In the wake of The Huffington Post‘s $315 million sale to AOL, two arts writing groups will no longer provide free content for The Huffington Post website until they are paid.
Fat chance, snorted Ariana Huffington. According to a news article on thewrap.com, Huffington “dismissed the notion that all bloggers should be paid, given the wide platform HuffPo gives them. She argued that blogging on the Huffington Post is equivalent to going on Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart or the Today show to promote their ideas. And, she said, there are plenty of people willing to take their place if they do.”
Sound familiar? It’s the same argument food writers get about why they should not be paid (or paid almost nothing) to write guest posts and web content. It’s all about the exposure, dahhhlings. Doesn’t everyone know that? (See this recent post from colleague Sarah Henry on that topic.)
Steam came out of my ears as I read Huffington’s assertions. But I was also curious. Is the HuffPo food section all about self-promotion? I headed over to find out.
Here’s what I found: Bloggers write short posts and link to their blog sites or promote their books. Authors write posts based on upcoming books. A videographer announces a new project. Another videographer writes a supposed piece about health and vitality, really an ad for his new documentary.
Then there’s fake news (one chef dissing another chef; what some rock band I’ve never heard of eats while on the road) and other bits and pieces that are essentially just jumps to someone else’s website.
As a former editor, I wouldn’t have paid for this stuff either.
I found a few exceptions, where people wrote real content. Here’s something useful: A piece for food bloggers on how Google’s new Recipe Search works. And at least the ongoing collection of recipes driving traffic to Food52 offers jumps to decent recipes.
The HuffPo’s food section includes real news articles, such as how the Pork Board is retiring “The Other White Meat” slogan and “Agriculture Industry Pushes to Make Undercover Filming of Farm Animal Abuse Illegal.” I suspect this is the writing Huffington actually pays for. She said she employs 183 journalists. Are any of these people food writers? No. They’re journalists writing about food in the news. Their editors place the stories in the food section.
In the end I couldn’t muster the interest to read most of the section. I suppose that’s the moral of the story. You know that adage, “You get what you pay for?” This time, when it comes to self-promoting filler, I’m with Huffington. I guess the bigger question is, why publish it at all?
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