Unless you are a blog-geek, you probably have not heard about the recent rift between the Huffington Post and Mayhill Fowler, one of the many bloggers who contributes free content to the organization. In a nutshell, the disagreement is over Fowler’s view that she should be paid for the hard-news pieces that she contributes. The Huffington Post has a salaried editorial staff, but does not compensate the many bloggers who contribute to the site. There is an underlying lesson here that all bloggers should take away, however, and it is one of content ownership. Are you building-up an asset that you control, or are you helping build someone else’s asset?
Bloggers contribute free content to the Huffington Post for exposure – the site receives over 20 million unique visitors every month. That is a big incentive, for bloggers looking to make a name for themselves, but these bloggers need to realize that the fruit of their labor belongs to someone else. “We’ve raised another round of funding, giving the Huffington Post a valuation of over $100 million, said Arianna Huffington in a February interview with Inc.
Writing quality content for other sites is an excellent way to market yourself and develop a following. It needs to be done under the context of an overarching strategy, though. When I look at Mayhill Fowler’s blog (Alexa: 2.7m, Google PR: 2) and her Twitter account (following: 26, followers: 222, Klout: 5), I do not get the impression that she has exactly taken advantage of her success at the Huffington Post. Perhaps Mayhill Fowler’s interest was not in building an asset of her own, but then it seems odd that she would suddenly take exception with the Huffington Post, over compensation.
Quality content is not free. You are valuable and so is your time, so if you are going to give your content away, then you should expect a return on this investment. That return could be in form of monetary compensation, but it could also be exposure of your brand to a wider audience, or a quality link back to your blog. Those things have monetary value, too, but taking advantage of wider exposure or quality backlinks means you also need a plan that capitalizes on them. If your blog traffic began doubling or tripling tomorrow, how would you gain from that?