Media commentator and creative director and owner of Campaign Edge Dee Madigan has described an unsolicited approach from The Huffington Post to write for free as insulting.
Madigan said she was approached via email by The Huffington Post blog editor Chris Harrison to contribute blog pieces unpaid.
“It’s a very profitable organisation basically approaching me unsolicited to write for them for free,” Madigan told Mumbrella.
Harrison told Madigan in an email exchange that “the HuffPost blogging is an unpaid activity”, to which she replied: “Asking professional writers to write for free is, frankly, insulting. How on earth do you think we pay our mortgages? With ‘exposure’?”
The incident follows on from Tracey Spicer slamming The Guardian for exploiting journalists after she was offered 14 cents a word to write a brand funded piece for the ANZ Bank – which the online publisher played down as a mistake.
Madigan agreed with Spicer, saying “If you don’t value your work and you don’t say no, you will get exploited.
“They just seem to think you can scribble out words and it doesn’t take time,” she added.
The US online publication is preparing for its imminent launch in Australia after Fairfax Media was named as The Huffington Post’s partner here in February.
While still yet to launch, the website has been recruiting a team of journalists, with News Corp’s Tory Maguire named as editor-in-chief in April, while it will also have a series of local bloggers, all of whom are unpaid.
A spokesperson for The Huffington Post Australia responded to Madigan’s comments asserting bloggers retain the rights to their work saying it has a global network of 900 “editors, writers and reporters preparing news content”.
“We also have more than 100,000 bloggers around the world who come from all walks of life – from professionals, students, entertainers and government officials – who contribute for free and post about whatever they like to connect and be heard by the huge audiences we can reach.
“Bloggers retain the rights to their work and are free to cross-post it on other sites, including their own,” the spokesperson said.
Figures leaked in the media suggested the Huffington Post broke even last year after making $146m in revenues.
Madigan admitted she understands how the free practice began however said once businesses are profitable they should pay professionals.
“If amateurs want to blog for free and send in their stuff that’s well and good and they’ve got every right to do that but you don’t approach professional writers and ask them to write for free,” she said.
“The Huffington Post have always argued people go there for the professionally written articles not for the blogs which are just an added value thing. That’s great, so pay me as a professional writer.
“You get what you pay for – if they want to put a call out there for unsolicited contributions from amateur writers for the blog bit, that’s fine and if amateur writers want to gain practice that’s their business, but don’t contact professional writers to write for free.”
Madigan did admit she does do things for free, citing appearances on the ABC, however rejected claims she is not paid to contribute to Mamamia.
On the ABC she said: “It is not run for profit, also they’re not profiting from me at all. That’s the difference.”