Huffington Post Contributors Go on ‘Strike’

Tired of providing content in exchange for mere exposure, a “collective art publishing company” says “No more” to HuffPo

The best things in life are free?

Maybe not so much anymore for Arianna Huffington and the Huffington Post, now that she's got AOL money.

"Umbrella art publishing company" Visual Art Source (aka ArtScene), which had been contributing content to the Huffington Post gratis since 2010, has now declared a strike on the site and is refusing to furnish the site with further material.

Moreover, they're calling on other HuffPo contributors who've provided free material to join them in the strike.

ArtScene and Visual Art Source publisher Bill Lasarow lays out the group's demands on Visual Art Source's Web site, writing, "First, a pay schedule must be proposed and steps initiated to implement it for all contributing writers and bloggers. Second, paid promotional material must no longer be posted alongside editorial content; a press release or exhibition catalogue essay is fundamentally different from editorial content and must be either segregated and indicated as such, or not published at all."

Lasarow adds, "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."

Lasarow and company's sudden unwillingness to accept exposure alone as payment for their efforts is understandable, given AOL's $315 million purchase of Huffington Post in February.

And HuffPo has, after all, famously relied on the kindness of perhaps over-generous contributors, some of whom might like a little payback now that the gravy's pouring in.

Now, Lasarow argues, it's time for the free ride to come to a halt. And he reasons that there's strength in numbers.

"We think it is incumbent upon the many writers and bloggers to form a negotiating partnership with Huffington/AOL in order to pursue these and other important matters so as to professionalize this relationship," he writes. "It is not entirely Ms. Huffington’s fault that so many talented professionals have been willing to accept the company’s terms on an 'in kind' basis. Surely most do so in the hopes of achieving their own fame and fortune thanks to the great exposure that Huffington Post potentially offers. Unfortunately, such participants are only complicit in a relationship that fails the ethical smell test. And those who are already nationally known figures who will never need to be concerned about pay scales, shame on you, you should know better."

Lasarow stops short of calling Arianna Huffington a crook — but he certainly hopes she experiences a change of heart when it comes to her current non-pay scale.

"None of [the Huffington Post's practices are] illegal, only unethical and oh so very hypocritical, so Ms. Huffington if you insist do carry on, by all means. However we are taking this action, with the full knowledge of our contributing writers and editors, in the belief that your better angels will enable you to do the right thing. We stand ready to provide whatever helpful input we can."