More Readers Means More Buzzfeed and How Work-for-Free is Inegalitarian

Avatar

Ethan Gach

I write about comics, video games and American politics. I fear death above all things. Just below that is waking up in the morning to go to work. You can follow me on Twitter at @ethangach or at my blog, gamingvulture.tumblr.com. And though my opinions aren’t for hire, my virtue is.

Related Post Roulette

23 Responses

  1. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    I’d think, in your exploding author example, that she would reap significant benefit in that the Atlantic and other publications would be paying serious attention and considering hiring her. That prospect presumably would have been cut off if she had never had the option of being published on the Atlantic at all.

    Another quibble I have; you seem to think that if institutions paid everyone who wrote for them that people would get the same opportunities that they get now. I’d protest that if the institution is having to shell out dough for their content then they’d be even more strongly inclined to go with tried and tested authors and content methods leaving the new, untried and untested authors frozen out in the blog wilderness.Report

    • Avatar Ethan Gach in reply to North
      Ignored
      says:

      “I’d think, in your exploding author example, that she would reap significant benefit in that the Atlantic and other publications would be paying serious attention and considering hiring her.”

      Can you think of ANY reason why the Atlantic, in that example, shouldn’t just offer an amount of money if certain benchmarks are surpassed? Regardless of whether you think she’s getting equal value already.

      “Another quibble I have; you seem to think that if institutions paid everyone who wrote for them that people would get the same opportunities that they get now.”

      As the opportunities they get right now are unpaid, I don’t see there being a huge difference. The point I made above is that exposure will help a handful of people, but not the majority of bloggers/amture writers, most especially the poor ones who can’t afford it, literally, because they need to eat and live somewhere.

      I am by no means in that group. I have a good paying job that gives me a decent amont of time to still write if and when I write, and with ample room to work at trying to spin that off. I also recognize though that I am a rareity in that regard. And I don’t see how the FTP model levels the playing field in any meaninful sense.Report

      • Avatar North in reply to Ethan Gach
        Ignored
        says:

        Well -I- certainly think The Atlantic might be well advised to have a slot or slots that are “we won’t pay you but if you manage to write a smash hit we’ll tip you a cash payment” spot. Sounds plausible to me. I have a sneaking suspicion, though, that a reason The Atlantic doesn’t have such an option on offer is that they are deluged with offers from writers to put content up for free. If you are The Atlantic and your issue is not “finding writing to print” but rather “sorting the gold nuggets out of the dross in our submissions box” then the last thing you’d want to do is encourage even more submissions.

        I’m also probably too neoliberalish in inclination for this conversation but the idea of a person who has the mental capacities to write interesting professional prose not being able to support themselves with some side job AND find time to write is ludicrous. A single author with a studio apartment and no kids could probably keep themselves in rent, internet money and ramen on a waiting job or working thirty hours a week at Starbucks. Plenty of time for writing there. Some people like to do nothing but write and would like to make a living doing it? That’s awesome, I’d like to play board games and video games, watch TV, debate on the internet and make a living doing it. It seems we both have the same problem; finding someone who’ll pay us to do what we want to do. My solution was to find a job I didn’t loathe and then do my favored activities in my free time *cough* (mostly).Report

    • Avatar Tod Kelly in reply to North
      Ignored
      says:

      “Another quibble I have; you seem to think that if institutions paid everyone who wrote for them that people would get the same opportunities that they get now.”

      Actually, I’m not sure you need to go to the theoretical to answer that question.

      Back before the internet, when the Atlantic (and every other magazine) was print-only and paid everyone for every word that was in their magazine, do you think they gave opportunities to young, unknown writers?

      Or do you think that, with a finite budget and a desire to get people to buy, they instead only paid a small stable of very established, big-name free-lance writers over and over – say, paying Steven King for a short story or two and five essays every year?

      As someone who was a subscriber throughout the 80s, I can tell you what I think they did.Report

  2. Avatar Matty
    Ignored
    says:

    Could they offer the writer x percent of the revenue generated by the article? That should reduce the concerns about making a profit out of free work (which I agree with), while allowing for the reality of the market.Report

  3. Avatar Jim Heffman
    Ignored
    says:

    Maybe what it means is that in the future, everyone will be a writer…as a hobby. There will be a very few “professional writers” who are as much celebrity figures as they are writers, in much the manner of current professional sports players. Having them “co-write” with you on a book will be a status symbol.Report

    • Avatar Jim Heffman in reply to Jim Heffman
      Ignored
      says:

      Actually, now that I think about it, pro sports is maybe the best model for where this will go. There will be untold millions of hobbyists who might get paid a little for what they do, but strictly as a sideline; and there will be a few pro “teams” who write for website/magazine/newsfeeds. And the primary purpose of these teams will be to exist as a team. The actual content will be valuable only in the moment of production; there will be occasional claims that it has value afterward, but nobody will really take that seriously.

      The only real divergence will be single authors, who will evolve into a sort of “team” with a single player and thousands of owners.Report

  4. Avatar Ethan Gach
    Ignored
    says:

    I think I made a hash of trying to unmake yesterday’s hash. Oh well.

    I agree with Matty and Jim above. Writers should be paid a %, even if that’s pennies–there’s no reason why that shouldn’t be feasible.

    Two, I do think everyone will write as a hobby (well not EVERYONE). But everyone who wants to, and that won’t be a bad thing, and it will elevate what it means to be a hobby, since there will be plenty of people who are much better at it than other (this is obviously already the case). I dream of an age in which the means of product allow people to grind work for a 1/3 of the work day, community support work for another 1/3 work day, and whatever they please for the remainder.

    Clearly that’s untenable horshit though. Or something. Population grows faster than productivity.Report

  5. Avatar North
    Ignored
    says:

    Also has anyone noticed that Freddie’s occasional musings on everyone having a guaranteed minimum income is functionally almost identical to libertarian ponderings on a negative income tax?Report

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *