I was poking around a webzine (do people still say that?) I used to read back in the day and decided to see if, after nearly a decade of existence, if it was paying its writers. here’s what I found, really low on its “Call for Submissions” page, in reduced font size:
Note: We are unable to pay you for your work at this time, but you will not go entirely uncompensated; your ‘pay’ is the opportunity to address our readership, currently 1 million-plus unique readers per month and counting.
We are supposedly in the Golden Age of the Startup, where college students and geeks with a bit of drive and a novel idea can potentially become multi-millionaires – or at least quit their day jobs – and writers are still, still writing for pageviews.
AOL’s purchase of Huffington Post was another swift kick in the gut for professional online writing, especially the unpaid bloggers who are now hoping for a piece of the AOL pie after years of creating content and bringing traffic to the site. As much as I sympathize with all of the writers who expected some compensation for all of their efforts – it’s deserved and long overdue – this battle was one that needed to be fought by professional writers years ago, when there was still something to leverage with then – fledgling websites, so hungry for content.
I don’t mean to single out HuffPo, that website is certainly not the sole offender when it comes to paying with pageviews. I don’t even think it’s the fault of the internet. I think it’s us, the scores of writers (myself included) who have devalued our own work over the years by doing professional-level work for free — or for far too little.
We write for exposure. We write for practice. We write for press passes. We write for beer/diaper/vacation money. We write for lulz. But we don’t write to support ourselves. And we end up screwing ourselves everytime.
Absolutely nothing about the above blog post has changed, save one crucial element: it’s worse now because content websites are now coming up with monetization strategies – advertisers are finally coming around to seeing the value of online – but many of these strategies are built around the idea that websites can always find someone to write for “exposure” or for WAY less than they are worth. Some can afford to do it because they have full-time jobs or spouses or side projects that pay their bills. Some writers have been able to use their free writing gigs to network and gain entry into paying gigs, but it’s still the exception rather than the rule. Writers for the most part are still waiting for online monetization of some of the bigger blogs/webzines to trickle down to content creators, and for the majority of writers that ship has sailed.