Simon Dumenco is not impressed by the Huffington Post’s business model.
Last week, the Huffington Post, the liberal news/political blog co-founded by Arianna Huffington and Ken Lerer, successfully lured [Betsy ]Morgan away from CBSNews.com. The inevitable headlines and analysis — about how the scrappy blog was edging ever closer to mainstreamness by luring a respected news veteran to be its CEO — was helpful not only in underscoring Huffington’s status as a national media power broker.
It also helped everyone forget Lerer’s astonishing statement in USA Today, just days earlier, that HuffPo has no plans to ever pay its bloggers. “That’s not our financial model,” he told the paper. “We offer them visibility, promotion and distribution with a great company.”
Coming right out and saying that — and saying it that way, with those particular words — takes cojones. Not our financial model. Geez, wow. Not since the Pets.com sock puppet scored a deal to write his memoir (published in 2000 as “Me by Me: The Pets.com Sock Puppet Book”) has there been a more tellingly, creepily poetic new-media moment. In fact, if it weren’t for Betsy Morgan’s vote of confidence in the Huffington Post — if Morgan weren’t willing to put her career on the line to endorse the blog’s place in the media firmament — Lerer’s pronouncement could have been HuffPo’s jump-the-shark moment.
[From Advertising Age]
Gawker’s media empire doesn’t pay its writers much either, but both Gawker and HuffPost bloggers get paid more than B12’s stable of bloggers (who make about a dime a day, after expenses are paid. Those Google ads on our sidebar bring in less and less.) Dumenco continues:
First of all, arguably, it’s the other way around: Despite Arianna’s cable-news omnipresence, it’s the excellent work of such regular bloggers as Harry Shearer, Nora Ephron and Bill Maher that gave HuffPo visibility, promotion and distribution. They lent their credibility and influence — and their built-in audiences (Shearer with his radio show, Maher with his “Real Time” on HBO, Ephron with the fans of her books and movies) — to Arianna and Ken. And for what? Bupkis now — and bupkis forever! (Suckas!)
Second, the vast majority of the Huffington Post’s bloggers get virtually no significant visibility, promotion or distribution simply because there are so damn many of them — 1,800 at last count, which means that unless you’re one of Arianna’s favorites (and/or a scoop-slinging insider), you’re probably rarely going to get on the home page — and if you do, only fleetingly.
Third, the Huffington Post actually does pay some of its bloggers — the ones it has on staff, such as “Eat the Press” media editor/blogger Rachel Sklar — so the financial model is, well, what then? Pay some of the bloggers some of the time? Don’t pay the bloggers who are wealthy enough from their real gigs not to care? That, to me, is not only not a real “financial model,” it’s a wacky, ad hoc, college-newspaper-esque compensation scheme unworthy of a self-proclaimed “great company.”
Mind you, Lerer has also claimed that the Huffington Post will be profitable in 2008 — after burning through at least $10 million in venture capital. If HuffPo ever gets a lofty valuation — through an IPO or through the sale of a publicly valued stake — the serfs will surely revolt as they watch Lady Arianna and Lord Ken and their backers get rich(er).
I’ll admit I was skeptical when the Huffington Post launched, but I do glance over there from time to time, and do find stories of interest to me occasionally. There are so many bloggers though, that I’d guess 80-100 entries are posted a day, and who has time to read them all?
* From time to time, I’m reposting articles from my old blog to my new. No reason, really, other than the best way to test something new is to use it, use it, use, you gotta work it, work it. I’ll try to remember to try [sic ]to append *reposted. Please don’t be irritated if I forget.