As times change, and Arianna Huffington moves on from her enterprise, I am debating too, if Huffpost is worth the time it takes to help make billionaires ad revenue. Unsurprisingly, my motives not to write for Huffpost move from financial, to personal, to political.
I remember my Huffpost acceptance letter like a giddy child it was almost better than my university acceptance letter. It looked me in the face, and it told off all of those professors, and even family members, that whispered, sometimes screamed: You will never be a writer.
If you write for HuffPost, you know that some one out there wants to read your stuff.
At least, you feel that way at first. As time goes on, and editors pick less and less pieces to “promote” you realize that if you want to be heard, you need to either be a) super controversial or b) write trending fluff garbage. If your piece is controversial trending garbage, then you’ve got a winner.
I Have A Healthy Amount of Self-Respect
When you write for Huffpost the editor team rarely, if ever, answers our emails. We are paid $0/view. We are never told why (or even when) our posts are boosted, or ignored. Chances are that HuffPost won’t even give your post a shout-out on their twitter or Facebook pages if you are ‘fortunate’ enough to be promoted. We are treated as though HuffPost is doing us an amazing favour by allowing us their platform. Think I’m wrong? Ask one of their editors! Actually, he’s already answered this question – live, on air. While talking through his position of Editor-In-Chief of the UK branch of HuffPost (then still HuffingtonPost), Stephen Hull said: “If I was paying someone to write something because I want it to get advertising, that’s not a real authentic way of presenting copy. When somebody writes something for us, we know it’s real, we know they want to write it. It’s not been forced or paid for. I think that’s something to be proud of.” In a shocking-awe-inducing (*sarcasm*) rebuttal, International Business Times revealed, Unpaid Huffington Post Bloggers Actually Do Want To Get Paid. In, like, real money. Not even in doughnuts or the mystical currency called exposure. I wonder if marketing analysts when just starting are perfectly happy to run an entire social media profile for the experience. Maybe they are. Any one want a job? I promise not to pay you! I respect myself too much to think I am worth nothing. I am worth the time to answer an email! I am worth a few dollars per article! Also, I’m getting a little tired of being tied to a site whose political image doesn’t necessarily match my own, and thus…
I Don’t Agree With Their Politics
Being a political moderate, or deliberative democrat, in a HuffPost world, can make one strikingly numb. I’m not american, so the attempts to polarize me from left to right are for nought. Actually, they make me curious as to whether or not Plato was right (remember his view that common folk are too stupid to elect proper leaders?”). Listen, I’m not a Donald Trump fan, but that doesn’t mean I’m blind to the fact that American politics are all about the dollar. I am close to a BA in Political Science, so I am knowledgeable on political practices, but living in the wake of its ashes is exhausting. I will confess, I did write an article about Donald Trump and Castro, titled Castro Is Dead But The Donald Trump Threat Now Looms. It’s a great title. But, my dislike of dictators has nothing to do with whether or not they’re socialist, fascist, Americanist (that’s what I’m calling whatever the hell Trump is), or a Unicornist (some exceptions with this one if I get to ride a Unicorn). Im not stupid enough to think that HuffPost editors are posting for purely political reasons. Some may be, After-all, Arianna did set up the site to be very very liberal, but nowadays it’s simple: angry political topics generate clicks, and that generates revenue. As a future political scientist, I feel some degree of responsibility to respect political science as more than just revenue-creating. HuffPost is not the place for political theory and debate.
HuffPost is NOT Journalism
I find it hard to stomach what’s being posted on the HuffPost Facebook pages. Dutifully I follow just to see what’s posted. Okay, fine — I follow just in-case my own writing pops up on the feed. All writers have some degree of narcissism where it feels amazing to see their writing flash across their screen. The trouble is, much of what’s being posted is the aforementioned controversial trending garbage. I have spent many of minutes typing out responses to angry viewers that, “HuffPost does really publish a lot of stuff, and not all of it (if any), is journalism”. Sure, HuffPost employs a staff of Editors, but they’re not picking pieces for their news value. It’s all about edgy, far-pushing liberal values. For a year I took journalism classes at University. I learned, from an amazing journalist that ethics and rules guide all professional journalists. The same thing is not happening at HuffPost. The new tenants seem to be: make people mad, make money, rinse & repeat. Ironic, considering this is a company that thinks not paying writers ‘in ad revenue’ makes them authentic.
Bloggers Will Never Be Compensated
No one can write for other people, for free, forever. We have lives and we have bills and responsibilities. Save for people that are writing as a very part time hobby, writers need compensation. When you write for HuffPost the bills are never going to be paid through them. You won’t even be able to purchase a coffee to help you write the piece. Your time, your research, and your resources, are meaningless. Back in the day, when HuffPost sold to AOL, Business Insider reported that, “According to leaked documents at The Smoking Gun, Huffington got $21 million from the sale, with $3.4 million coming in the form of equity grants”. Of course, a lot of this money goes to staff (the ones they actually pay), infrastructure, and so on and so forth. But, that also means that out of a $21 million dollar sale, there wasn’t even a dollar left to pay contributors even a measly contribution. Fiverr, a completely exploitative enterprise, at the very least pays writers $5/piece (then takes commission, and usually you can’t say you wrote it). This isn’t just about self respect, it’s about common sense. My time is worth money. I’ve gone to school and taken English courses (just shy of a minor), journalism courses (no major/minor, but I took them), Political Science (my BA major). I have paid real money — and a lot of it, to develop my thoughts and ideas. Even if I hadn’t, I still have taken the time to formulate ideas, practice writing, and put in the effort. Sites get away with this because writers are willing to write for free. The more we demand compensation, the more they will be forced to pay. Because…
Not Paying Writers Means Lower Quality
By the way, if you’re not paying me for something, it’s probably not going to be beyond amazing. While I try not to write anything I’d be ashamed of later, it’s reasonable to assume that I’m going to put way more effort into something that I feel will be treated with the respect that quality deserves. Because they don’t pay, HuffPost is an extension of a blog. Since I have to manually share the article to a bunch of people to even be considered, it’s pretty much the same thing as my own blog. The articles I do write for HuffPost that are of importance, are usually ones trying to raise awareness and promote advocacy for Misophonia. Interestingly, I have no trouble writing for The Mighty which does not pay. Why? Because they are a respectful community of advocates. I am not writing just to be exposed, I am writing to have dialogue with fellow advocates and persons that are struggling. HuffPost is not a fostered community, and it’s not really that great of a news and exposure site. Why? …
Conversion of Traffic Is Very Low
Most articles are never “promoted” and those that do must fight to the top of the pile. Even, in the rare instance that they make it to Google, it is not likely that people will stick around to learn more. We live in a click fast, click often world. For advocacy, it is very important to have people learning proper information (from researchers, etc) but aside from viewers reading information on the blog, it is unlikely that we will see much for research fundraising come from HuffPost. And, if you rely on ad money? HuffPost will sink that up. HuffPost is very smart about providing links to “more like this” content so that your outbound links are rarely clicked. HuffPost is a business, and they’re in the business of keeping people on their site.
So, if all of this is a problem, why have I written for HuffPost? It’s kind of a complicated question. As an advocate I feel advocated to share information with the world. Of course, this may sometimes come at a personal price. However, since money is not my goal, there are some posts I may find relevant for HuffPost, even without potential of clickthroughs. This is very true of posts that only aim to raise awareness and change perceptions of my disorder, or simply let people know it exists. Still, as a writer, I am very critical of just what I post on the site. Maybe I write for HuffPost because masochism is the first skill needed to be a writer.