Volunteer Bloggers: Stop Subsidizing the Entire Internet

This is getting ridiculous. Today, Alley Insider reported that some bloggers at AOL have chosen to keep posting for free after cutbacks that would only pay them for five posts per day. It's assumed that at least some people are indeed donating some of their blog posts. And don't even get me started on the Huffington Post, that repository of crackpot rants built by an army of many free-bloggers writing in the name of "exposure." (CEO Betsey Morgan said in a recent interview that paying the HuffPo's bloggers might possibly be part of the picture someday; in the meantime, "It feels very 1993 to say, ‘Hey, it's all about the check that I get at the end of the month.'") After the jump: Econ 2.0, or why bloggers should stop writing for free.

Bloggers have to stop thinking of themselves as white-collar creatives and more like rank-and-file workers. After all—that's how they're paid!

Some bloggers get paid per-post, like pieceworkers in a 19th-century factory. Some get paid for pageviews, which is even more idiotic from a worker's perspective. It means you're not paid for your labor (except your monthly minimum) but paid instead on a sort of gamble—how well your product will perform when it's thrown into the open marketplace.

(The pros and cons of that system have been thoroughly discussed elsewhere. There are definitely flaws, but hey, at least I'm receiving money for my blogging.)

It's easy and idealistic to say, but seriously: stop writing for free. This means you, if you're one of the many Huffington Post bloggers who don't get paid. Have something to say? Write an op-ed or a letter to the editor. There are some times in a young writer's career where you have to make the decision to write for free. I've done it; you've done it. The trick is knowing when to stop.

Just about anyone can argue with my line of reasoning—"it's more complicated than that," etc., and on some level it probably is. But on the actual working-to-live level it's not. It's not more complicated than that. If you're blogging for someone other than yourself (not as a commenter, not as a personal blogger; those are labors of love and don't count) you deserve to be paid.

If you're an employee or an independent contractor or a freelancer and some entity or website is making money off your labor, you deserve to be paid. It doesn't matter how solvent the company is—they're still selling ads and making revenue.

It's not only for your own good that you should demand to be paid, either. People working for free (or for depressed wages) drive down the pay for bloggers who do get paid for their work.

Blogging for free, no matter what the circumstances, is not being a good, loyal employee. It isn't a way to hang on to your job. It isn't some sort of heroic act.

Remember, free-bloggers: someone is making money off your work and your content. It's just isn't you.