The Huffington Post, the online magazine recently sold to AOL for $315 million dollars is under fire for failing to pay bloggers who provided years worth of content and value to the company. Huffpo has also drawn criticism for its practice of poaching the work of journalists without adequate compensation or credit to the original source of the material.

“Free! Free! Free! Everything on the internet is free! No compensation except to tech millionaires! Content is worthless! Creators create nothing, they just re-purpose! Information is free, and writing doesn’t cost anything!”

Blather, evince, repeat.


The complete text of the press release is here.

And an excerpt here:

We feel it is unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing. It is unethical to cannibalize the investment of other organizations that bear the cost of compensation and other overhead without payment for the usage of their content. It is extremely unethical to not merely blur but eradicate the distinction between the independent and informed voice of news and opinion and the voice of a shill.

Um…ditto.

The usual response to this complaint is to claim that you, the lowly blogger/cartoonist/artist/musician/whatever, whose content got poached will reap enormous benefits from all the incoming linkys, so you should be grateful for the attention.

Doesn’t work that way. Follow through is negligible. A site which claims to have over a million readers on its RSS linked to me, and the incoming traffic from it was so low I didn’t even notice they’d written an article about me. Someone had to tell me about it. Two weeks later.

An acquaintance of mine got a link from the UK Daily Mail, and they only got about 4,000 page views from the article in two weeks. That’s less than what I get in a day.

It takes repeated exposure to get attention on the web. A mention on a major web site is a highly overrated experience.

If you take the time to create original content, people will eventually get around to bookmarking you. Popular sites poaching your content don’t bring solid traffic. If people can stop at the Huffington Post to get their news, it’s unlikely they give a rat’s about where the Huffington Post stole their news.

Since only a small percentage will ever follow through to read the source material, internet “journalism” is a dicey proposition. Bloggers don’t have to be honest: they know almost no one will fact check. And the more inflammatory their posts, the more hits they get. But no matter how many hits they get, know that many of those hits will never get back to the source.

FYI: Yes, my traffic went way up over the past year. But consider this: I’ve had a website since 1999, and I didn’t really see that lively upswing until I’d been on the web for almost eleven years. Content poachers and their “free publicity” never did a thing for my traffic or sales.