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writers must stop giving their work away to Huffington Post

Arianna Huffington invested $2 million in her Huffington Post. Now, with the site sold to AOL, she’s collecting somewhere between $40 million and $50 million… all based on the work that thousands of bloggers have contributed entirely for free to the site.

Keith J. Kelly in the New York Post writes:

Most media observers viewed it as a pricey deal, since it is based not on the slim profit Huffington Post claimed it made in 2010, on $31 million in revenue, or the $10 million profit it is projecting it will ring up this year on $50 million in estimated revenue, but rather on the $30 million in profit it is predicting for 2012.

That is to say: HuffPo is expected to make even more money over the next two years… and no one would expect that if the site were about to starting paying the writers who have made it the success that it is. Indeed, Huffington herself says writers will continue not to be paid. From her email to those thousands of contributors (via FishbowlLA):

We are writing with some very exciting news. As you will see if you click on the HuffPost home page, The Huffington Post has been acquired by AOL, instantly creating one of the biggest media companies in the world, with global, national, and local reach — combining original reporting, opinion, video, social engagement and community, and leveraged across every platform, including the web, mobile, and tablets.

Central to all of this will be the kind of fresh, insightful, and influential takes on the issues of the day that you and the rest of our bloggers regularly deliver. Our bloggers have always been a very big part of HuffPost’s identity – and will continue to be a very big part of who we are.

Together, our companies will have a combined base of 117 million unique U.S. visitors a month — and 250 million around the world — so your posts will have an even bigger impact on the national and global conversation. That’s the only real change you’ll notice — more people reading what you wrote.

The only thing those posts won’t have any impact on: the writers’ bank accounts. Huffington ”earns” something in the neighborhood of $40 million, and the people who create the content get nothing… except the promise of even more income for Huffington based on those even bigger audiences.

I’ve thought all along that writers were fools were giving their work away, and especially to so profitable a site like HuffPo. But those writers will be even bigger fools to continue working for HuffPo, unless HuffingtonAOL immediately cuts the writers in on the multimillion-dollar deal and agrees to pay them for their work from now on. Huffington would have nothing, no site at all, without the contributions of those writers. It’s appalling to see her so blithely pretending their work has no monetary value when the AOL deal clearly proves that it does.

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