Tuesday, February 08, 2011


NOTE TO READERS: Writer David Seth Michaels, an attorney in Columbia County, New York whose work appears from time to time in MyStoryLives, posted a thought-provoking post last night in his wonderful blog, Dream Antilles declaring his outrage that the thousands of bloggers who write for free for the HuffPost will not share in Arianna Huffington's new wealth (she is selling the HuffPost for $315 million!)

Meanwhile, The Daily Beast took an informal sample of 500 HuffPost readers' reactions to the takeover (monitoring for repetition) and found that only 19 percent of readers were happy about the AOL takeover! I have been perusing the comments myself this morning and I would say that yes, the number of negative comments drastically outweighs positive!


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Does it? I see a few things that make me hinky.

1. AOL acquired HP for 315 million and let's face it they want to recup that investment and that means they'll do what it takes to make more money including limiting content and working hard not to piss off advertiser s.
2. What happens when AOL (a dying company) gets gobbled up by some other media conglomera te?
3. Where does AOL stand on net neutrality ??? I don't want my favorite blogpo to turn into a schill for corporate control of the internet.

Thanks to David Seth Michaels for his thoughtul and provocative blogpost. That post and The Daily Beast's poll, and all the negative reaction to the AOL takeover, have certainly got me thinking! I invite yout thoughts and response!

"Sorry, Ariana and Markos, No More Free Content For You"

By David Seth Michaels

I know all too much about writing for free. I do it here all the time. It's a labor of love. I've been at it for more than 900 blog posts and more than 5 years. I know about writing without being paid for it. Despite that, and despite my understanding that when I post at group blogs I know I won't get paid, I am absolutely furious about the AOL-Huffington Post Deal. Why? Because the writers are getting screwed, and they're not going to get a cent out of the deal. Not a sou.

The news yesterday morning-- I'm sure you haven't missed it-- was that that beleaguered, dinosaur-of-dial up AOL has bought Huffington Post and made that doyenne of self promotion and faux progressive politics, Arianna, an AOL executive. Here's the essence of the story from The New York Times:

The two companies completed the sale Sunday evening and announced the deal just after midnight on Monday. AOL will pay $315 million, $300 million of it in cash and the rest in stock. It will be the company's largest acquisition since it was separated from Time Warner in 2009.

The deal will allow AOL to greatly expand its news gathering and original content creation, areas that its chief executive, Tim Armstrong, views as vital to reversing a decade-long decline.

Arianna Huffington, the cable talk show pundit, author and doyenne of the political left, will take control of all of AOL's editorial content as president and editor in chief of a newly created Huffington Post Media Group. The arrangement will give her oversight not only of AOL's national, local and financial news operations, but also of the company's other media enterprises like MapQuest and Moviefone.

Meanwhile, the bloggers at HuffPost, the ones who provide the "original content creation", that was just sold for $315,000,000.00 get, wait for it, nothing. Zilch. Nada. Zero. And in an email yesterday morning to bloggers, Ariana told them not to worry, no te preocupes, they could still churn out "original content creation", just like before, and well, continue to get the same nothing for it:

The HuffPost blog team will continue to operate as it always has. Arianna will become editor-in-chief not only of HuffPost but of the newly formed Huffington Post Media Group, which will include all of AOL's content sites, including Patch, Engadget, TechCrunch, Moviefone, PopEater, MapQuest, Black Voices, and Moviefone.

Together, our companies will have a combined base of 117 million unique U.S. visitors a month -- and 250 million around the world -- so your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation. That's the only real change you'll notice -- more people reading what you wrote.

Far from changing The Huffington Post's editorial approach, our culture, or our mission, it will be like stepping off a fast-moving train and onto a supersonic jet. We're still traveling toward the same destination, with the same people at the wheel, and with the same goals, but we're now going to get there much, much faster.

When I first read this, I was furious. I quickly penned an essay, which I published at dailyKos in which I argued that the bloggers, the writers at HuffPo were being screwed because they weren't getting a cent out of the $315 million dollar deal.

To my amazement, many of the comments to that essay told me that I was off base. Did I write for free and publish my writing at daily Kos? Yes. Didn't I do that because it would expose me to a wide audience? Yes. Didn't I write it all for free, without hope of money? Yes. Didn't I? I did. What kind of loon (I'm paraphrasing here) would think that he should write hundreds of diaries for free and that when the platform was sold, he should receive something? You've already received something, it was argued, you got the exposure and a larger audience for your writing. You don't, it was argued, deserve anything more. You get bupkis from the $315 million deal; you don't deserve more than that.

That just may be so. I never posted an essay or a comment at HuffPo. So I don't deserve any of the $315,000,000 Ariana and her investors are being paid. I figure that if Ariana put 1% of the deal up and gave it to the writers, there would be $3.15 million to distribute. How many writers could there be? If there were 1,000, they could each be given $3,150. They could be told, "Thank you for writing for free. Because your writing helped me make a bundle, I've decided to send you this small check as a token of my appreciation. Your writing is worth far more than this amount, but this is something I want you to have as a token of my gratitude. It's not pay. It's a gift. You helped me make a big score, and I want to thank you for that."

MSNBC is reporting that HuffPo had 6,000 free bloggers writing for it (last sentence of linked article). If that's so, the 1% gratuity would come to about $500 per person. And the number of people who wrote so that Ariana could be well paid would be enormouse.

At any rate, you'd expect some acknowledgment of the bloggers and writers. You wouldn't expect anything less from a progressive. When somebody at the race track gives you a tip, and you bet the horse, and it wins, you always give the tipper some of the winning. When a football quarterback wins a big game, he takes the linemen out to dinner and drinks. You have gratitude for those who make it possible to win. When someone in business helps you out and you have gratitude, you send flowers or wine or a fruit basket. Or you pay for a meal. These are expressions of gratitude for help. They are always appreciated, especially if your original deal was that you wouldn't be paid.

Is Ariana going to get out her check book and write a check, or is she going to sit on it? Probably the latter. So I won't be signing up to write at HuffPo at any time soon. And I'll support Al Giordano and others who have decided to take down their writing from the site.

Which brings me to Markos and dailyKos. I have loved writing for dailyKos over the years. But if today's events tell me anything, it's that dailyKos might well be the next group web site to be sold for hundreds of millions of dollars. And it's the same as HuffPo in this: there are many, many talented people writing diaries there. There is some brilliant writing. That writing is the value of the site. And that writing is being given to the site and its readership for free. And when the site is ultimately acquired by the capitalists with the big check books and they write Markos a gigantic check, what then? Same story, different day. I'll be told that I agreed to write for free, that I had a large audience, and that is all. I got what I deserve; I will get nothing more. Things will be the same with the new corporate master. Why, I wonder, should I or anyone else contribute our writing, increase the value of the site, and then, poof, have it be sold while we receive nothing?

As America's former poet laureate tried to say, "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." So, no, I'm done. I will not be moving to DK4 when the site changes over this week. I will not be publishing any further diaries at dailyKos. I am not willing to continue to provide value to dailyKos that will eventually be sold without any payment of any kind to me. No. I'm done. I'll stick to my blog and to the Writers Port Alliance. You can join me there!


Meanwhile, The Daily Beast conducted an informal survey of reader reactions to the takeover by AOL and found a huge proportion of Huff Post's most devoted readers were "livid" about the AOL takeover. Apparently, some 7,000 comments came in to the Huff Post about the takeover. This is what The Daily Beast wrote:

"So how did these users, collectively, feel about the deal? Pretty lousy, it turns out. The Daily Beast took the temperature of The Huffington Post community by wading through those comments, and randomly selecting 500 that expressed a clear opinion for or against the sale, taking care to avoid counting repeat commenters and also pulling data from all times of the day. From this large sample, a whopping 81 percent (405) opposed the acquisition in terms that ranged from confused to pessimistic to, most frequently, downright livid. Only 19 percent (95) were optimistic, though many of those were far closer to neutral.

"Politics was a driving force. The majority who posted worried deeply that the site has compromised its liberal principles by “selling out” to a large media corporation, expressing fears that creeping conservatism and draconian comment moderators will shut down its lively debate.

“We made HuffPost and we are being abandoned,” one aggrieved reader wrote. “They will aim for the center. That’s where the big money is.” Another added: “Corporate greed and intelligent analysis don’t merge.” Others couldn’t even bear to read the news: “I have no interest reading about yet another monopoly creation and the slow erosion of diversity in terms of news sources.”


Finally, one writer for the HuffPost, Al Giordano, who keeps a blog called Narco News, announced yesterday this story that because of the merger, he has pulled all of his content off the HuffPost. Thanks David Michaels for sending that Giordano link! CR

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