Under the leadership of Arianna Huffington, it looks like the whole AOL Patch-paying-writers-thing may be about to go up in smoke. Former AOL writer and current Forbes blogger Jeff Bercovici got wind of Patch‘s new plan to add 8,000 bloggers in the next week. A memo sent out last Friday from Patch editor-in-chief Brian Farnham tells Patch editors to recruit 4-5 new bloggers each by the May 4 deadline. And since Patch editors have seen their freelance budgets slashed, this presumably means these bloggers will be writing for free–HuffPo-style.
“The introduction of blogging on our sites is far more than just the release of a new feature,” Farnham said, in the memo obtained by Bercovici. “It is a full-on course correction heading Patch in the direction we want to go.
“As for the question of why we are moving this fast after the go-slow approach presented on Friday, let me address that here: we’re a startup. You’ve heard that before and it’s going to remain true for some time. You all signed on knowing this was a young company, and while no one likes a fire drill, at the same time you have to get used to changes and moving fast if you want to be a Patch editor.”
In other words, if you have any ethical qualms about demanding free content from your writers, better get over them now–or the only thing you’ll have to worry about is the door hitting your ass on the way out. Don’t you just love the Jack Welch approach to journalism?
Update – 05/04/11: Arianna blogs about the new initiative on Fridley Patch in Minnesota, dubbing it “Local Voices” and nimbly skirting around any direct reference to the unpaid aspects of it all.