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Lessons from Egypt (for Huffington Post bloggers)

Posted by Rob Anderson  February 11, 2011 02:05 PM

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ah.JPGIn the wake of her $315 million deal with AOL, Arianna Huffington might be on top of the world, but she has a new set of bitter enemies. Her 9,000 unpaid bloggers have suddenly realized — perhaps a smidgen too late — that their free labor just made somebody else rich. A new Facebook page called "Hey, Arianna, can you spare a dime?" has become a sort of clearinghouse for blogger complaints, mixed with a little self-loathing, plus a few feeble appeals for Huffington to share her spoils with some of the people who did the work.

So far, no dice; in an interview with "The Wrap," Huffington said that she had no intention of paying her bloggers, in the past or in the future. “That’s not how we see blogging," she said. "We are providing a super-charged, turbo-charged platform.” And in a post titled "How the Huffington Post Works (in case you were wondering)," HuffPo editor Jason Linkins also uses the "exposure is its own reward" argument, pointing out that John Kerry, Robert Reich, and Alec Baldwin don't care if they get $50 for an essay. Linkins fails to acknowledge that none of these men is a struggling freelance writer. But he does note that it's not just original content that draws all of those page views. It's also...content aggregated from other journalism outlets. Which Huffington also gets for free.

Does this make Huffington a brilliant business mastermind? Or does it make her "the Mubarak of new media exploitation," as someone on Facebook calls her? Maybe a little of both. But perhaps the Egyptian demonstrations can provide some inspiration here: If no one writes for Huffington for free, she'll have quite a bit less to post. Some left-wing figures like Kerry, Reich, and Baldwin could join the boycott, too. Nothing screams "I disapprove of labor exploitation" more than declining to profit from it.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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