If you’re looking for a way to expand your reach and build your reputation, Huffington Post may seem like an attractive platform. With its national reach and reputation, it might even seem too good to resist. But I won’t do it, and I encourage you to take a pass as well. I’ll tell you why.
I hate sending mixed messages. On one hand, guest blogging is a great way to develop your reputation and build readership. On the other, do you really want to take advantage of exploitative practices that make life difficult for professional writers? Wait, let me explain.
Last year, actor and celebrity Wil Wheaton was approached by Huffington Post to republish something he had written on his personal blog. Now, Wil Wheaton may not be as famous as some of his Star Trek co-stars, but he has a significant cult following that could have brought a unique audience to Huffington Post. So when Mr. Wheaton entered negotiations, he thought he was on equal footing. He asked what Huffington Post pays contributors. They responded:
“Unfortunately, we’re unable to financially compensate our bloggers at this time. Most bloggers find value in the unique platform and reach our site provides, but we completely understand if that makes blogging with us impossible.”
Huffington Post is a very profitable company. In 2015, it was worth over $50 million. So the fact that it doesn’t pay its writers isn’t a necessity. It is a choice.
What Huffington Post’s Decision Means for Writers
When big news companies like the Huffington Post decide not to pay writers for their work, it makes writers believe their work isn’t worth money. Worse, they may come to understand that they, as writers, aren’t worthy of compensation. That they should work for free. Look at HuffPo’s own writer, Stacie Huckeba, who claimed:
“I’m a blogger, not a journalist. This is all stuff I would be doing over on WordPress for free, but here I can hopefully inspire more people and a reach a broader audience with their platform. And I have.”
The idea that just because a writer might choose to do something for free doesn’t mean that companies should be allowed to profit from their work. Because I make my living from writing, I have made the decision never to write for someone else without compensation. Depending on who I am writing for, that could mean money or an exchange of services – like reciprocal guest posts on each other’s blogs. But it will never be for free.
What Huffington Post’s Decision Means for Marketers
Huckeba rightly observes that writing for free is a form of marketing:
“It’s no different than sending out press releases or buying advertising space or hiring an agent or manager. You’re paying for exposure. One way or another exposure is going to cost you something. How the hell is anyone supposed to find you if they don’t know you exist?”
But here’s the thing: unless you are advertising some other service you provide, all Huffington Post offers is exposure for exposure’s sake. Marketers looking for an advertising outlet may turn to sites like Huffington Post to build reputation for their clients. But that’s not what readers are looking for. Huffington Post is supposed to be a reputable source for news and information. Not an advertiser’s playground. Once readers realize that the only people writing for Huffington Post are doing so for their own gain, it colors what they are reading and your writer’s credibility.
Don’t perpetuate a system that undercuts writing as a profession. Pay your writers. And if you are looking for a place to build your reputation, choose a platform that doesn’t manipulate readers into believing they are reading something other than marketing.
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Lisa Schmidt is a writer for Legal Linguist in Ferndale, Michigan. She writes blogs and web content for law firms and small businesses. If you need help building your online platform, contact Legal Linguist today to schedule a meeting.