PAY THE WRITERS

Have you heard Huffington Post’s attitude towards paying for content? If not, you’re in for a treat: it seems that the editor of Huff Post UK is “proud” that the company doesn’t pay writers, otherwise it wouldn’t be “real”.

That’s right. The UK editor of a multi-million dollar (or so I’m guessing) company doesn’t think it’s appropriate to pay writers. You know, the people who are writing the content for the site that earns him the money to live on. Which of course writers don’t need.

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In an interview with BBC Radio 4, Stephen Hall explained why he doesn’t pay the 13,000 or so contributors to Huff Post UK. 13,000 of them. All unpaid. And he’s proud of it.

Here’s what he said: “If I was paying someone to write something because I wanted it to get advertising pay, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. So 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.”

I’ll just let you bang your head against the desk for a minute.

Done? Ok.

I’m almost speechless. It’s such an appalling statement. It’s as if any revenue from advertising that may magically appear is a happy coincidence, not something that’s been meticulously planned and budgeted for.

But it’s so blatant, too. How is it even possible? It’s as if someone’s saying, “You create the work that gets us paid, but we won’t pay you. HAHAHA!” Who, in any other profession, would be happy with that arrangement?

Essentially, it’s fuelling the belief that we, as writers, aren’t worth paying for. That our words are nothing more than mindless fodder for those with time on their hands to read them. That it’s easy to bash out words on the page – a monkey can write Shakespeare, after all.

It perpetuates the idea that we should be doing it for the love of our craft, that the prospect of “exposure” and respect should be enough to keep food on the table and our houses paid for, and that the warm glow of knowing we’re being truly “authentic” in our vision is all we need to sustain ourselves.

Except it isn’t. It doesn’t even come close. Respect doesn’t pay the rent.
Now, there are of course cases where writers write because they want to, with no prospect of remuneration at the end of it. Be it the creative need to write (someone who simply has to); to build a personal platform, brand or authority (perhaps on a blog); to practice technique and form by simply getting words on the page; or maybe to enter competitions. These kinds of things are acceptable forms of freebie writing and are arguably a vital part of the writer’s craft, being a way to hone their skills, get their voices heard, and ultimately carve a path to success.

But that’s it.

It shouldn’t be the case when it comes to writing for commercial purposes. If you’re writing for a publication, individual, or company that’s making money from your writing, you should be making money from it, too. Huff Post is entirely based on content providers. It depends on them. It’s all words. Your writing sells and it’s what earns them the big bucks.  So why shouldn’t you be suitably compensated for it?

“But you should be happy to write for nothing! It shows you’re real! It shows you’re authentic! It shows you’re a true artist!”

Oh really? Would you work for nothing simply to prove yourself as a good chef/accountant/lawyer? Should we not pay builders, doctors, solicitors, engineers or the Huff Post editor, for fear that the treatment we’d get, the service we’d receive, would be inauthentic if we paid for it?

So why treat writers any differently?

It simply doesn’t happen in any other industry, bar the creative one. And it’s ridiculous. If you’re working, if you’re providing a service in any way shape or form, you should be paid for it. Writers included.

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