Veteran Entertainment Writers Protest Sister Site’s No-Pay Model

This story is developing Down Under, but it sadly speaks to broader digital journalism issues that we have all become wearily familiar with here in the U.S.

In a co-signed open letter posted on the personal website of Herald Sun theater critic and Crikey TV critic Byron Bache (pictured), he and a group of fellow veteran arts and entertainment writers are asking scribes NOT to contribute to Crikey’s new vertical The Daily Review, launched today. Why? Because not only is parent co. Private Media not paying writers for blog items, but the new site has also allegedly ditched the bonus payments model in effect at the Crikey end.

Bache originally published the specifics of the Web traffic bonuses and then removed those numbers, at Crikey’s request. However, Business Day has republished the specifics:

Because nothing is deleted forever on the Internet, Business Day can reveal how the [Crikey] system works. Blog entries that get 25,000 page views a month earned a “bonus” of $193.50, those with 50,000 hits $387 and so on, with the system topping out at $4000 for a post ticking past the 500,000 mark.

According to Bache’s letter, contributors to Crikey are also in some cases paid a per-item rate of $150 or more. With The Daily Review, that’s not the case and there’s an extra slap in the writer face.

He alleges that if and when a writer’s Crikey content is syndicated over to The Daily Review, page views at that end do not count towards the writer’s Crikey bonus scale. He also writes that two of new site’s full-time staffers are being paid over $100,000 a year.

Open letter co-signer and literary blogger Bethanie Blanchard told The Australian she feels the protest is a perfect opportunity for AU writers to try and stem the unpaid Web writing tide. She also revealed that Crikey today spiked her commissioned piece on author Christos Tsiolkas. She thinks the decision is connected to her participation in the digital protest letter, but Crikey denied it.

In a post before the weekend on Mumbrella, veteran AU journalist Andrew Stafford relayed his own experiences with the new spinoff. They involve, essentially, being offered the position of music critic for future advertising considerations.

Read the Bache & co. open letter here. Via the comments, other AU writers in support of the cause are adding their names to the list of signatories.

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