*Note: this post contains my personal opinions unless stated otherwise, and is open to discussion. Please keep comments respectful and constructive.
Last night my twitter feed was hijacked by a discussion about the lack of publishers who pay for articles, the difference between freelance and blogging and how free content/stories are driving down the fees paid to freelance writers.
Last night’s twitter discussion started when Spencer Spellman re-tweeted a posted by Kaleel Sakakeeny on Tripatini about the new travel article at Huffington Post. The article talks about a recent interview between travel blogger Chris Gray Faust and Kate Aluetta, travel editor for the Huffington Post. During the interview, Aluetta stated that HuffPost does not pay contributors, does not allow contributors to participate in press trips and requires full rights for photographs. The thought is that travel writers would concede to this arrangement, as it would drive traffic to their own blogs.
The discussion on twitter was carried out mostly by Gary of @everywheretrip and Pam of @nerdseyeview. It was interesting. It was the perfect debate. Gary was pro. Pam was con. Both had excellent points to make. In fact, it’s a debate I would love to see at the next TBEX (Travel Blog Exchange) in Vancouver- are you reading this post, Kim? Wink wink.
I’m going to recap a couple of points from each side that struck a cord with me.
Pam of @nerdseyeview
“should be a broader question, not just to @EverywhereTrip IF you’ve given your work away, do you feel complicit in driving prices down?”
“@nctaylor I’d start by not writing content. that stuff is full of HFCS. it’s what’s making us fat. write stories.”
“it’s really about where you goals lie. if you want as much traffic/link juice /to build a biz then that’s what you have to pursue…”
Gary of @EverywhereTrip
“@nerdseyeview if you view yourself as a writer for hire, then it is a bad deal. If you view yourself as a publisher, then it is different.”
“@nerdseyeview if you want to be hired help, then it’s great. If you want to stay alive as a business, you’ll take the subscribers.”
“@nerdseyeview I agree everyone has different goals, but in the end, the difference between a blog and a diary is an audience.”
Both Pam and Gary make excellent points.
I’m currently working on an article, which is taking a lot of my free time to research and write. It’s a topic that I’m passionate about and something I would like to share with a wider audience. However, the options are limited.
- Post the article on my own blog and pray for traffic and exposure- hoping for low bounce rates and return visitors.
- Post the article on a popular website with high traffic with no compensation.
- Post the article on a popular website with high traffic and compensation.
- Work my arse off to pitch the idea to several print publications and hope to catch a break. The world of print media may be eroding, but it’s far from dead.
What is the answer? Who is right? Well, in my opinion, everyone is right. Here’s the thing. You need to do what is right for you and your blog. No opinion is a bad opinion. What works well for Joe, may not work for Harry and vice-versa.
Yes, publishers need to step up their game and compensate writers appropriately for their work. However, with the amount of free content/stories being offered, it is unlikely that they will do so. If you’re a 150 million dollar company like Huffington Post, are you going to pay for articles when you can get them for free? No, you’re going to take the freebies and use your money elsewhere. Does it make them right? No, it doesn’t.
Please don’t misunderstand me. If you want to provide articles for free and receive traffic and linkage than that is your choice. What’s important are your goals and what you want to take away at the end of the day. In terms of the Huffington Post debate, I think Spencer Spellman makes a valid case. Here’s what he has to say.
“I don’t know where you fall on the fence, but some travel bloggers think I’m hating on them because I don’t like Huff Po and refuse to write for them. I do, however, believe that Huff Po is a huge sell out. Here’s why travel bloggers want to write for Huff Po: 1) Link Juice-they get to have links to their sites from a site w/ a PR rank of 8, which boosts their site authority and 2) “Recognition”. Would you rather put in your cover letter or on your website that you’ve written for Nomadic Matt or Huffington Post? HP every time because of its authority and the fact that many book authors, celebrities and so on have written for Huff Po. It’s a straight shot to the top. Why wouldn’t you do it?!
I however, will never write for Huffington Post. First of all, because they don’t pay. Yes, I’ve written for free. I write free for my blog and from time to time do guest posts for friends. I heard from Tech Crunch that Huff Po is worth $150 million, yet you have travel startups and other much smaller, well-known publications and websites that pay, sometimes no more than $20, but yet they still pay and they have little to know budgets. I ultimately believe Editors will value someone more who puts their head down and works at it to get in a respected, paid publication than writing for free for Huff Po. I’m curious to talk about Spud Hilton about this.
Also, I believe Huff Po is doing a double standard. They say that you can’t take press trips, yet they don’t pay you. So you have to pay all your expenses when traveling and then write for free about it?
Anyways, this is my soapbox. I’m not at the core a travel blogger. I’m a travel writer. I wrote in college and have been writing for 4 years to be able to get where I’m at and still am low on the totem pole. This is something that is important to me, but again, not hating on people that don’t have a problem with writing for HP.”
This is a debate that is not going to go away anytime soon. As long as publishers refuse to give fair compensation, freelancers are going to struggle to make ends meat and bloggers who desire exposure, will continue to put themselves out there in any way they can.
In my eyes, this debate is very similar to the whole “which came first, the chicken or the egg?” At the end of the day, you need to do what is right for you and your blog. Sit down and be specific with your goals and create a plan of how to achieve them. Think before writing. Write a good story and draw your readers that way. Do not sell yourself short. If you love to write, then write.