What’s an Unpaid Contributor Worth?

Not much, according to the latest editorial philosophy at Huffington Post. The site just closed the doors on its open platform for contributors. Over 100,000 individuals were posting content even though they were unpaid. Some even offered up interesting stuff that we’ve shared on our own social channels. Yet, we’ve also encountered a fair share of contributors who milked the platform for all it was worth – inquiries to test (and keep) client products being one of the chief ploys, ostensibly for inclusion in the numerous listicles and gift guides so prevalent on the site. At the same time, HuffPost certainly benefitted from all that free content.

My point of view? People who do things for free generally have an ulterior motive, be it to promote their agency (hey, I’ve done it), their new book or to beef up their “influencer” cred. If you ever looked deeper into the numbers, you would have found that a big chunk of these contributors had almost no audience. And, while a piece of content published on HuffPost might look darn good on a client activity report, when it comes from an unpaid blogger it doesn’t really belong if no one saw it or engaged with it.

Want to articulate your point of view and not get paid? Set up your own platform and go to town. Say interesting things, build your audience, become a real influencer, prove your numbers and let’s talk! Or, use the Comment section and voice your opinion on a daily news or magazine site. The writer of the particular article will appreciate it, as will his/her editor.

Giving pretty much anyone access to publish content on a high-profile media platform spawns some other unpleasant consequences. The ugly truth about product reviews is that if you have a client with a desirable product line, you’re going to get hit up by a certain number of individuals who have no business asking you to send them the item. I’m not going to miss one less opportunity for freebie fans to have a platform that legitimizes their media profile.

Bottom line: I like HuffPost’s new policy. I hope it’s an opportunity for more writers who work hard to earn a living from their craft to contribute real stories – and get paid.

Tyler Sartin About the author
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