Ask The Editor

January 16, 2009

Should you write for free II? (HuffPo edition)

An article about a political writer who blogs for the Huffington Post without pay has almost every writer I know weighing in. Arianna’s business model, for those who are unfamiliar, is to pay not a cent to contributors  (presumably, she does pay staffers). To say that this makes Ms. Huffington unpopular among some professional non-fiction writers I know is like saying that Bernie Madoff has somewhat miffed his investors.

Despite the antipathy toward her among some authors, Huffington has no trouble getting people to contribute to her success by contributing free text. Even several established writers who make decent rates elsewhere agree to write for HuffPo for the “exposure.” One writer friend suggested I write something here about the issue. So, here’s my take, for anyone who might be weighing whether the exposure is worth it.

For a celebrity, say Bill Maher or Michael Moore, who simply wants to exploit Arianna’s ability to attract huge numbers of political junkies in one place, a guest appearance on the Huffington Post is like free advertising.  While there, they can pitch their next project. And it will pay because people reading HuffPo really want to buy whatever Maher and Moore are selling.

Contributing a post to HuffPo would also make sense for an established but lesser known author of a book about a political topic.  Excerpt your book on the site or paraphrase something to tempt members of this huge audience to buy the whole thing.

It’s similar to appearing on TV or radio without pay to plug your project.

But, if you’re hoping to establish yourself by working for free for Arianna, and you have nothing to pitch to her audiences other than your free copy, you are probably doing little or no good for your own career. You may even damage your brand by establishing your price for the world to see: Zero. Also, you’re lending a hand to exploitation by contributing to its success.



  1. I’m so glad to see this point of view. I know many writers who aren’t celebs or otherwise well known who labor for HuffPo thinking it’s going to work miracles for them. Truth is, established editors know what you know — what’s the point of paying someone for something they already give away for free? How can writers be so dumb?

    Comment by Lisa Holton — January 16, 2009 @ 4:14 pm | Reply

  2. Arianna Huffington is an exploitive rat. She sits in the limelight of media glory on the backs of working writers. No one should be giving her free copy or articles. And she should not be using the work of others unless she can pay for that labor. What she is doing is exploitive and simply wrong. Now that I think about it, calling her an exploitive rat is wrong and insulting to rats.

    Comment by George Sheldon — January 16, 2009 @ 4:41 pm | Reply

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