Is the LOLcat Empire Built on Exploited Humans?

Ben Huh's Cheezburger Network has been crowned the largest "meme aggregator" on the internet and gleans more than $4 million in annual revenue from other people's animal pictures. So why can't Huh throw more bones to his humans?

Huh rubbed some prospective employees the wrong way with a recent blog post, issued just as Wired was lauding him for turning internet "junk into gold" as proprietor of I Can Has Cheezburger and a maze of other pet-pic sites like FAIL Blog. It seems Huh was offering to pay people the state minimum wage or just slightly more.

"I don't even wipe my ass for $10 an hour," one applicant wrote. Huh found this greedy:

The worst candidates focus on money the most... Higher advertised wages resulted in much higher level of noise from candidates who really didn't care about the job. (FYI: Advertised pay and actual pay are two different things.)



It's become clear to me that bad candidates focus on money like that's the only thing they'll get out of the job.

A good candidate, Huh says, will try to pull himself up by his bootstraps, just like Huh did, clawing his way out from a minimum-wage job and his $40,000 in debt, landing "back on my feet" in less than a year and eventually bringing 200 million pageviews a month into the Cheezburger Network.

A Cheezburger spy tells us says Huh's work ethos is deeply felt and permeates his company; our tipster said there are a significant number of minimum-wage employees within the company expected to work "extensive hours without overtime pay." The tipster:

[Huh] seems ignorant of the reason people devote their lives to startups is because they have OWNERSHIP in the company-not because they get to look at pictures of cats... Mr. Huh seems to want to create the APPEARANCE of a great workplace while paying his workers as little as possible.

It's a good point: If Huh's sites made people happy to earn just $16,416 a year before taxes—the current minimum wage in Washington State, where Huh's company is based—labor costs in this country would positively plummet.

UPDATE: A self-described Cheezburger Network contractor who has spent a fair amount of time with the company wrote in to tell , " I can confirm what was said in your story." We've asked for more details, but that does remind us to ask: if you know more, do clue us in.