If you’re one of the new breed of comment-filled, blog-style portals, such as The Huffington Post, XOJane or others, the answer is very little to bugger all.
After almost a year, reports vary as to how successful AOL’s launch of The Huffington Post in the UK has been, but AOL has shut down a lot of its separate named channels, ie Entertainment, to funnel everyone to HuffPo’s equivalent. (Visit the AOL UK homepage to see what I mean)
What’s in a name, you may ask? Maybe nothing, but what has changed is the use and, some might say, abuse of journalists. Where before people used to pay for a writer to craft some carefully-honed words on a subject, now HuffPo very rarely coughs up. Apparently, it’s a kudos thing to appear there.
Admittedly, things had been going downhill for a while with many writers being asked to drop their rates for online work, but this has taken it to a new low.
But the Huffington Post isn’t the only one to blame. XOJane – the sassy, edgy, online successor to Jane Magazine – is soon to launch a UK version and, rumour has it that journalists are being tempted with the offer of writing a ‘post’ (an article by any other name) for just £30.
Without wanting to sound all Linda Evangelista about it, who’d want to wake up and write for that frankly-insulting amount?
Adapt or die?
There are those people who say that writers should just ‘man up’ and accept that the world of work is changing and adapt or die.
To them, I say, fine. There’s nothing wrong with adapting, but it helps if others adapt with you. A good contributor is good, no matter where their content ends up (offline, online, broadcast, etc). If someone spends time doing something, the least you can do is reward them commensurately for their effort.
Yes, there are thousands of amateur, part-time, bored bloggers who are happy to contribute their thoughts for nothing, and, if that’s the case, let them do so.
But if a trained, experienced professional who knows what they’re doing offers their services, do the decent thing and respect them for their knowledge and ability.
Is the internet really that different?
However, the overriding argument for rewarding someone properly for their labours comes with the visibility of the work.
Admittedly, very few people have worked out how to make money out of internet content, but that doesn’t mean the quality should be any less good than the paper variety.
In fact, there’s an argument that brands and organisations should spend more on online content, because it doesn’t disappear at the end of the day/week/month.
By that I mean, once a magazine has been read, how often do you go back to an old issue and hunt out a specific article. Exactly. It’s gone.
With web content, although it can be expunged, it tends not to be and is often left published in perpetuity. High-quality content reflects superbly on your brand and encourages users to think better of you, rate you as experts and be more trusted.
The corollary is fairly obvious. Poor writing, video, images, etc, make you look bad. Who trusts a site that consistently publishes mistakes, terribly-argued comment or sub-standard pictures and film?
Just because you publish a lot, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s quality – probably more so if you don’t pay for it.
It takes a while, but quality content (and often I mean writing) genuinely does win out. Everyone may think (and tell you) they’re a writer. Only a small proportion actually are.