Directory startup defends callout for free writers

An agency which is advertising for unpaid interns to write web articles for its online directory startup has defended its business practices as a chance for “passionate writers to get their name out there”.

yokelThe ad – placed on Mumbrella’s free jobs board by digital agency If You Build It – seeks to find people willing to write 300 word articles about local companies it can put on its new site Yokel. It was originally posted in the interns section and after questions were raised by Mumbrella, the agency asked to switch it to the freelance section, saying it had “accidentally” been put in the wrong category.

According to a blog post on If You Build It’s site, Yokel has build up more than 100 listings and is looking to grow.

The ad stated:

“Please note that all contributions are unpaid, but in return you’ll get your articles published on Yokel along with Google Authorship and links to your own profile. There is also potential for paid work if your writing rocks!”

One email complaint- copied to Mumbrella – to the agency suggested its staff might want to dig his garden for free in return. He wrote: “I’d like to compliment your organisation on a really good cost control idea: Get people to work for nothing. Because it’s such a good idea, I have copied it. Please can you and your colleagues come round to my house and help maintain my garden? Please note that the gardening is unpaid, but in return I’ll publish images and an account of the gardening work. There is also a potential for paid work if your gardening rocks!”

If You Build It did not respond to Mumbrella’s invitation to comment.

However, an email to the complainant from If You Build It’s junior partner Beth Stewart said:

“It‘s a common thing for people to contribute articles to various initiatives – one of our main clients is a music blog that does the same thing. We see it as giving the option for passionate writers to get their name out there and we currently have half a dozen contributors who happily write articles for us. By stating the work is unpaid first up actually eliminates any kind of confusion that it might be otherwise (as a lot of agencies tend to do), and so writers can make a calculated judgement on the value of the opportunity before deciding to contribute.”

Journalists’ union the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance condemned the ad, telling Mumbrella: “Unless it is a genuine internship linked to a course, or a labour of love for a not-for-profit, work should be paid for at a fair rate.

“Creative people have the right to be recognised and remunerated for their efforts.”



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