The HuffPost and the difficulty to let go old habits

Aug 16, 2011
huffington post
The Huffington Post faces backlash over exploitative content practices, jeopardizing its reputation and success.
"The wolf loses its fur, but not its addiction." After all, it's their nature. The bad habit of carrying bad habits for the rest of existence has knocked on the doors of even the trendy and spoken-about Huffington Post, whose business model is the star of recent journalism. In an apparently unnecessary controversy, HuffPost has now dressed in the clothes of a stingy boss.
Arianna Huffington's newspaper policy on content production is widely based on crowdsourcing and the use of material from contributors who don't always receive something for it. Besides the editorial core of a half dozen people, HP has a network of about 9,000 bloggers who, in truth, guarantee the functionality of the project. The publication already has proceedings due to the exploitation of some of their work without remuneration. The new controversy refers to a similar policy that the Post is making with the designers protesting, due to a contest that, according to the designers, is for the newspaper to get a logo for Twitter without having to spend anything. The AdWeek article is very complete and explains the controversy. If you want, also visit the Wikipedia entry about Huffington and learn a little more about the problematic history of contributions.
It is difficult to understand why a capitalized, multi-millionaire organization with a valid business model like the Huffington Post needs to resort to a recruitment policy that has the face of the nineteenth century. "Projects" that try to disguise pure and simple exploitation of free work "in exchange for visibility" are the face of traditional journalism that is dragging itself around the world with its opulent headquarters, oak tables, immense boards, and no future.
The more than US$300 million that HP received from AOL to change home and enabled its entry into the United Kingdom (which unfortunately occurred on the same day that the phone hacking scandal broke out and therefore did not stand out more) indicates that the publication could think with less greed. Projects made on top of crowdsourcing depend on smaller payments than to a professional in a newsroom, which are compensated with facilities that the content producer has from other sides (such as freedom of schedule, work flexibility, etc). But they must be paid. No long-term serious project can be built on the exploitation of underpaid work.
At this moment, the reader can argue that for centuries, the largest companies in the history of capitalism live off exploiting poorly paid work (slave, no - that is a "modern" prerogative, because without salary there is no consumption and without consumption there is no capitalism). The issue here is that in the new information industry, the owner of the capital has advantages, but is no longer the absolute owner of power. Initiatives like HP's are extremely healthy, but cannot get drunk with success and imagine that their collaborators can live off the glory of collaborating with the eighth wonder of the world. Just as Huffington became a hit, it can disappear and give way to another. Arianna Huffington needs to lose the vice of a decaying industry or she will lose much more than just fur.

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