A reader writes:
I assist our Community Reinvestment Director in preparing HuffPo blog posts. I also work with her and our other staff to write and place newspaper and magazine op-ed columns (in recent months we've been in the San Francisco Chronicle, Investor's Business Daily, American Banker and other publications). None of these outlets pays for guest opinion columns, so what precisely is the difference? Yes, HuffPo publishes bloggers because they attract readers. Presumably, newspapers publish op-ed columns for the same reason. Last time I looked, Hearst, Tribune Co., etc. are not running charities.
1. a person in a condition of servitude, required to render services to a lord, commonly attached to the lord's land and transferred with it from one owner to another.
2. a slave.
HuffPo blogging fits none of these criteria; we have no obligations whatsoever. When we think of something we want to say, we write it up and send it in. It's our subject, our timing, our choice on all counts. It's a fair exchange: HuffPo, the SF Chronicle or whatever publication gets some interesting content at virtually no cost (in both cases, of course, they are paying someone to review/edit and handle physical and electronic logistics of maintaining the platform); the writer/blogger gets her message to thousands of readers who wouldn't otherwise see it. The only difference is that at HuffPo we have much more control over scheduling. Calling this serfdom is just silly.
You asked, "If you can make a fortune off people's vanity and desire to express themselves, why not?"
It doesn't seem like you are taking into account the benefits "free" bloggers like myself accrue from sites like Huffington Post when we give them material that will result in pageviews. For example, I have a book based on my blog that will release on March 1 and I would love nothing more than to give them some free material that will raise the visibility of the book and get them some pageviews. It's not simply a narcissistic desire for self-expression.
I also think your comment shows a lack of awareness of how your blog generates pageviews that result in paychecks for those involved with the Dish. Most Dish posts direct people to other material that is free for you, and the dream of most bloggers is to get "Dished." Are you making a living off of people's vain desires for self-expression when you link to their Youtube video or blog post?