Imagine for a moment that you want to hire chefs to prepare food at your chain of restaurants, but you don’t want to pay those chefs. You want them to volunteer. And when asked why you believe that’s a valid way to do business, this is what you tell people:
“If I was paying someone to cook something because I want to draw in customers, that’s not a real authentic way of cooking. When somebody cooks something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to cook it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.”
You’d be laughed out of the room, and rightfully so. A few chefs might even be inclined to throat-punch you for trying to push such brazen bullshit on people.
Yet that’s what Stephen Hull, editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post UK, said to Radio 4 when about HuffPo’s policy of not paying their writers. Here’s his real quote:
“If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.”
The Huffington Post “employs” literally thousands of writers to provide content for its online media empire. You name the subject matter, they have a slew of people pumping out content for them, content that generates an enormous amount of traffic, some 214 million people a month.
And that traffic generates ad revenue. We’re talking around $150 million a year here. Pocket change it ain’t.
Despite this, HuffPo pays a very small number of full-time staffers (about 40 for HuffPo UK, not sure of the US number) and no one else. All those thousands of contributors do not get paid for their work. They provide the meals people come to eat and don’t get a damn thing for it. Not even a small cut of the ad revenue they help generate.
And Stephen Hull considers that a point of pride.
It galls me that a professional can expect this of others, and that he could BRAG about it as if it’s a matter of pride. How do you even respond to such garbage, especially when his logic makes no goddamn sense? Does Stephen Hull like getting paid for his work? Because if he does, then by his own logic his work isn’t “authentic.” It’s not “real.”
It’s such a colossally stupid way of seeing things I can’t believe this guy actually says this crap with a straight face. Was the Sistine Chapel ceiling less “real” and “authentic” because it was commissioned work? No, these people aren’t creating high art, but they are creating the content around which HuffPo builds its business, and that has value. Without their efforts, the Huffington Post collapses and dies.
Here’s an idea: Use his line next time you hire an electrician or auto mechanic. Tell them you want to know they’re doing it for the love of the work. If they don’t laugh you out of the room, they’ll probably be kicking you in the neck. And you’ll deserve it. Exposure doesn’t pay your bills. Neither do clicks. Neither does praise. Neither does the warm fuzzy feeling you get from writing something.
Writers, journalists and creative people, DON’T TOLERATE THIS CRAP.
What you do is WORK. It has VALUE.
Get PAID for it.
Accept nothing less than what you’re worth and tell people like Stephen Hull and the Huffington Post to screw off.