- Do you feel you should receive part of the $315 million AOL used to purchase the Huffington Post?
- Do you feel that the Huffington Post’s brand has changed since the merger with AOL?
- How would you compare the conditions at the Huffington Post to other sites you have blogged for?
- Some have raised concerns about the labor arrangement bloggers have with The Huffington Post. In your opinion, what do you think is the best way for bloggers to address the issue of compensation for digital labor?
When we were invited to become a Huffington Post blogger last year I understood that the company paid nothing. We surveyed our writers’ reaction to assess their willingness to have their material reposted there for no additional pay. Visual Art Source, ArtScene and Art Ltd. form an umbrella art publishing company that is actually quite large by the standards of our very specialized field. The tens of thousands of readers and online users that we boast, however, are miniscule compared to the 26 million visitors per month that the Huffington Post currently draws.
Yet we are now going on strike. For now, at least, no more content from us will appear on the Huffington Post.
...we shall remain on strike until these two demands are met. First, a pay schedule must be proposed and steps initiated to implement it for all contributing writers and bloggers. Second, paid promotional material must no longer be posted alongside editorial content; a press release or exhibition catalogue essay is fundamentally different from editorial content and must be either segregated and indicated as such, or not published at all.
I am also calling upon all others now contributing free content, particularly original content to the Huffington Post to also join us in this strike.
Tim Rutten, writing in the Los Angeles Times on Wednesday, wrote that the real loser in the deal will be journalism itself. He likened The Huffington Post’s business model, which emphasizes aggregation and unpaid contributors, to “a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates.” He writes:
“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 the 1990s, America Online established a Community Leader Program within its membership service; community leaders were trained members who would do tasks like moderating chatrooms, reporting offensive behavior, answering questions from other subscribers, and organizing fantasy sports games. In exchange for working a certain number of hours a week, these “volunteers” would get discounts on their monthly AOL connection fee. Thousands of members took part in the program. But in 1999, a group of those Community Leaders asked the Department of Labor to investigate whether the program violated the Federal Fair Labor Standards Act.
But the AOL litigation, at least, was a tricky case nonetheless. The court denied AOL’s requests for dismissal, but it didn’t move to bring the case to trial, either. Hallissey et al. v. America Online sat in the court for years before AOL finally moved to settle the case in 2009. The payout was reportedly for $15 million...
...The Huffington Post is under no legal obligation to give them anything more than that forum. Under current labor law—unless we’re missing something here—The Huffington Post’s business model is perfectly legal. But is it right?
Even though the writers don’t feel that they are being used, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t. The Huffington Post reaps actual direct financial rewards from all this free labor, whereas the bloggers’ rewards are indirect, and primarily emotional. That has always been true, but the contrast is thrown into much sharper relief when we suddenly learn the extent of those financial rewards, to the tune of $315 million.
We live in a time of unrelenting class warfare. We are the richest nation on earth—yet that wealth is flowing into the hands of the few. The greatest stage for that class warfare is in the workplace: CEOs and their top executives believe that they are the most important part of the company and that they should reap an obscene portion of the value created by WORKERS.
The Huffington Post was, is and will never be, anything without the thousands of people who create the content. Ms. Huffington is acting like every Robber Baron CEO—from Lloyd Blankfein to the Waltons—who believes that they, and only they, should pocket huge riches, while the rest of the peons struggle to survive. Ms. Huffington stance has been clear: only she deserves the fruits of the labor of the people who work for her.
Actually, Arianna Huffington is worse than the CEOs of the banks, the Walton family of Wal-mart. At least, they pay their workers something—even if those wages aren’t enough to make ends meet.
Huffington pays zero. Nothing. Nada.
Arianna Huffington is a hypocrite. While reaping money and building her “brand” based on books and speeches decrying the growing divide between rich and poor (I am not linking to those books in order to avoid giving her even more cash to pocket), Ms. Huffington is precisely acting to impoverish bloggers and create a blogger-plantation–where her slaves work to build her fortune.
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