The news that AOL is paying $315 million for the Huffington Post has led to much venting in many platforms about how Arianna has re-used content to make her riches. The Huffington Post built a reputation based on the contribution of free bloggers and content originally researched and created by other media outlets. While HuffPo has made it a point in recent days to state that they have paid staff, there can be little debate about the fact that the bulk of the content has been produced by independent bloggers who did not write for compensation. It seems like a case of the person who copied the test getting better grades than the original student, given that many news corporations are currently struggling to keep their head above water.
Many bloggers have pointed out that those who contributed may have been motivated by the chance to get exposure and to build a readership. The occasional gig at HuffPo was a bit of a PR endeavor for those trying to promote their book or show or whatever. But this is not the only kind of free content that Huffington Post used. There were regular columns and contributors who helped the website build up a loyal readership. These readers engaged with the website and commented and added to the value of the website. There are questions about how all these free contributors will interact with the new corporate identity behind the Huffington Post. Will things continue the same way or will there be changes?
If all these bloggers and commentors participated of their own free will, this was not really an option given to others who contributed to the site. Stephen Colbert has let us know how he feels in his inimitable style –
In the way of delicious irony Huffington Post today carries Colbert’s video – ofcourse!