Should The HuffingtonPost.com Pay Its Bloggers? Not on Your Life!
As reported in ValleyWag.com, the AP's Simon Dumenco has been on the warpath for the past several weeks against The HuffingtonPost.com for not paying the Bloggers who contribute to the popular liberal site. Dumenco seems particularly miffed by Huffington co-founder Ken Lerer's remark that paying its contributors is "inconsistent with HuffPo's business model."
Frankly, I think this is all a tempest in a teapot. Using volunteers to build a brand by offering them a few crumbs of recognition in exchange for monetizable text IS the business model of the Web. The multi-billion dollar AOL brand could not have been built without the cooperation of legions of unpaid volunteers. Geocities would never have made its founders rich without the cooperation of unpaid, attention-seeking home page authors. One can argue that Google is nothing more than a huge content aggregator that uses the same time-proven model of exchanging visibility for intellectual property.
Nobody holds a gun to the heads of HuffPo's writers forcing them to write for the site. They willingly contribute and reap the benefits downstream on their own sites or elsewhere in their off-line careers. Call this new content exchange model a way-new form of capitalism, or a sinister species of socialism, but it's the way the idea marketplace works and it's not going away.