March 20 2008

A Union For Bloggers? No Thank You.

UnionIn an article on TechCrunch yesterday, Michael Arrington, founder of the site, talked about blogs raising more funding, and one of the problems he listed was the rates bloggers are expecting to be paid working at the big name sites.

Writers suddenly want to be paid market wages, far above the $5 per post that they received two years ago. No, we’re talking a big salary, with benefits, and stock options. There went half your margins at least.

This led to Josh Catone of ReadWriteWeb to bring up a subject that has floated around for ages, but been shot down every time it comes around: A union for bloggers.

A bloggers union is an idea that was most recently advanced last month in an issue of the Columbia Journalism Review. “It’s a Wild West out there for bloggers — even though, without them, the Internet’s frontier would not have expanded so broadly or so rapidly. And even though, without them, the Web-derived profits many of these blog sites are starting to rake in simply wouldn’t exist,” wrote Chris Mooney.

Mooney envisions a professional guild for bloggers, not unlike the Writers Guild of America, that would strictly rep professional bloggers. How you weed “professional bloggers” from the hobbyists would be task number one for guild organizers, whom Mooney thinks would initially be the blogosphere’s most successful writers — i.e., people who have sway with management. Unionizing bloggers is something the National Writers Union recently voted to be a priority.

I made no secret of my support for the Writer’s Guild of America strike, but that doesn’t mean I want a union in my backyard.

What I get paid for blogging is confidential, but I will say I have worked for blogs that pay well, and some that haven’t. However, that is the nature of being a freelance writer, but you know before hand what you are going to be paid. I am no longer considered freelance, and have an actual contract in place with Mashable, I accepted those terms and chose to work there. I have set terms as to what is expected of me, and I have a set term in what I expect to be paid, as it should be with any job you accept.

The Internet is a beast unlike any other job out there. A good portion of its appeal is its ability to change on a dime, and if it got regulated to everything having to be run through a union first, it would kill some of the very nature that made the Internet what it is today.

You also have to ponder the international aspects of the Internet. Mashable is technically based out of Scotland as our CEO and founder hails from there, while BLORGE, whom I used to work for, is based out of Australia. Would the union be able to follow the laws of every country on Earth? What if unions are illegal in the country where the blog is out of? Blogs could easily change server locations so they would be served out of that country, then claim that

BloggersAnd let us also not forget something in that blogging is not exactly the hardest job in the world. Yes, it is work, and there are some nights I get so flustered that I want to throw my laptop, but it still not exactly like we’re doing hard labor. Quite often during my weekend shifts I sit in my favorite chair all day, still in my pajamas, sipping coffee, TV on, and a dog laying on my shoulders acting as my headrest. I wouldn’t exactly say my work is harsh.

I am not alone in my feelings about this: Mark “Rizzn” Hopkins, one of my co-workers at Mashable, has stated his displeasure at the idea, as has

I think part of the thought process comes from my time writing for print media.  I sometimes got paid as low as $.05 a word, or $30 for a 600 word article.  Considering the length of a lot of blog articles, $5 isn’t that far off the mark, and considering how much faster I can get an article done, it’s not that bad.  And, to be blunt, where were the unions when I was in print?  Why am I suddenly more worthy of a union because I’m blogging?  Not that I would have joined one back then either, but I still find it odd.

Either way, talk about it all you want, but I think you will find a lot of bloggers not being very receptive to the idea.  Oh, and question… say we went on strike… where would we picket?  Would we sit in front of our computers holding up picket signs?

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