Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Cold World of Web Journalism

Forget glamour. Forget riches or in some cases even a paycheck. It is cold out there when it comes to jobs and pay in the Web world. Especially when your company is sold, merged or bought out. In the case of Huffington Post- AOL merger, nearly all the AOL staff was dumped. Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post are darlings of the Web world. Some say she is a "genius." But much of her success is attributed to her employees. They are a talented bunch who helped build the company with little or no pay. Such is the world of the Web - low pay, no benefits and often terrible working conditions. Why would anyone want to do these jobs? Good question. This is not what they often teach you in journalism school. - MT

This comes from Ad Age's Matthew Creamer:

The piss-poor manner in which AOL's army of regular freelancers were treated after the Huffington Post purchase is captured by Carter Maness writing for The Awl. After leaving a corporate job in 2008 to, possibly quixotically, start a music journalism career, he latched on with AOL. All seemed OK until Arianna rolled up, her presence unleashing a depressing torrent of corporate lethargy, indecision and miscommunication that ultimately resulted in him getting canned. He was notified in a letter than began with an almost flirty "Hi there." I wonder if we expect more humanity from media companies than we do other corporations. Perhaps it's time to stop that. Anyway, here's the kicker:

Hi there! Over my two-year tenure at AOL, I published over 350,000 words in approximately 900 posts -- at least three novels worth of words. This was met with a blanket termination, with zero notice, in the form of an email that didn't even include my actual name. Freelancers know they are just a number, but AOL really went out of their way to demonstrate that. Rest assured!

The toughest part is that it's now near impossible for us to gain satisfaction from the merger's probable failure. Tim Armstrong is already rich. Arianna Huffington is already rich. Those that treated the Mighty AOL Freelance Army like so much trash to be taken out have already gotten paid on our backs. At least we were "greatly appreciated" for helping them out.

Well, I suppose Mr. Maness could write for Forbes. Now there's even a manual for how to get a blogging job there. It was penned by Susannah Breslin, who after being downsized herself was hired by Forbes to write "Pink Slipped," a blog whose subject matter should relatively obvious. The second tip of five tips served up by Ms. Breslin encourages one to "be a hustler":

At my last job, I was an editor, but I was also part of the marketing team. I generated multiple blog posts daily, did a brief stretch as a copy editor, and worked with freelance contributors. I was also tasked with increasing site traffic. I used a variety of means to drive traffic to the site. The site had very, very ambitious traffic goals. We met those goals in a variety of ways, from social media to relationships with blogger influencers to partner sites. That means I am familiar with how to drive traffic to a blog or site. This is what it means to be an online writer today. If you think that is sad, corrupting, or indicates the demise of journalism, I suppose you are a more moral person than I am. These days, it's not enough to be a good writer online. You have to be a smart marketer, your own content factory, your own publicist. If you can do it all, you are golden. If you cannot, you are screwed.

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