The Huffington Post has taken a lot of criticism since the announcement of its acquisition by AOL. Much of this has been more aimed at Google as part of the whole content farm debate (though nobody is really saying the quality of Huffington Post’s content is as poor as some known content farms). It’s more about search results being saturated by content from a handful of companies.
To grasp the Huffington Post’s business model, picture a galley rowed by slaves and commanded by pirates.
The media-saturated environment in which we live has been called "the information age" when, in fact, it’s the data age. Information is data arranged in an intelligible order. Journalism is information collected and analyzed in ways people actually can use. Though AOL and the Huffington Post claim to have staked their future on giving visitors to their sites online journalism, what they actually provide is "content," which is what journalism becomes when it’s adulterated into a mere commodity."
Mahalo CEO Jason Calacanis further bashed The Huffington Post at Federated Media’s Signal event last week, saying that 80% of the Huffington Post is simply rehashing of other people’s content.
Huffington Post political reporter Jason Linkins doesn’t like what he’s hearing, and has written a lenghty post defending the HuffPost’s practices, saying essentially that such criticism is coming from people that don’t know what they’re talking about (granted, he did not name anyone specific). In the post, he says:
It’s often written: "HuffPost does not pay its writers." I assure you, they do! Somehow, I always seem to have money for food and shelter and stuff. That’s because I am an employee of The Huffington Post.
Being a paid employee comes with many expectations and responsibilities. Let’s run some of them down, shall we? First of all, there’s this expectation that on a daily basis, you will show up and do work. In an office and everything! There you are subject to things like deadlines — you actually have to produce writing on a regular basis. You receive assignments, from editors, that you are expected to fulfill in a timely fashion. You participate in editorial meetings. You coordinate your efforts with your colleagues. You try to break news. You try to cultivate sources. You go, whenever you are able, to where news is occurring.
Is the State of the Union tonight? You’ll be working during that time. Is there a debate? Got a night of election returns coming? Plan on staying late. Did some madman just put several people in Tucson, Arizona in the hospital on a Saturday? Cancel your plans, because you’ve got to call in and get to work. You are, theoretically, on call, 24-7, to get the work done.
He goes on to talk about how all of this entitles one to a salary, and about the other kinds of content on the site, which he says includes paid syndication of AP and Reuters news, as well as the republishing of posts from organizations that request to be republished at the Huffington Post.
In addition to all of that, there is a lot of content from people who offer free material, because they want the exposure or for various reasons.
Linkins talks about all of this in a great deal more detail, but that’s essentially what the defense comes down to.