Much hubbub and several hilarious cartoons have been made over the sale of the Huffington post to AOL. The deal resulted in a 315 million dollar paycheck to Arianna huffington, and a big fat zero to the dozens of unpaid bloggers working under her charge (they gathered under the #huffpuff hashtag). It’s a sticky story to say the least. Arianna Huffington, champion of the poor, downtrodden and the not quite yet poor and downtrodden (some would call it the “middle class”) takes a dump truck full of money for selling work that other people did for free. The Hypocrisy would have been delicious if only it were true. It turns out that the unpaid bloggers made up only a small portion of the site’s traffic and advertising dollars. Still, the controversy begs the question: How much is writing worth?
The bloggers who were incensed by the AOL deal may be victims of old world media thinking, where people are supposed to get their news through large media companies like the Huffington Post. They haven’t realized just how much the game has changed. Exposure can only take you so far. A small audience can be much more valuable, especially if they take action based on your words. This action could take the form of buying a book, attending a speaking engagement, or even just attending a meetup. The power of your words comes from their ability to move people, not just their ability to grab eyeballs. Unfortunately, this involves a real direct engagement with readers, which is uncomfortable to people used to dealing with only editors of newspapers and sites like the Huffington Post. Still, people are willing to invest a lot of trust in an individual human perspective. There are many writers who realize this idea and profit from it even today.