Imagine if you did something for someone, then later they claimed you owed them more. That’s exactly what moron “labor advocate” Jonathan Tasini is doing to the Huffington Post (NYSE:AOL).
First, let’s examine exactly how dumb Tasini must be. In contract law, so long as two consenting parties agree to exchange legal services for reasonable consideration, the merits of the exchange are not for other parties to judge. Reasonable consideration includes $1 or even the old-school symbol of pepper corns. Clearly, Tasini doesn’t know the law or is merely staging a huge publicity stunt to somehow further his career.
In the case of the unpaid bloggers versus Huffington Post, the bloggers clearly received reasonable consideration in the form of publicity almost none of them could afford. How do I know? Because I contribute to the Huffington Post on occasion. Not for “free” as Tasini would like the ignorant to believe, but for the reasonable consideration of exposure.
As a consenting adult, it is always up to me whether I want my content published at Huffington Post. Neither Arianna Huffington nor any other agents of the site have ever published my content without permission. They have also never pressured me in any way whatsoever to contribute my content to their site.
Like all the Huffington Post bloggers, I have contributed according to my own volition for valuable consideration that was reasonable to me at the time.
Now that Wall St. Cheat Sheet is flirting with 1,000,000 unique monthly readers, I rarely allow anyone to reprint my content because the cost-benefit analysis no longer works. But when I do allow syndication, I do so because I perceive the benefit to outweigh the costs. When Tasini and his lawyerly leaches get to court (I am barred as a lawyer, so spare me the comments about lawyer hating), they will learn this rudimentary lesson the costly way.
Unfortunately for all bloggers, media and the web are changing rapidly. The value of any individual blog post continues to decline because of simple economics: as supply rises, prices decline. Also, bloggers are competing with subject area experts who use blogging as a marketing strategy. So, if an expert in any given field is willing to provide media outlets free content in exchange for visibility to sell books, consulting services, or any other good or service, bloggers are facing a very dismal competitive reality. I wish it were otherwise, but life delivers challenges.
As a writer, I do have some sympathies with the bloggers. I know how crappy it feels to put effort into writing only to learn it’s worth a few bucks or less. But as the Chairman of our Board and founder of MarketWatch Larry Kramer has been saying for the past few years, if you want to make money in media you need to be entrepreneurial and willing to experiment with new ways to monetize your skills. That’s the future. That’s how the Information Age will be for the majority of bloggers and writers (there are, of course, exceptions to that new rule). Consequently, I won’t be surprised if other large media companies — InterActiveCorp (NASDAQ:IACI), News Corp (NASDAQ:NWSA), Yahoo (NASDAQ:YHOO), Demand Media (DMD), etc. — file Amicus Briefs in support of Huffington Post.
So, you can hate Arianna Huffington’s (NYSE:AOL) business model, but you’re really just hating the reality of change. As the American proverb states: Don’t Hate the Player, Hate the Game.