Uncompensated bloggers for the popular Web site Huffington Post decided they were finally due some recognition when founder (and onetime Santa Barbara resident) Arianna Huffington sold her creation to AOL for $315 million. So say researchers at UCSB’s Carsey-Wolf Center after surveying 26 of the site’s most prolific and popular bloggers and analyzing news reports. According to codirector of the Media Industries Project Michael Curtin, many of these writers — often experts and journalists — are less concerned with money than “identity” and “self-worth.”
In fact, the Huffington Post builds its brand — as an alternative to the mainstream media where the public can engage in dialogue — on bloggers who are willing to write for free to share their expertise, hone their craft, raise their public profile, or catch the attention of possible employers. The actual paid contributors to the Huffington Post write tabloid-style celebrity fare that generates page views. While the public tends to view blogging as an unprofessional form of writing, Curtin says they are doing real labor for which they should be acknowledged. He says that the Huffington Post now has the opportunity to reorganize in a fashion that will make that possible instead of running a “modern sweatshop.” As a starting point, he suggests the YouTube model which offers a share of advertising revenue to original-content providers.