The “Who Pays Writers” Conversation Needs a Little Nuance

Last week, Wil Wheaton went viral with a post he wrote regarding his refusal to write for The Huffington Post in exchange for “exposure.” The Huffington Post is, by far, the most egregious offender in the world of (not) paying writers — despite being one of the wealthiest media companies in the history of the internet, HuffPo still refuses to compensate bloggers and guest writers for appearing on its many live-casts or writing posts for the site. They also post aggregated excerpts of material from other websites without their permission and often ask sites like ours if they can republish our work for free. The sin in these cases isn’t exactly that we aren’t being paid for the republication, but that we put our hearts and souls into building the kind of community that produces the kind of work Huffington Post would never be able to solicit or nurture themselves, and yet they are able to reap the benefits of that work by passing off ours as their own. We do it anyway: we let them republish our posts, we’re happy to be featured on their live-casts. Honestly, the exposure helps.

“Writers and bloggers: if you write something that an editor thinks is worth being published, you are worth being paid for it. Period,” tweeted Wheaton, and he’s absolutely right: we do all deserve to get paid for our work, period. Writers, designers, bloggers, illustrators, coders, the whole lot of us. Everybody who’s ever freelanced, including me, has written mountains of essays, posts and articles for free, and it sucks. Back in the late ’00s the market for freelance writers was bleak, to say the least.

But what do blanket statements like Wheaton’s — statements pretty much every writer has stated, at some point — mean for websites who genuinely cannot pay their writers or cannot afford to pay their writers very much? Don’t scowl! I can feel your scowl and I need you to stop scowling. I need you to think about the fact that the internet seems to want both of these things:

  1. Free content
  2. Writers getting paid to write content

Readers don’t want ads. They don’t like paywalls. They don’t like being asked for money. And yet. AND YET. They get very upset to hear that a website is failing to pay its writers for the content they themselves are failing to pay for!

Last week, Gawker, with trademark snark, took a dig at excellent literary website The Rumpus, criticizing it for its own post about Wil Wheaton’s post:

Exposure Doesn’t Pay Your Rent,” goes the headline on a recent blog post at The Rumpus, a literary website that doesn’t pay its writers.

Yes, it was gutsy of The Rumpus, who indeed doesn’t pay its writers, to even wade into the conversation. But The Rumpus isn’t The Huffington Post. The Rumpus isn’t Gawker, either, or The Atlantic or Entertainment Weekly. The Rumpus, unlike HuffPo, can’t afford to pay its writers. The website doesn’t garner enough income to pay its writers. Full stop.

So what do we say? What should The Rumpus do? Force its editors to stop writing and editing essays so they can instead devote their time to pitching advertisers? (Because, FYI, despite also being the writer/editor this whole site was built around — about half my job these days involves accounting, budgeting, building revenue streams, pitching advertisers, plotting merch, selling A+, planning camp, etc.) Shut down altogether? Most print literary journals, which also don’t make money, also don’t pay their writers and many also charge them to submit in the first place.

The Rumpus is not of the same world as The Huffington Post, and therein lies the problem with this conversation: somewhere along the line, in an important and valuable attempt to pay writers better, the issue of what any given publication could legitimately afford was thrown out the window. Paying writers = the right side of history, period. If you don’t have the financial backing of venture capital or a man with a lot of money, you shouldn’t even exist. Your continued dedication to existence is in fact offensive to the very writers you claim to nurture. In response to angry comments on The Rumpus’s post, a managing editor stepped in to share their side of the story:

As the Managing Editor of the site, I’d like to add that we wish we could pay, both our writers and our editors. Everyone who works for me works out of love for the site—The Rumpus makes enough to keep running. We are very up-front about this, and it’s the reason that our writers maintain full ownership of anything we publish. We don’t have writers sign any kind of contract, as many other sites (which pay nominal fees) do. Personally, I thank my editors and writers again and again for their amazing work, and I try to help promote their other projects whenever and wherever possible. The Rumpus is a family, and a labor of love. Further, we know that the subject of paying for writing is important to discuss, and that’s why this post went up on our site (in spite of the backlash that could have, and did, occur).

I’m sensitive to this issue as a website that was unable to pay most of its writers from our inception in 2009 until late 2013. We didn’t have the money to pay them, that’s just a fact. The money did not exist, we could not summon it from the sky; we’re lesbians, we inherently lack rich husbands. Maybe that means we should’ve given up, I’m not sure, but that makes me really frightened for the future of independent journalism by and for populations even more disenfranchised than our own. How can we advocate for both disenfranchised writers and disenfranchised publishers? Because the thing is…

Not paying your writers SUCKS.

I doubt The Rumpus takes nightly baths in piles of fresh hundred-dollar bills, cackling over how they swindled Rick Moody and Roxane Gay into lining their coffers.

Not paying writers can mean: no recourse for missed deadlines, no exclusivity, being the last priority on their to-do list, formatting everything yourself, only so many rounds of edits an unpaid writer has time for before an editor might just go ahead with a light re-write instead, genuinely feeling like a terrible person emotionally indebted to all your contributors. There’s a vicious cycle to it, too — less money to pay writers means less experienced writers which requires more editors. (We genuinely do love working closely with new writers to improve their work, though, it’s a highlight of the job — but a time-consuming one, too.) This guilt will literally keep you up at night! You will possibly find yourself addicted to Ambien! You can’t assign stories, either — if the story isn’t fun to write, you yourself will be the one to write it. You end up with a very homogenous team because the writers most likely to stick around are the ones who are your actual friends and/or people whose background and life experience affords them the ability to write for free. You continuously find yourself losing bright talent to jobs that can pay, you find yourself in competition with sites who can pay. It’s awful.

In December 2013, a fan gave us $10k to start paying our writers, and we did. I started sleeping better, my high blood pressure problem corrected itself. I also had to work so many hours a week to keep our income up enough to pay these writers through 2014 (the $10k covered about three months of paying writers)  that I had a mental breakdown a few months later, but that was still better than how I’d felt the year before!

Compensating our team members enabled us to organize and operate our business with increased efficiency across the board. It made this site a much better place to work. It enabled us to publish more voices that don’t get heard from marginalized groups who definitely couldn’t afford to do any work for free. We still wish we could pay more, and know we would be a better site if we did.

The Content Wars

This conversation was radically different only a few years ago — before big-money sites began crowding out the indies and blogs who’d initially populated the internet, it was rare to find any website that paid its writers well. This was indeed a very dark time to be a writer. The conversation changed when venture capital and men with deep pockets took over the internet, which was honestly a blessing — but also led to indies who’d been doing pretty well paying writers what they could being held to a higher and more absolute standard of author compensation. Wealthy sites like Cosmopolitan and Bustle jumped on the feminist bandwagon, while communities like Feministing still struggle for financial viability.

At the same time, the innovative sponsored content teams and astronomical number of views larger sites could offer wooed advertisers entirely away from the indies they’d previously sold to. The rise of ad-blockers marked the final nail in the coffin: again, big sites were insulated from significant damage by swollen bank accounts, deals with Facebook and teams devoted to creating unblockable “native advertising.”

The fact that some websites, like Gawker and Broadly, clearly do have money can mislead the general public about how finances work in the roll of online media. The visibly bustling editorial budgets of some publications combined with the general mystery surrounding how online media creates revenue — advertising? sponsored content? — can create the illusion that online media generates income simply by existing; that all the websites you read on a daily basis just sort of accumulate cash from eldritch internet sources. (In actuality, most of the websites you read are funded either by venture capital from male investors or from out of somebody’s personal pocket.) (Yes, that’s the second time we’ve linked you to that post — it’s important!) Similarly, the digital nature of digital media can lead some to think that unlike other industries, online media has no overhead, only sweet sweet profit. After all, you have a personal Twitter account and maybe a personal website for free or for very little money, so isn’t that just how it works?

When you enter a brick-and-mortar store, you’re usually somewhat aware that they have to pay for their real estate, their maintenance, their stock; when you visit a website, you don’t see their server fees, the technology professionals they pay for maintenance, or any of their other invisible costs. At Autostraddle, we’d love to have a paid Slack account so that our conversations on that platform can be archived so we’re not constantly scrambling to remember crucial interactions, and upgrade our newsletter client so we can have a larger mailing list. But those cost money, more money than we can afford; and they’re just two examples. The sites who can afford to pay their writers generously usually have physical real estate, too — a pipe dream for indies like ours who save up all year for the editors to be able to spend even one week in the same location.

The glory days of Google AdSense are gone, if they were ever here for anybody besides Perez Hilton. Autostraddle rarely made more than $50 a day with Adsense, despite averaging 95k -100k pageviews a day. If the highest CPM (cost per thousand impressions) your site can demand is 50 cents, then “eyeballs” equals very few “dollars.”

Readers Have to Pay For Writers To Get Paid

We’re lucky, in a weird way, that we struggled with attracting advertisers from the get-go and had to develop alternate revenue streams almost immediately, like our A+ Membership program, our merch store, A-Camp, and affiliate marketing. At this point, only 11% of our revenue is ad-based, which is actually a huge decline from when our site was a lot smaller but so was the internet itself. We’ve made less and less from advertising every year since 2011, despite our size and influence increasing significantly over that time period and having the added benefit this year of Totally Her selling impressions on our behalf (at a 50% commission). If advertising was our only income stream, we’d be fucked, but it isn’t, so our revenue has grown every year regardless of outside factors, including traffic, which did suffer after the launch of A+ last summer. (Asking your readers to pay for writing is apparently uncouth; we were told we should, instead, invent a time-turner and devote ourselves to doing presentations at colleges.) Luckily, more and more readers have come to understand why we need A+ to survive, and have joined; thus, we still exist.

We’re now able to pay all our contributors (between $25 – $100 a post, usually in the $35-$50 range), but it’s not what they could make writing for Buzzfeed, Refinery29, Slate or a Vox Media property. Sadly, it’s not much more than they could make writing for a lot of wealthy sites who crank out so much content a day that they actually manage to pay their writers less than sites like ours or feminist indie The Toast does. (Following Grantland’s shuttering, The Toast’s Nicole Cliffe shared some truly awesome real talk on how they’ve managed to survive an indie-hostile climate.) Most independent sites that attract niche groups like ours (queer women) will struggle to meet the demands of a populace whose zest for demanding better compensation for writers ignores the independent businesses who simply cannot without the financial support of that populace.

Who Pays Writers

Sites like Who Pays Writers are performing a fantastic service, making public online the information that writers like me used to seek out in the annual Writer’s Market reference books at the local library.

1997writers

The old way

Because of WPW, we’re all aware that Bustle, which’s very well-funded, apparently pays $20 a post, and HelloGiggles, recently valued at $30 million, paid $25 a post as of last year. WPW could probably benefit from an “independent media” tag, though, ’cause it’s dizzying to see The Billfold ($25 for 500-to-1,000 word essay) right above Cosmopolitan ($2 a word for a 1,200 word essay in print) and Buzzfeed ($200 for a 1,000- to 2,ooo-word essay) without any notation that the former is an indie with no venture capital funding and the latter have a few more financial cards in their favor. (Although Cosmo still only offers $100 for unsolicited online essays.) The irony is that Scratch Mag, a publication launched by WPW to give more context to numbers like that, didn’t make enough money to keep publishing.

The conversation about paying writers can’t afford to lump in The Rumpus with The Huffington Post. As Maria Bustillos wrote in a 2013 conversation on The Awl about paying writers:

From my perspective there are two considerations to balance: my desire to write the piece in question, and the publication’s ability to pay. Sometimes the decision is 100% on one side or the other.

When we sneer at indies for failing to earn the money necessary to compensate their writers or interns at Vice Media levels, we are seemingly advocating for the little guy, but, in fact, are crushing a whole bunch of other little guys in the process. How do we advocate for writers getting fairly compensated and take The Huffington Post to task without inadvertently harming independent publishers? I honestly don’t know. But I hope we figure it out.

Riese is the 37-year-old CEO, CFO and Editor-in-Chief of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, blogger, fictionist, copywriter, video-maker, low-key Jewish power lesbian and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and then headed West. Her work has appeared in nine books including "The Bigger the Better The Tighter The Sweater: 21 Funny Women on Beauty, Body Image & Other Hazards Of Being Female," magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 2695 articles for us.

45 Comments

  1. I think of AS in two different ways:

    1) you all write the stuff I want to read like PBS makes (or shows) the TV I want to see. PBS has no ads so viewers PAY. Pledge drives were a constant in my childhood. No money for PBS means no Sesame Street, GBBO, Masterpiece Theater or whatever other show. You want the great content from PBS and NPR? Become a member, pledge whatever you can, etc.

    2) AS provides content I might otherwise have to get from a magazine (if such a magical magazine exists, please let me know). If you want a magazine YOU HAVE TO PAY FOR IT! The NY Times appears on our doorstep on Sundays and we get to read it because we paid for it.

    I feel that way about you guys. I want to read your words so I joined A+. If you want good content (ie better than the free fliers you get handed out on the T) you have to pay for it. Hopefully soon people will realize that the internet is no different. You want the goods, you have to help pay for the goods.

    (I know, I am preaching to the choir)

    • Funny you mentioned the magazine thing coz I treat my A+ like a magazine subscription. Sites like Buzzfeed and HuffPost if they went under I would hardly noticed, but AS produces content I actually want to read and care about so it makes sense that if I can pay I should do so. What’s even better is that those who can’t pay can still access the bulk of the site. It’s like everyone who buys merch, A+ or a camp ticket is paying it forward for other queer lady types 🙂

    • PBS also takes donations from corporations and corporate-funded foundations to fund some of their series and documentaries It’s not all pledge drive money. Masterpiece Theater is licensed from the creators–PBS doesn’t pay production costs for the BBC and ITN series (like Downtown Abbey.)

  2. This was really interesting. I don’t think it’s too complex to ask that sites with the budget for it pay their writers. Huffpo has the budget for it, or the capacity to make one. End of story.

    My personal opinion on paywalls and subscriptions has changed in the past couple of years, in no small part thanks to video streaming services like Netflix and HBO Now. Like I’m never ever going to pay for cable, but I will pay what I consider to be a reasonable fee for the content I want and love.

    When you’re willing to do that for tv, it’s almost shaming if you won’t do the same for your favorite site/writers on the web.

    There aren’t many sites I’d subscribe to or respect a paywall — I just can’t do it with the NYTimes, for instance. But smaller, more personal projects like Autostraddle, I know it makes a difference in keeping the site alive, and the site’s health means something tangible and real to me. So it’s worth it.

  3. About what percentage of AS readers use an adblocker? What monetary contribution would be equivalent for each person who uses one?

    It baffles me why folks use adblockers, or don’t AT LEAST whitelist them for the sites they love (short of folks who need them for medical reasons). My slight annoyance at being advertised to doesn’t outweigh my desire for people to get paid for their content. Hell, throw some clicks the way of ads on the sites you love! At least don’t go out of your way to deny them revenue. It’s not like AS has aggravating/aggressive ads anyway.

    • See, now I do use an adblocker. I strongly believe in paying for ad-free content (and, conversely, that content I pay for should be ad-free). I’m just not comfortable with my daily experience being inundated/manipulated by advertising to the extent that we are. Ads play on the radio in the car on my commute (and if you commute via public transit, it’s even worse). I drive past billboards and if I were to watch cable tv at night the number of ads I would see would just be ridiculous. I don’t mean sound all conspiracy-theory, but I’m not comfortable with so many of my desires being shaped by the giant corporations that are doing that advertising. I’m in a period of my life where I’m trying to throw off a lot of patriarchal bullshit, find my anger, find the things that are important to me and fight for them, and honestly, ads weaken my ability to do that.

      Okay, I know I sound a little nuts. But I use an ad-blocker as part of my ongoing quest to curate my life into an authentic something with real meaning to me and to others, meaning that comes from within, not from what rich white men tell me I should have. And in turn, I subscribe to the things that matter to me. 🙂

      • I’m so glad to hear someone else say this. I have real problems with how much advertising we’re slammed with just for existing. I deeply believe that as human beings we should have the right to live our lives without the drumbeat of consumerism constantly playing in the background. Don’t get me started on brightly lit billboards.

        But yeah- AdBlocker engaged, *and* content paid for. That I can–and should–do.

    • I’m not sure what percentage of autostraddle readers use adblocker — for three days no ads at all have been feeding to any of our readers and the $99/month service that hosts them (buysellads pro) has been unresponsive to our tech support requests, so I’ve got very little data in general right now on that topic!

      but like i said in the post — we don’t make much money from display ads anyhow — we make more money from sponsored posts and affiliate marketing. if you can’t afford to join A+ (or don’t like autostraddle enough to financially support it), then whitelisting us is a really great way to support us, but in and of itself won’t save the site, so to speak. we don’t run pop-up ads, auto-plays or site skins (if they ever do show up, it’s a mistake that we are probably already in the process of correcting), because we don’t want to make reading our website unpleasant.

    • I’ve used adblockers since they were invented, basically. I did it initially to stop invasive advertising, especially pop ups (and pop unders!) and autoplaying video. It was all a huge problem on dialup & when I was tethering my laptop, and now I’m used to the significantly cleaner experience. I’ll admit I hadn’t thought a lot about how it affected smaller sites. I didn’t even really know whitelisting was a thing. I also read a lot via RSS or Pocket, so that’s something else as well.

      I don’t have adblocker it on my new phone (yet) and I am hating once again the autoplay video, and also I’m creeped out by how the same two ads follow me around the internet (trust me, ad people, 1) I bought the shoes already and 2) when I want a sandwich I’ll remember it’s possible to order one.)

      I definitely pay, though. I have from way back. I have a permanent LiveJournal account, for all love. I’m a member here obviously, & I buy merch. So much merch.

  4. This is why I’m an A+ subscriber, full stop. My financial situation might be changing significantly soon but I’m going to do everything I can to keep up my current level of contribution.

  5. I read this article from beginning to end and you make some fantastic points. You have the unique perspective of being on both sides of this coin, so your piece is a lot more well-rounded than others I’ve seen regarding this topic. It’s a difficult balance for smaller sites to balance the ethics of paying their writers and the reality of paying their overhead.

    This is also the article that’s going to make me sign up for A+ (well, that and I worked some overtime, so I have a little extra in my paycheck to throw at a yearly sub!) because getting a glimpse of what you’ve gone through to make this site available, eeeeeesh, ya’ll deserve it!

  6. This post just made me go and buy an A+ subscription. I was going to ask for one for Christmas, but I decided I can scrape together the money now.

    Autostraddle, I love you. You have been there for me for so long. I first came to the site in 2011. I came for the Glee recaps, which were recommended to me by a fellow Gleek. I stayed because everything was so awesome. Autostraddle, you were there for me when I first needed to process my feelings about a girl, when I had sex with a woman for the first time, when I came out to my friends and family and coworkers, when I bought my first flannel and my first white v-neck t-shit. You told me what to wear for Thanksgiving with my girlfriend’s family, and what to buy her for Christmas, and what toys to get for Valentine’s Day. You helped me discover The L Word and many other shows featuring girls who like girls. You helped me deal with homophobic comments, and kept me updated on everything to do with marriage equality. You helped me find community. You have been my source for news, advice, laughs, personal stories, fashion, popular culture, media, and my wonderful Tomboy Femme t-shirt.

    Autostraddle, you helped me find true love. That Gleek who first directed me to your site? I’m engaged to her now; our wedding is 10 months away.

    I don’t know what I would have done without you, Autostraddle. Thank you so much for existing. I hope my contribution helps.

  7. Joining the group of those with newfound financial semi-stability are signing up for A+ thanks to the reminders of this essay.

    Also because my heart literally broke into all the pieces when Television Without Pity went under (despite being owned by Bravo) and if that happened to Autostraddle I would never recover from the Internet.

  8. You deliver such amazing content that we can’t find anywhere else on the internet. I and so many others have found love simply because you work so fucking hard to create this space for us. I wish I could give more and I hope you know so many of us think you deserve to benefit from more than just exposure.

    <3

  9. I’m so glad I have a secure full time job so I can subscribe to A+. If I get hired as a staff doctor where I currently work, after I finish my internship, I am definitely going to upgrade my membership.

    I didn’t come out to family and acquaintances until my second year of veterinary school (2011) and a fellow student directed me to this website. IT. MADE. MY LIFE. You all deserve funding and paid writers and shiny awesome things.

  10. I don’t make a lot of money but besides Netflix and things I *have to* pay, like rent, this is the only site I give money to monthly. I give money even though I don’t have a lot because it’s worth it, because I believe in what Autostraddle does, and because I want to support Autostraddle in any way I can.

  11. As a freelance writer just starting to make an income that lets me eat more than canned mushroom soup, I appreciate the nuance of this piece. Though there are only a few sites that I’d contribute to for free, because their causes are worth it to me, and I’ve always been in the camp that writing is a professional thing that should be paid for whenever possible.

    Also, I know this piece isn’t really talking about them, but I think there are way too many sites out there that want to take advantage of desperate writers. I’ve come across way too many that say they’re looking for writers and in the small print at the end of the application or writers’ guidelines say they can’t (or won’t) pay. Sites should be transparent about these things.

    I think the “Who Pays Writers” is really important for those writers who can’t afford to write for free. Worrying about who can afford what needs to go both ways.

    That being said, once I start having an actual disposable income, I’m getting an A+ membership. Autostraddle is the greatest, so it should get all the money.

    So ends my lecture.

  12. Hi Riese !
    This too convinced me to finally get an A+ membership since I too have recently acquired 1 (one) stable income !

    However, is there any chance I could be billed in GBP instead of USD ? Being billed in USD means I would get heavy monthly bank fees and I don’t want a big corporation to capitalize on the money I’m sending you !

    Unless that would mean you would pay the bank fees instead which would suck (but maybe you have a business account and don’t have too).

    Or is there a way to get around the bank fees through paypal ? I’ve never used paypal before… How did other A+ non US members solve this ?

    • I’ve never had bank fees for paying for something in dollars – would that come up because it’s a monthly payment? If so, could you pay for a yearly subscription? I may be being absolutely clueless here, it’s just I buy things from the States all the time and the currency conversion just happens automatically in Paypal as far as I can tell.

      • Ok so it may work with PayPal ? Maybe they do the price conversion themselves and then bill the bank in GBP… Because my bank for sure will bill me whether I pay monthly or all at once (it would be just a one-off fee if I did it at once that’s for sure)

    • I’m in a euro country and I pay via PayPal account that I linked to my credit card.

      If you don’t find another way around the bank fees, maybe buy a yearly subscription and only pay the fee once? 😛

    • perhaps you can set it up so that you transfer money ahead of time to your paypal (which can be done in pounds) and then have paypal withdraw from the balance, which paypal converts? I haven’t tried this but I’ve done a lot of buying/sending/transferring with paypal and it’s always been easy enough to switch between Es and $s.

  13. I, too, hope we figure it out.
    I believe strongly in paying for content, but I’ll be honest enough to add the caveat of within reason. For instance I don’t feel the copyright model wherein I’m supposed to feel guilty if my Beatles box set broke and I torrented it rather than pay super wealthy by now dead people AGAIN for their labor which they’ve already been more than compensated for is particularly sensible or beneficial to anyone and since my children won’t be paid for my labor after I die I fail to see why Paul McCartneys kids should be for his just because he is a musician and I am in terribly paid manual labor situations – but I support musicians I enjoy as best I can and prioritize the still living and not inordinately wealthy. Everyone should be paid for their work but not infinitely. It seems as if internet publishing is the only media wrestling honestly with this dilemma while other platforms of creative content buckle down in increasingly ridiculous ways (torrented pc games being more functional than their purchased counterparts and not accusing you constantly of theft is both ironic and sad).

    I hate advertising so much. It’s the reason I don’t have a television set – that and the space the tv takes up in a room are my sole objections. I pay (happily!) for netflix, the toast.net, autostraddle and such but like… paying for the content and THEN being advertised to offends me. I know it’s bonkers and irrational but I can’t help it – and it especially bothers me on the internet. For crying out loud if there was something I needed I could find it easily! I don’t even understand how advertising is still a thing as it serves no function. And the creepy spying that goes on makes me reluctant to hand over my bank account and email because suddenly everything is linked and instead of simply supporting a site I feel I have handed them my soul. Ugh.

    I believe there has to be a better way to do things and it’ll get figured out hopefully soon. It already is being discussed more as adblockers finally have gotten the point across that ads are not a way to finance things (and neither is venture capital, I mean, it’s not a charitable donation. The sites are going to have to be profitable on their own eventually). But the model of the future won’t be ‘everyone pays for all the content they consume every time whilst being advertised to and spied on because they’re products who are expected to behave like customers’ because that’s never ever been the case ever. Lending a book or a newspaper to someone is a thing and was always a thing. A portion (hopefully large) pays for the content, and as people prioritize things get funded. Such is life. Maybe patreon is the way of the future, maybe a wealth of models is the way of the future, who knows. But the expectation that everyone pays for everything every time is, I believe, futile. It seems to me like that’s what these venture capitalists and huge sites are banking on and I think they’re probably wrong.

    I pay for content happily, but I also think that Jeph Jacques being paid about 10.000 dollars a month on patreon to do Questionable Content means that I don’t feel particularly guilty directing my webcomic donations to smaller comics while continuing to enjoy QC, you know? In the end it ends up being an intricate web of different people paying for different things that keep things going, not every single person paying for everything.

    IDK, I have too many feelings and haven’t had enough coffee so I hope this isn’t too ramble-y.

  14. This is my favorite article in the paying writers conversation and all the points are valid. I think that as a writer, I always research whether or not a place I’m interested in pays for it’s content and if they don’t then I of course understand that I’m giving my work away for free/exposure and part of me is okay with that.

  15. I write online for a living, and I get paid VERY well for it. I would never give one word to Huffpost. They have bunches of money and they exploit people trying to gain exposure. Anyone who is so high and might and arrogant to think that being on their site should be enough, that I’m not worth so much as a dime, when they obviously have it, isn’t worth me or my time. Yes, I’ve been asked to go on HuffPostLive. I have refused every time, on principle. No thanks.

  16. I’m a little meh here. I understand that new and innovative for-profit companies often struggle to get going, but a for-profit company is a for-profit company, and I have real trouble with the ethics of any for-profit company, no matter how much I respect its product, not paying workers. It’s not a charity.

    That said, there are sectors where scrappy, struggling startups address this issue by offering ownership shares, profit-sharing, or other tangible compensation (note to HuffPo: that excludes “exposure” as payment), as payment for labor, and/or offer fairly low pay with the understanding that it will increase as the business picks up. Those options avoid the uncompensated labor problem.

    My feelings on this, combined with the fact that I appreciate the site, are why I’m an A+ subscriber. For-profit companies should compensate workers, but customers/consumers should be willing to contribute something to the success of companies whose product they consume, and whatever fraction of a penny Autostraddle gets from each pageview that I contribute doesn’t even come close to matching the value that Autostraddle provides me.

    • WTF is with the weirdo spam we’re getting here today. “vague comment almost vaguely related to the article title LINK TO SOMETHING UNRELATED”.

      Does anyone actually choose HR services or bar supplies because they were misled to them in a random comment? Ever?

Contribute to the conversation...

You must be logged in to post a comment.