“Lighthouses are more helpful than churches.” -Benjamin Franklin
A couple of weeks ago, AOL purchased the online news organization The Huffington Post, founded by Ariana Huffington. A lot of people have criticized Huffington Post, including one of my favorite bloggers, PZ Myers. You see, The Huffington Post features bloggers who are not compensated for their work – lots and lots of bloggers who write on a variety of subjects.
Those who oppose HuffPo’s polices argue that the bloggers are essentially unpaid labor. Not paying your employees is wrong; not paying your employees when you just got a $300 million dollar check is despicable.
As an unpaid blogger, I get it. I want to get paid for everything that I write. I’d love to make money from this site, but I’m not under the illusion that my little corner of the internet is worth funding at the moment. And I’m not the only one who thinks that my blog and a lot of content the HuffPo bloggers produce isn’t worth paying for.
Nate Silver, over at FiveThirtyEight, did an analysis of HuffPo’s content and concluded the content the bloggers produce really isn’t worth paying for. It doesn’t drive page views, which means it doesn’t attract advertisers, which means no one wants to pay for it. That is why HuffPo doesn’t pay their bloggers.
From a moral standpoint, should HuffPo (or anyone) pay for the content bloggers produce? Probably. As I said, I want to get paid. I put a lot of work into my blog. But like lighthouses and all public goods, the private market doesn’t provide compensation for these things. And morally, HuffPo doesn’t owe the world shit.