Blogging for free

It’s taken me quite some time to feel like I had the right (or perhaps the guts) to weigh in on the debate that’s being waged about the merits — or otherwise — of organisations like the ABC’s The Book Show and Overland Literary Journal putting out a call for bloggers. Bloggers that they’re not currently planning to pay (at least not with money).

It’s a thorny issue. The Book Show Blog callout is aimed directly at writers under thirty, writers who, presumably, aren’t already being paid for much (or any) of their writing. Overland aren’t asking so explicitly for young writers, but they’ll probably get quite a few applying.

Lisa Dempster, Ryan Paine, Benjamin Solah, and Extra Pulp have all been part of the discussion, as has Alec Patric on the Overland blog. (Clearly, I’m a bit slow off the mark.) I’m prepared to have my mind changed, but most of me thinks that these opportunities are good ones. Sure, they may not pay in actual cash, but (and if you read through the comments on the Overland piece, you’ll see that I’m pretty much reiterating what I’ve written there) being committed to making a regular contribution to, well, something, would be worth it for me. Payment is not always financial.

Again, a repetition of my comments on the Overland blog: I think blogging needs to be rethought. How do we make a distinction between professional and amateur bloggers? Does the fact that some writers might be paid necessarily mean that they are valued over those that aren’t? There are many different reasons to blog; not everyone who blogs considers themselves a writer. Is the distinction here the fact that these blogs are being put together by organisations?

If nothing else, the fact that such a flurry of typing fingertips has ensued can’t be a bad thing.

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10 thoughts on “Blogging for free

  1. Interesting points you’ve made. I think there is a huge difference between an organisation’s blog and an individual who feels the need to share their thoughts and feelings with the virtual world. Especially when the organisation is government funded AND paying its other, non-blogging reviewers.

    I was talking to some girls in my book club the other day who work in publishing and they were talking about the pay of a hypothetical standard IT person to that of a senior editor in the same business. No surpises who would be getting the higher pay.

    I think writing in general is undervalued as a profession, and with blogging being so accessible and without gatekeepers, it’s no wonder paid positions are so rare.
    Apologies for the super long comment.

    • I have to agree. The difference between an individual’s blog and an organisation’s blog is enormous. I guess it’s still a publishing format that’s being worked out — I just hope whatever is worked out is at least vaguely fair.

      Interesting point about IT pay versus editing pay. I completely agree that writing is undervalued. I’m not sure how (or if) that will ever be rectified. But we can certainly always argue for it to be.

  2. Ok, this is a complicated issue and there are arguments for both sides. Basically my feelings are any organisation that can afford to pay for content should. Especially for skills such as writing.

    Being government funded doesn’t always mean the money isn’t there, epesically as Elena above pointed out, other contributors are getting paid for their work. Yes, you get publicity, but will you recieve enough to componesate your time and efforts?

    Maybe it would be more worth it if a barter situation where the organisation was willing to actively push your work and do promote you, but more often than not it’s just ‘thanks, let us publish is and we’ll see how many hits it gets’.

    I’m reminded of this little exchange with Ken Auletta when he was interviewed about his book “Googled: The End of the World as We Know It.”
    (I know, a whole book is different from a blog, but in my mind there is an overlap of what’s being asked)

    KURTZ: Did one of the founders — did I get this right — of Google ask you why you didn’t just publish your book online?

    AULETTA: Yes. In my second interview with co-founder Sergey Brin, he came in on his rollerblades and he threw his knapsack down on the table and he said, “Ken, let me ask you a question.” He said, “Why don’t you just publish a book for free online and get a much larger audience for it?”

    And I said, “Well, I might get a larger audience, but who’s going to pay me an advance so I have money to live on since I’m on leave from “The New Yorker” to do this? And by the way, Sergey, who’s going to edit my book and who’s going to do an index? And who’s going to market it? And who’s going to pay for my expenses to come out here as many times I’m coming out here?”

    And, of course, at that point, Sergey Brin changed the subject.

    http://transcripts.cnn.com/TRANSCRIPTS/0911/08/rs.01.html

  3. Oh, and a little word play that I remember from my days working in the not-for-profit world.

    There is a difference between “Free” and “No Cost to You.”

    Someone has to end up paying for the equipment (computer, internet access, etc) even if the time is free. The question is here, who’s being lumbered with the cost?

    • True! I was at my parents’ house earlier this week and Mum was lamenting the fact that my youngest brother’s school has decided to email school newsletters to families as a PDF, rather than send them out in the post. She’s annoyed about it because there’s been no reduction of school fees, and yet the cost of printing the school newsletter has been lumped on the parents all of a sudden. Same principle, really.

  4. Thanks for contributing.

    I don’t think anyone disagrees that this opportunity would be a good thing. I know it would be but I still feel like non-financial payments don’t quite cut it.

    I think writers willingness to do it ‘for the love’ means that we can often be used because there’s this expectation that people will do it for free.

    • Very true. And that expectation has the effect of diminishing the value of an opportunity like these ones, simply because writers can’t afford to take advantage of them…

  5. Pingback: Blogging for free — an update « avocado and lemon

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