Arianna Huffington scoffed at a group of unpaid Huffington Post contributors that announced on Wednesday they would stop contributing content to the site, weeks after its $315 million sale to AOL was announced.
Huffington, speaking alongside AOL chief Tim Armstrong at PaidContent’s 2011 Conference in New York on Thursday, dismissed the notion that all bloggers should be paid, given the wide platform HuffPo gives them.
She argued that blogging on the Huffington Post is equivalent to going on Rachel Maddow, Jon Stewart or the “Today” show to promote their ideas.
And, she said, there are plenty of people willing to take their place if they do.
“The idea of going on strike when no one really notices,” Huffington said. “Go ahead, go on strike.”
The controversy arose after writers for the websites ArtScene and Visual Art Source , which had been contributing content to the Huffington Post for free since 2010, refuse to contribute additional material to the site unless they got paid. They are asking for a pay schedule and requesting that promotional material no longer be published alongside editorial content.
"I am also calling upon all others now contributing free content, particularly original content to the Huffington Post to also join us in this strike," ArtScene and Visual Art Source publisher Bill Lasarow said in a statement.
Huffington said that the site employs 183 paid journalists, with generous benefits, who are assigned stories and asked to work overtime when things like the Arizona shootings or revolution in Egypt occur. The bloggers, she said, do not have those responsibilities. “It’s just absurd for me to compare the two.”
In terms of her content strategy for AOL, Huffington pointed to her recent approach at the Huffington Post of hiring established journalists — like the New York Times’ business editor Peter Goodman — and pairing them with dewy, fresh-out-of-college reporters.
“I like the idea of fringing together young journalists with old grizzled veterans with a dark secret,” she said.
Huffington also stressed the need for building quality content for the AOL brand – “like HBO.”