Ian Burrell: HuffPo's writers may be overplaying their importance

Did the contributors to YouTube claim a windfall when the site was bought by Google for $1.65bn?

Share
Related Topics

"If people go on Newsnight, they don't get paid," said Arianna Huffington on a recent visit to London, trying to explain the difference between someone who works professionally for the media and someone who merely contributes to it.

The Greek-born liberal entrepreneur does not pay bloggers who write for her Huffington Post website and some of them have likened her to a slave master, while suing her for a $105m (£64.5m) slice of the $315m she recently received for selling the site to AOL.

Do they have a case? It depends on how you categorise "content" in an era where almost everybody uses a keyboard and a camera phone. Do those who comment on message boards deserve a stake in the web platform which provides them with an outlet for their views? Did the contributors to YouTube – from schoolchildren to professional film-makers – claim a windfall when the site was bought by Google for $1.65bn in 2006? No.

The Huffington Post is somewhat different. It's not an open house but depends on quality – professional, you might say – writing. Some of her writers gave their services because they believed her promises to be creating a liberal alternative to America's right-leaning networks. They didn't expect her to sell out to a media behemoth.

Others operate differently. Tina Brown, publisher of rival site The Daily Beast, said recently that "as a writer myself, I cannot look other writers in the face and ask them to do things for nothing".

In its early days, the HuffPo could not have afforded to pay all its bloggers but, having acquired 26 million unique monthly visitors it had moved into profit. Not everyone worked for free: Ms Huffington hired 97 full-time editorial staff and 203 employees in total.

None of which means she owes those unpaid bloggers a living. James Brown, founder of the popular British site Sabotage Times, compares the relationship to that of a nightclub and its patrons. "They enjoy dancing at a club and being part of a great atmosphere but get angry when the bloke sells up," he said. "Those people are volunteering to make a great scene."

Sabotage Times, he said, gives its writers a platform for their work to be syndicated and then provides them with 55 per cent of the earnings, above the standard rate. Brown also questioned whether the litigants would have offered to bail Ms Huffington out if she had gone bust.

According to Sunny Hundal of the Liberal Conspiracy blog site: "Bloggers think they're the backbone of a website but it is breaking news, polling information and exclusives which drive readership not opinion." These litigious bloggers might be over-estimating the power of their voice.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

IT Project Manager

Competitive: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Chelmsford a...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

Business Intelligence Specialist - work from home

£40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: An established and growing IT Consultancy fir...

IT Manager

£40000 - £45000 per annum + pension, healthcare,25 days: Ashdown Group: An est...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Nigel Farage has urged supporters to buy Mike Read's Ukip Calypso song and push it up to the No 1 spot  

Mike Read’s Ukip calypso is mesmerisingly atrocious — but it's not racist

Matthew Norman
Shirley Shackleton, wife of late journalist Gregory Shackleton, sits next to the grave of the 'Balibo Five' in Jakarta, in 2010  

Letter from Asia: The battle for the truth behind five journalists’ deaths in Indonesia

Andrew Buncombe
Indiana serial killer? Man arrested for murdering teenage prostitute confesses to six other murders - and police fear there could be many more

A new American serial killer?

Police fear man arrested for murder of teen prostitute could be responsible for killing spree dating back 20 years
Sweetie, the fake 10-year-old girl designed to catch online predators, claims her first scalp

Sting to trap paedophiles may not carry weight in UK courts

Computer image of ‘Sweetie’ represented entrapment, experts say
Fukushima nuclear crisis: Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on - and may never return home

Return to Fukushima – a land they will never call home again

Evacuees still stuck in cramped emergency housing three years on from nuclear disaster
Online petitions: Sign here to change the world

Want to change the world? Just sign here

The proliferation of online petitions allows us to register our protests at the touch of a button. But do they change anything?
Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals

'You need me, I don’t need you'

Ed Sheeran hits back after being labelled too boring to headline festivals
How to Get Away with Murder: Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama

How to Get Away with Murder

Shonda Rhimes reinvents the legal drama
A cup of tea is every worker's right

Hard to swallow

Three hospitals in Leicester have banned their staff from drinking tea and coffee in public areas. Christopher Hirst explains why he thinks that a cuppa is every worker's right
Which animals are nearly extinct?

Which animals are nearly extinct?

Conservationists in Kenya are in mourning after the death of a white northern rhino, which has left the species with a single male. These are the other species on the brink
12 best children's shoes

Perfect for leaf-kicking: 12 best children's shoes

Find footwear perfect to keep kids' feet protected this autumn
Anderlecht vs Arsenal: Gunners' ray of light Aaron Ramsey shines again

Arsenal’s ray of light ready to shine again

Aaron Ramsey’s injury record has prompted a club investigation. For now, the midfielder is just happy to be fit to face Anderlecht in the Champions League
Comment: David Moyes' show of sensitivity thrown back in his face by former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson

Moyes’ show of sensitivity thrown back in his face... by Ferguson

Manchester United legend tramples on successor who resisted criticising his inheritance
Two super-sized ships have cruised into British waters, but how big can these behemoths get?

Super-sized ships: How big can they get?

Two of the largest vessels in the world cruised into UK waters last week
British doctors on brink of 'cure' for paralysis with spinal cord treatment

British doctors on brink of cure for paralysis

Sufferers can now be offered the possibility of cure thanks to a revolutionary implant of regenerative cells
Let's talk about loss

We need to talk about loss

Secrecy and silence surround stillbirth