Some contributors to the Huffington Post have decided it’s time to stop giving away their work for free. That might sound snort-worthy — yeah, right. Good luck with that. By this point, “content” is so widely devalued in many corners of the Internet that the writers may have little chance of squeezing any change out of the Post.
But writer Michael Walker points to a successful precedent. In The Los Angeles Times, Walker draws a parallel to a comedians’ strike in the ’70s that persuaded Los Angeles’s legendary Comedy Store comedy club to start paying previously unpaid comedians for their performances. Their ranks included now-famous folks such as David Letterman, Robin Williams and Jay Leno.
The catch is that while that was one club and a small group of comedians, the Web is full of writers more than happy to share their work for nothing, or close to it. Walker writes:
The no-pay policy espoused by the Huffington Post is also the Web’s fundamental underlying business philosophy — what the stand-up comedy business might have become had Letterman, Leno and the rest not thrown down the gauntlet. The reality is that the complicity of writers and entire publications in serving up endless freebies to the metaphorical Comedy Stores of the Web has gone a long way toward transmuting “writing” done for pay into into “content,” consumed for free.
It’s nice to think that the HuffPo strikers could have a chance of winning some concessions. But the reality is that this picket line faces an almost innumerable supply of willing scabs.
Photo by MN AFL-CIO.