A very nice editor at Huffington Post contacted me yesterday, and asked me if I would be willing to grant permission for the site to republish my post about the seven things I did to reboot my life.
Huffington Post has a lot of views, and reaches a pretty big audience, and that post is something I’d love to share with more people, so I told the editor that I was intrigued, and asked what they pay contributors.
Well, it turns out that, “Unfortunately, we’re unable to financially compensate our bloggers at this time. Most bloggers find value in the unique platform and reach our site provides, but we completely understand if that makes blogging with us impossible.”
I translated this on Twitter thusly:
HuffPost: We’d like to publish a story you wrote!
Me: Cool! What do you pay?
HP: Oh, we can’t afford to pay, but EXPOSURE!
Me: How about no.
— Wil SCREAMton (@wilw) October 27, 2015
This set me off on a tiny bit of a rant:
Writers and bloggers: if you write something that an editor thinks is worth being published, you are worth being paid for it. Period. — Wil SCREAMton (@wilw) October 27, 2015
@wilw This advice applies to designers, photographers, programmers, ANYONE who makes something. You. Deserve. Compensation. For. Your. Work.
— Wil SCREAMton (@wilw) October 27, 2015
I’m very lucky to not need exposure or “reach” or anything like that, at least not right now and not this way. I’m also very lucky to be able to walk away from things like this because I believe it’s the right thing to do. If I’d offered this to Huffington Post for nothing, because I hoped they’d publish it, that would be an entirely different thing, because it was my choice.
I don’t know what the going rate is for something like this. At six cents a word, which is SFWAs lowest professional rate for short fiction (not a perfect comparison, but at least something to reference that’s similar), it would be $210. That’s not nothing, but it’s not house payment money. Maybe I should have just taken their fabulous offer of exposure?
I don’t think so, because it’s the principle of the thing. Huffington Post is valued at well over fifty million dollars, and the company can absolutely afford to pay contributors. The fact that it doesn’t, and can get away with it, is distressing to me.
The exchange I had with this editor wasn’t unpleasant, and I know that she’s doing what her bosses tell her to do. I don’t blame her for the company policy. If I’d brought this to Huffington Post and asked the site to publish it, it would be an entirely different situation, I think, (I already posted it on my Medium account, anyway), but this is one of those “the line must be drawn here” things for me. I don’t know if I made the right call, but I do feel good about standing on principle, and having an opportunity to rant a little bit about why I did.
947 thoughts on “you can’t pay your rent with “the unique platform and reach our site provides””
Shared your blog on my FB site. I wrote:
Rock on Wil Wheaton. I have said this for years. So many charities want our art DONATED for their cause. One of my clients said that they buy all their art that way and don’t have any room to display new work. Exposure? Yup. Good cause, yup. I wrote an article years ago on how intangibles could be auctioned off. Say golf, singing, acting, painting LESSONS. Writing too. DIY projects of all kinds. Something that could generate MORE lessons? Imagine Lazy Boy donating a recliner to every charity that asked….. be in business long? Nah. So how is that different from wee artists? Oh, I forgot, artists buy art. So I’m okay with that now…. not! There are so many talented folk who just give up. What does that say about our countries mentality towards makers? Europe cherishes them. But, hey, let’s get rid of the arts in schools…. see me shake my head here.
Off my rant. For now.
The talented people who give up are people who don’t know how to run a business, artistic talent will only take you so far. If you can’t figure out how to sell your work or how to partner with someone else who will do that then you are going to starve or spend your life making frappuccino art.
As for donating art, there’s nothing wrong with it, and nothing wrong with charities asking for it. There’s also nothing wrong with saying no. But blanket condemning charities for asking for donations, whether those are lessons or real goods, is flat out idiotic. Good businesses know how to capitalize on marketing/advertising/exposure. Bad ones don’t and will struggle in perpetuity to reach their potential until they do.
Not entirely true, Brendon. Those talented people give up for a plethora of reasons. Frustration is one of the most prevalent, as I have experienced. Remuneration comes slow and minuscule yet the utilities are like clockwork with their demands. I get tired of being asked repeatedly for my “kind” donation for whatever cause. I have great expectations when I finish a piece and find find those expectations achievable. And it is not for lack of trying. I, myself, belong to several on-line ‘sell your work’ sites, go through all the motions with gallery displays and art fairs and various other entities and success is elusive. The sale is an elusive creature. So, frustration sets in. And being badgered by these so-called worthwhile institutions only exacerbates it.
In that, I maintain you are completely wrong or misinformed!
Add to that, theft. Just flat-out stealing of our work. Do you know how many times one of my fellow artists, or even myself, have found our art/writings copied, used and abused, without even so much as a thank you, let alone permission? I have had to literally threaten serious legal action to force some to return my work or remove my art or poetry from sites and it persists to this very day.
Good businesses? There is a great deal to be said for those businesses who have started out with nothing, from scratch and have achieved unabated success. A fair amount of business acumen surely was utilized to become so wonderfully solvent.
Nothing for the luck of the draw when it comes knowing your market…inside and out, pitching your wares…and even having an ‘in’ and still coming away empty-handed for as many reasons as there are grains of sand?
I’m sorry, but if all it took to be success is a little business sense and/or the right contacts, there wouldn’t be as many bankruptcies as there have been over the years.
I guess I don’t know anything and will just have to resign myself to making frappuccino art since I am such a business non-entity…
Correction…after the double ‘find’, those expectations are unattainable.
That frustration you mention? The remuneration coming slow and miniscule, thus prompting the creator to give up? That’s symptomatic of not knowing how to run a business. That or they’re just not as talented as they thought they were.
“I’m sorry, but if all it took to be success is a little business sense and/or the right contacts, there wouldn’t be as many bankruptcies as there have been over the years.”
Sorry there, “twicebitten”, but that’s the reality. Most people who start businesses lack good business sense. Restaurants started by chefs, design firms started by designers, plumbing companies started by plumbers… people who are experts in their fields, but they don’t know how to start or manage a business. Managing a business is no harder than learning those other skills, but it’s a skill those people too rarely learn in the course of practicing their trade. They underestimate the time and knowledge base it takes to start and run a business, just as you apparently do.
I have to disagree with you on a number of points. I know how to run a business. I have managed several and can assure you that business knowledge will only take you so far on its own.
A creative business person is well aware of the high stakes and effort required to succeed in media. Knowing your market, the correct avenue for accumulating revenue and the proper distribution channels are all important, but the pie is small and the mouths to feed are great.
It doesn’t help matters that many artists are not only being short changed so to speak… but that the access for aggregate sites to open theft is rampant. While these businesses will take down the work they’ve stolen in many cases the damage is already done. Whatever revenue was accumulated by the uncredited exposure of an artists work are simply absorbed into the faceless world of Internet business.
Becoming an excellent and lucrative business person as an independent content creator will take far more than business acumen. It will take years of planned strategic branding, marketing and financial backing. It will also mean holding back your own work to properly protect it from major conglomerates. And should your planning succeed you should be prepared to protect yourself legally from swarm of successful companies with a plethora of similar products who will seek to either buy you out on the cheap or bury you in legal battles.
Great “line must be drawn here” reference! Well said and certainly understood by me and hundreds of Storytellers like me. Venue owners say “but we can give you exposure…” guess what, people die from exposure too.
You can die from lack of exposure as well. It’s what’s known as ‘obscurity’. Like so many, you fail to see the fundamental problem with someone who has been famous since he was ten giving advice to struggling artists on the value of doing work for free to gain exposure. Your comment was quite pithy, but ultimately it was born of ignorance.
Agreed Brendan. Well said.
What’s the use of being known for your work if the main actors in the domain with the means to hire writers — as HuffPost is — won’t pay you? Getting more people asking you to work for free?
The job, free or paid job will get the exposure. If HuffPost was ready to forego any advertising and « related articles » links alongside my article, it would be another story, but I doubt they would give it as much importance (exposure) on their own landing pages or related articles.
Also, such exposure is hardly as efficient as they let you think it is. I have yet to see a single ROI report on the exposure they offer.
This is not a reflection on the exposure but on your ability to convert the traffic into something that is financially rewarding to you. A list, an offer of art for sale, a promotion. The point you failed to see is that mindshare is more valuable than money and Huffpo offered that to you being one of the biggest blogs in the planet. — Obscurity as mentioned before goes hand in hand with artist’s pride.
I don’t think he’s telling writers NOT to give their work in exchange for exposure, he’s just saying it’s too bad big sites take advantage of writers when our work has value. If I actually got paid for everything I wrote professionally I might be able to pay my bills without also having two other jobs which sure would be nice. I think Wil’s just sticking up for the little guy. Who cares if he’s not a struggling writer himself.
All work has value. Its value is exactly what someone is willing to give for it. You can try to set the value yourself, but if no one is willing to give you what you want for it, the price you set is pretty meaningless.
Wil certainly doesn’t sound like he’s sticking up for the little guy, his advice isn’t applicable to the little guy. In fact, it’s terrible advice for someone starting out as a writer.
I can understand « trial runs » and how this could be a way to break in the business, but this is not what Huff does at all.
They go to people who already have proven their skills or, at least, have plenty of samples of what they can create available… and they’re still not paying them. Not even along the road.
In the case pointed in this post, it’s even worse : not only do they know what the writer can come up with, but they’re asking to put the exact piece already written, showing they see the value in it… and they’re still not ready to pay up.
They could have simple write a piece about this Will’s post and link to it. Now, THAT would have been great exposure, but by asking to publish the article themselves shows they see more value in this article than simply exposure.
Refusing to this type of proposition is totally good business sense, and suggesting to do the same is totally great business advice.
He made the point, though, that there’s a difference between a content creator offering their work to a site in order to obtain something of value for themselves (exposure) versus the site coming to the content creator seeking to obtain something of value for itself (content). If the content creator is new to the game, then of course exposure is valuable — but then, it’s hard to imagine why an established site would take the risk of employing content from someone whose work they have not yet seen. In the second instance, it’s really unlikely that a site like HuffPo is going to seek out an author who NEEDS exposure. Which means they’re attempting to gain something of value for themselves without giving something of value in return. What it boils down to is, if the site values that person’s work enough to go looking for it, then the site should be willing to pay for it in a currency that matters to the recipient — and exposure, to someone who already has a name, doesn’t qualify (but money is usually acceptable).
Aside from which, there are other ways to get exposure without giving away your complete creative endeavors. It’s why supermarkets give away samples and coupons to encourage people to explore new product further. I’ve seen artists hold contests for potential customers in which they give away one small sample of their work in order to get people to look at the complete body of their work — which they may then share online — to attract business.
I’m a writer and I’ve always been baffled by Huffington Post’s ability to get writers to contribute their work for free. I mean, this is a company that was sold to AOL/Verizon. This is not a small nonprofit website. I liken them in content to the Atlantic or Salon. I’ve written for the Atlantic, and they paid me, while they aren’t any more flush than HuffPo. So yeah, they can absolutely afford to pay writers. And writers who “blog” for them need to STOP doing that, as they are devaluing our profession by giving their work away for free. I too, will never write for HuffPo until they pay. It’s absurd.
Why should HuffPost pay for something that people are willing to do for non-monetary compensation? “Free” is an ignorant choice of words, nothing is Free. Anyone who writes for HuffPost does so for their own reasons. It way be that they see the value in getting their writing in front of millions of sets of eyes and attract traffic to their own blog. It may be that they simply have an opinion to share and aren’t looking for any sort of compensation. It may be that they want to attach themselves to HP’s brand power in pursuit of other work elsewhere. It may be none of these or all of them. Every piece of work, be it writing, sculpture or pipe installation, has a myriad of ways in which one could be compensated. If you think a check is the only way to be compensated for work, then you are a fool.
Hear, hear! Like I’ve told any number of journalism students who aspired to be freelancers: “Exposure is what you die of when you can’t pay the rent.”
I write for fun. I write to get paid. I don’t write to get rich….but if that happens I will be good with it. I find it ridiculously offensive that companies like Huff post make millions on free labor and creativity. In the end, that’s why the content on Huff post is regurgitated material, mostly crap, that is often not edited and contains numerous grammatical and typographical errors. More writers need to just say no to them. Thank you.
It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement. HuffPost gets content, the writers get free advertising and feedback on their writing. It won’t work for every business, but it has worked for HuffPost (which is in far better financial shape than the average newspaper or magazine).
Since when does Exploitation equate to Exposure?!
Ah, but it doesn’t. That’s the thing.
It’s not the exposure itself that is exploitation, but rather making money by publishing someone’s work without paying for it.
So, exposure is not an exploitation here, but rather a device used as a type of currency. Sadly, our economic system is not built to use exposure. No landlord or banker will accept your « exposure points » for rent or mortgage.
For exposure to be interesting, you need to have something to sell. Even then, any good business will see exposure as an investment expense, not a revenue. The value lies in its ROI.
So, if you have nothing to sell or, worst, you’re supposed to make a living out of what is asked of you, exposure doesn’t make sense.
Maybe “exposure points” should be redeemable for a coffee at Starbucks or a Krispy Kreme donut, or any number of useful perks in trade for an artist’s relinquishing his/her work for “Exposure.” Then if the exposure is worth it’s weight, higher compensation may follow. But then this flow of thought would need to be put into some form of negotiation, instead of just thinking in terms of cold hard cash up front.
Doing so is putting buying power, which is the basic definition of currency, as compensation. This means that would be a type of money, though its face-value worth would be less than normal dollars, due to the limit of where and why it can be used.
Exposure is a raw resource. It needs to be developed into something. Most artists don’t care for this, they only care for art. Thus they miss the business side of things.
Bravo! Drawing a line, taking a stand, expressing a point of view; it’s all part of being. Nice.
I am fascinated by the company process and instruction it gives these editors, who need to have this ready-made phrasing pasted in 100 times a day when people ask about being paid. Trust me, they have that on a copy-paste basis, at the ready.
I also love the careful choice of the words “…at this time”. What do we need to glean from that? maybe they will start paying their tens of thousands of bloggers tomorrow afternoon? I would have everyone respond with “and at what time WOULD you be able to compensate your bloggers? I’d resubmit at that time. Thanks.”
It’s up to the writers. They just need to unite and collectively say no more. Huff Post is out of business the next day.
This is not a case of “we don’t have the power to fight this”. You’ve got all the power 100% in your hands and Huff Post is 100% vulnerable. You just have to take control of the situation. Let’s propose a 1-month blogger strike, not forever, and let’s see how Huff post handles it.
Wil: You made the right call. My experience has been the more esteemed the publication the more they should pay, not the other way around. Most of my modest success in dealing with them has been a willingness to say “No.” Right now, I primarily write arts journalism for only one publication where I am paid modestly but acceptably, have a lot of freedom of assignment, and am kept busy enough for the amount of writing I want to do. (“Thanks, but I’m already overexposed.”)
Exposure doesn’t pay the rent and I’ll be damned if I give up my labor to a company that makes millions and won’t relinquish any for its content.
Despite some ideas expressed on here, I am perfectly content to say no to non-income requests. Even if I have to work to support my habit…even if the work is “frappuccino art”.
I am sick and tired of corporations raking in more money than should be legally allowed, all on the backs of some poor schmucks who try and try to achieve some modicum of success and end up reduced to giving away the fruits of their labor. I am not anti-business, just anti-greed.
More “than should legally be allowed”? Are you serious? So now we should have the law limit what a business may earn? Will that apply to individuals as well? What about LLC’s? Partnerships? S-Corps? Or just the “Big Bad Mega Corporations”? And I suppose any earnings in excess of your arbitrary limit should be donated to starving artists, right?
Great article. Some insipid comments.
Ariana Huffington and her conglomerate are making money hand over fist. This constant insinuation that they cannot afford to pay writers is obnoxious and immoral. Every major news outlet besides HP pays their writers. They have no excuse. Hell, I freelance for a small business magazine that only profits about a million bucks a year, and their minimum rate for new writers is 50 cents a word. I get even more. If they can pay these rates, so can Huffington Post.
It distresses me to no end that art is both valued in the world, and at the same time, diminished. Services that no one wants to do are honoured and respected… because we want someone to do them. But I’m constantly hearing stories and growing more complacently ‘okay’ with the reality of cuts being made to the arts, and then hearing about more Transformers movies that are pushing our concept of art into anything that will turn a buck or ten but has no use for a story.
It distresses me to no end because I care about it, and I also feel that complacency . It distresses me to no end because of what Mr. Keating says in Dead Poets Society: “We don’t read and write poetry because it’s cute. We read and write poetry because we are members of the human race. And the human race is filled with passion. And medicine, law, business, engineering, these are noble pursuits and necessary to sustain life. But poetry, beauty, romance, love, these are what we stay alive for.”
Also, I’ve added having coffee, or possibly dinner with Wil Wheaton to my bucket list.
Now that I’ve stated that, it means I need to seriously make it happen, or else I’m a liar, right?
As a former journalism major and then newspaper reporter, technical writer and now struggling fiction writer, I’m so glad Wil wrote this and took a stand. He’s my new personal hero. Crazy Harlan Ellison said it first: “PAY THE WRITER!”
Harlan Ellison on paying the writer: https://youtu.be/mj5IV23g-fE
This post makes me sad. My thoughts here: http://optimizedprogrammer.com/blog/giving-it-away
Dave you said this in your response to reading Wil’s post: – “This business of making someone out to be a villain for having the gall to ask for a favor is harmful. This whole business of ire and an attitude of “how dare you” ask me for something is offensive.”
The operative word here is “someone”. HuffingtonPost is not someone. They are a corporation. A corporation which has been making millions for several years generally without paying their “content providers”. If HuffPost was run by, say, one person who did it as a labor of love, didn’t have a lot of money and asked Wheaton to allow a re-posting of his essay, because they had no money, I think his response would have been softer.
As a struggling writer I completely agree with Wheaton’s post. An equivalent would have been if the NYTimes asked if they could re-post something I’d written with the stipulation I would not be paid. Again, major corporation and they have lots of dough. Why on earth would they NOT be willing to pay me $100, $200 or whatever the bare minimum is? Are they behind on their electric bill???
Conversely, if a small, indy website that, say, catered to comicon fans wanted to re-post something I’d written regarding an experience at a comicon several years ago and a) they were small/indy and b) didn’t have any money and c) were probably run by a half-dozen bloggers as a hobby, I would probably have a completely different response to a request for “free” writing.
It’s nice you can present the programmer/coder’s point of view. It reminds me of Alexandra Pelosi’s recent documentary entitled “San Francisco 2.0”. In the documentary, there’s a lot of public protest art. One mural in the Mission District is a painting of some homeless people with the caption: “Can’t code?”
Where is the logic, people? Though I’m hardly a fan of Huff Post, I’m compelled to defend the common sense of its policy. As they say of the cow, “Why pay the writer when it can get the content for free?”
If blame is to be assigned, it belongs squarely on the shoulders of the writers who DO provide “free” content, for without them, Huff Post would have no choice but to pay its bloggers. As it is, they don’t have to! If someone offered to make you independently wealthy with no strings attached, would you refuse to accept it because others had to work for a living?
If you don’t like how they do it, just say no. But let’s face it: your financial woes aren’t the result of the Huff Post’s refusal to pay its contributors…
I don’t see why the identity of the someone changes anything. I don’t see why being a single person or a collection of persons matters. I don’t see why their abundance or shortage of money matters. They asked. There’s nothing wrong with asking. There’s nothing wrong with answering with a “no”. There are no bad guys here. My only objection is the moralizing about it – the condemnation. Asking for something is a good thing and it brings us together, even if the answer is no. I have experienced asking girls for dates when the answer is no (I know – shocking for a coder) (not recently – married many years). Sometimes it’s a polite no thank you and other times a demeaning and insulted attitude at the temerity to offer such an unappealing idea. There’s a big difference there. People should be encouraged to ask for what they want, not insulted for it.
The size — single or many — does not really matter.
Abundance (or lack) of money is not necessarily a game changer, but the way the revenues are made does.
When the organisation makes profit from the product/service they ask of you, it is a question of ethics to offer proper monetary compensation for the job (I say monetary in the sense that it can be quantified. Ad space at an equivalent value could be a compensation. Not « exposure »).
Ethics, because getting the service for free means they need to hire less employee (if any) to do that job (or freelancers making a living out of this), and this creates an imbalance in the market, by totally devaluing their work.
That is where it becomes not OK to ask for free stuff.
Naturally, nothing is black and white.
Helping out friends (though, real friends would probably repay you) or a start-up that you feel would be great if they succeeded might be a good example of cases where you could lend a free helping hand like this.
If that’s the case, then anyone asking anyone for an interview without offering a paycheck is committing an act of immorality if they stand to make any money from the interview. News programs, reporters, podcasters, bloggers, internet and print publications are all bad guys.
Sorry, I reject this entirely.
Markets are imbalanced by coercive force, not by peaceful requests. People willing to do something for rewards other than money is a part of the nature of markets, not an imbalance.
Let’s not confuse subject and writer.
No one really makes a living from giving interview, so they’re not taking anyone’s place, but, the interviewer, he’s getting paid, right?
If one wants exposure, an interview is the perfect way to go. If Huff finds a piece interesting, they could very well contact and pay a journalist to interview its author on the subject, or simply pay a journalist to write a piece about the article, with one or two quotations, and link to the original article (W00t! Exposure AND traffic).
Sorry Wil, but i have a problem with the generalization. Sure it SOUNDS wonderful, but society would stop to work if everything would be paid the true value of the work put into it and nothing would be done anymore without monetary compensation. Playing soccer in your small town club unpaid but happy to do a sport you love? Might look shabby in comparison to the international stars like Christiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi, but there’s not really a demand for ten million top paid professional soccerists in the world. Some will have to do with the pleasure of having fun during the games.
What about people singing in a choir? Church or secular? The overwhelming majority will never see a dime, yet that fact never does devalue the art they produce or partake in.
The list could go endlessly on and on… cooking in a soup kitchen for the homeless? Surely must be as valuable as having a job in any fast food joint, yet it’s more often done without any reward other than thankful words than not…
Now there IS a difference between people who consciously decide to only work on their favorite arts as a hobby in spare time and maybe to invest less in it than a paid professional would need to earn a real living with it and said paid professional who depends on compensation because it IS his only income and if no money flows he will starve. To try and cheat or sweettalk such people out of fair compensation is kind of dubious. Even worse if it’s stuff like the big show starting off the Olympics and one contributor gets millions for a short appearance and others get either minimum wages or even no money at all although their part takes longer and was rehearsed for months beforehand… Still are the volunteers worth less because they still think they did a good job despite not being paid for it?
But let’s be honest… do you really write every post on your personal blog to contribute to the family income? Has the said piece about changing your life just been written for earnings? Did you get any reasonable amount for showing and sharing it HERE? There surely would have been ways to monetarize more on it than giving it away for almost free (advertisement payback not really makes that much on blog sites, does it?) by looking around if not a magazine or semipro fansite might be interested in coughing up a few thousand bucks for exclusive rights… after all this IS a pretty intimate theme about a still quite famous TV personality… and the internet fame would not hurt either. So why just put in down here and not look for the highest bidder? It surely does deserve adequate compensation even if it’s not on the Huffpo site, doesn’t it?`Or where’s the difference in giving it away for free on your own or on the HuffPo webpages? Wouldn’t Huffington be a great chance to lead more people towards stuff like the patreon support model or kickstarters for the next Tabletop season or whatever new project you might think of? Just a few dozen contributors in these categories that would never have stumbled over your site on their own but got interested by seeing the big bit on the collector site of their preference would easily outpay the amount you mentioned, so why is “only exposure” evil and to your disadvantage?
I’m sorry, really sorry, i did not want to sound so negative or destroy your vibe… it just all came together one thing after another as i started thinking about the whole subject and your tweets… and i’m not paid for anything here either 😉
I’m pretty entertained by equating ‘huff post not paying people’ with ‘singing in a church choir’. 🙂 Church of Arianna? The Holy Huffington Chapel? 🙂
Thanks, you made me giggle.
Though well written, it is mistaken on the premise that Mr. Wheaton was comparing the hard work (that may have been fun for him), that he and his wife and kids do to make happy lives, with ‘volunteerism’, that they do through their selfless acts. People wonder why I am a storyteller? Not because of I think of that as work to be compensated, rather more the heart that I give and returned in justification, by smiling or questionable faces. I don’t think that Wil was trying to achieve what you took away from that, Rather that, when you are a professional, you should be compensated well and fairly. They are at the top of their game, aren’t they?
As Patrick Porter says, you’re comparing volunteer work for social endeavours with giving stuff to a for-profit company making money off of it.
Not the same game at all.
I am a death midwife and secular chaplain and so many people expect me to work for free or as a volunteer. Ah, no. Just like everyone else, I have a life to live and bills to pay and I also have a very specific skill set that has been hard won which is something that I deeply value. If I don’t value myself, who else is going to? Thanks Wil.
“Exposure?” Excuse me, people die of exposure.
I totally agree! I mean WTF Huffington post?!?!? I’m a bottem barrel nobody blogger and I would expect some form of payment from them. I have made contribution posts for another blog for free though. But they a popular DIY blogger starting a new blog and I did it a little for the exposure but mostly for the networking. I didn’t get much exposure but I did get to interview some cool artists. Something I don’t think I would of had the guts to do for my own blog. Still not sure if they would of even said yes if it was just for my personal blog. So yeah it was worth it. But for the most part I would expect to be paid.
This was the genesis behind the 1988 Writer’s Guild strike that almost completely shut down the entertainment industry in the U.S., while also nearly bankrupting the state of California. One writer pointed out that movie and TV studios are willing to dish out millions of dollars for a certain performer, but when it comes to the writers, “they suddenly get poor.” The 2007 strike could have had the same effect, but the producers listened this time. The most well-known names in the entertainment industry aren’t often creative or smart enough to sit down before a blank computer screen and squeeze out a story.
I don’t know why we writers still have to fight so damn hard to gain respect for our work. People want to be entertained with books, films, TV shows, stage plays, etc.; so they need to understand those products don’t just materialize by themselves. Will, I’m glad you essentially told Huffington to stick their “exposure” offer up the dark side of their moon. Sometimes, the echelons of power need a good bitch-slap.
Keep writing and keep fighting!
Not sure if you’ve seen this but I thought you would enjoy: http://www.photographybay.com/2015/11/05/watch-what-happens-when-you-ask-non-creative-professionals-to-work-for-free/?utm_campaign=shareaholic&utm_medium=facebook&utm_source=socialnetwork
The inimitable Harlan Ellison has been preaching this message for decades. Like Willie the Shake said, there ain’t nothing new under the sun. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PuLr9HG2ASs
When I learned to work on computers, I literally had to give my services away for over a year until I developed the competency and exposure to earn payment for my work. Artisan’s would have it much harder, with artistic works being so subjective and all. The point is, you MUST give it away to get the exposure and credibility needed to pursue a living at it. If your work requires more, or less, time to get to that level, then that is what it is. If people are stealing it… then 80% of that is that you are charging too much for it. You have to decide if getting nothing for your $100 painting is better than getting $25…. artists are not immune from market-driven conditions… sometimes, you are just providing products for a market that can’t afford your work. Computers are a great example. Everybody needs a computer these days, and most people can afford even a basic one. But tack on the on-going costs of operating system upgrades, anti-virus software, office productivity software and games… THEN no one has any money for that stuff…. people can’t afford the maintenance after the initial purchase… artistic works are not a need… they are a want..
I wonder if Ariana Huffington likes to get paid for her work? The answer is for creators to stop providing content for free. Huff Po makes money. They aren’t a start up anymore and therefore need to stop relying on the good will of artists and writers to provide them with content. Those days are over!
Hi WIl, saw this on facebook recently from the Oatmeal which pretty well sums up what you wrote about. Perhaps it was referenced already?
Wow, this really struck a cord with me. I’m between a rock and a hard place with this. I contribute to the Huffington Post. I enjoy writing for them because I can write about what interests me, when I want, sans deadlines. And it does give me exposure. Which I kind of need at this point in my career. It has also has connected me to some really interesting, awesome people. So I cannot say I get nothing out of writing for them. But at the same time, I work full-time at a university as a writer. I.E. I am a professional writer. Absolutely any work you do for another company has value, and you deserve to be paid. But the business model of the Huffington Post is that they aren’t terribly selective of who they allow to blog for them, and the unlimited-post model means that they could very well be looking at excessive compensation for very so-so content. But should they choose to modify blogger rules and treat them as freelancers, it would work. It’s not like they can’t afford it.
Rule of Acquisition #13 – Anything worth doing is worth doing for money
And I like the First Contact reference.
Working for the offer of exposure is walking a fine line between success and failure. I won’t say that it is 100% one or the other, because depending on who is giving you that exposure, it can be either. It also depends on who you are, the one being offered the exposure.
When a site like HuffPost is offering exposure, they are sure to deliver on that front. They are huge, and while they CAN afford to pay contributors, even a tiny amount, it’s a lucrative business model for them to find people that are willing to work “for free”. You can’t fault them for doing whatever it takes to make money. However, the sheer number of eyeballs seeing your words/art is astonishing. Other avenues offering exposure may not be so fruitful. As a photographer, I get it all the time. “Shoot my senior portraits and the rest of the school will see them and hire you”. “Shoot my wedding and I’ll let you use the images in your portfolio”. “Let us use this image on our billboard and motorists will book you for sessions”. It never, ever leads to paid gigs.
When you’re a celebrity like Wil Wheton, and you have recurring guest spots on national television shows like The Big Bang Theory (one of the highest rated shows on television) and you’ve been famous since childhood after landing a gig on a huge national TV show, then advice on turning down exposure rings a little hollow. It’s great that you don’t need the exposure, but even people who don’t know you know your name. Many of us at the bottom who are struggling to make rent payments, credit card bill payments and feed our families are often not so fortunate as to turn down any work that may lead to a paycheck.
Bottom line, at some point, every artist or creative is going to have to turn down an offer for “exposure”. Turning down every offer of exposure may be a bit foolish– if not downright dangerous– for the business you’re running.
Actually the reality is much different. People will pay if they see you have something to offer…but you have to let them see it! According to Inc. Magazine, there are 10 ways to establish your brand.
1. Publish Plenty of Free Content
2. Make It Dead Simple to Access
3. Provide Value on Social Media
4. Guest Post on the Right Sites
5. Tell Your Story
6. Take Advantage of Google Authorship
7. Write a Book
8. Be Controversial
9. Speak at Every Opportunity
10. Be Constant
Stephen King was quoted as saying “How do you know you’re a professional writer? When you’ve written something, someone else paid you for it, and then you used that money to pay the electricity bill.”
I remember breaking into writing back about 20 years ago. I was looking up at this big, seemingly insurmountable beast of a mountain in front of me and asking myself “right, ok, so how do I get writing clips to show prospective editors when no one will give me a chance?”
I got some short articles published on a few websites back in the fledgling days of the internet (1996) and then used those clips to get other internet writing gigs. None paid at that point, but eventually by knocking on a lot of doors, I managed to get some editors to say yes. I didn’t make much at first, but as my writing developed and my professional standing improved, I was able to command higher fees. At one point, I was up to $1.50 to $2.00 a word for feature articles (big magazines and websites). It was nice to finally be able to turn down the low-paying crap offers.
Then came the blogging wave. All of a sudden, nobody wanted to pay scale for good quality content. Publishers realised they could take advantage of and exploit bloggers by “offering them a back link” in lieu of payment. It’s a bit of a kick in the balls really since there is now so much formulaic link baiting crap on the internet (i.e., “Try This Ancient Chinese Secret to Lose 10 kg Off Your Ass Overnight”). Everyone’s an expert and most (low-level) bloggers are willing to whore themselves out and be exploited for a back link. Unfortunately, this sh*ts the bed for everyone who is still taking the time to write good thoughtful quality content (and should be paid well for it).
I’ve worked hard on my pillar content and this is bringing in a lot of visitors to my site. I am leveraging on my relationship with my readers to see what I can offer them. So even if a big website wanted to pay me $1000 for an article, I still think the long-term value of that content appearing ONLY on my site is worth more in the long-run (i.e., don’t dilute it by letting it be duplicate content on the net).
I think you made the right decision in this case! Cheers!
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