which I still have posting privileges, will now reach a fairly large and mostly Red audience. And I’m glad that someone with an interest in progressive causes now has somewhat more money with which to express that interest.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com

5 thoughts on “Have HuffPo bloggers been hard used?”

  1. I’m delighted that a basically Blue site, on which I still have posting privileges, will now reach a fairly large and mostly Red audience.

    Yes, but most won’t partake. And you aren’t interested in numbers anyway, just those receptive to ideas.

  2. People who specialize in creative work always face this problem. There is always some chunk of writers, artists, musicians, etc. who are just happy to get their ideas/products out to an audience so if you want to get paid to do it, how the helk can you compete with free?
    The answer is to be better and work hard at marketing yourself and your work. As Mark has done you can set up your own outlet and spread the word by handing out free samples up the street. But of course all Mark’s stuff is free here too so I guess he’s just one of those freebes screwwing up the market for the professional hookers. Life is tough but it beats the alternative.

  3. The big question is: how many will continue to put out how much and what quality free work? There will be some chunk of people who are not going to contribute to a for-profit website for free.

  4. If they don’t want to contribute to a for-profit company for free (I sure wouldn’t) they should switch to a nonprofit website. Probably should have switched a while ago.

    So what if HuffPo alienates some people, and loses its audience. A new site could replace them easily. It’s not hard to make a website.

    I for one hate HuffPo for the simple reason that its articles suck. Post somewhere else and I will be a lot more likely to see it.

  5. The folks who really got screwed are the AOL shareholders. But that’s poetic.

    However, if the employees who helped build the value are not sharing, at least in part, then that’s simply bad form on Arianna and her partners part. But I have no idea what the real details are.

    I think much of the antipathy toward Arianna is that she appears to be a publicity seeking opportunist who married for money, supported Republicans when that was fashionable, switched for whatever reason, ran for CA governor to be part of the circus, and now may be raking in a huge profit by having some suckers overpay and then not sharing the wealth. Can’t say how much of that is true or just misunderstood, but it doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable perception.

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