Erik Loomis has posted a pretty lengthy response to me on the subject of boycotting the Huffington Post, but reading his argument over, I actually think the disagreement between us is pretty simple. His view seems to be that if everyone boycotts the Huffington Post until they agree to stop using unpaid bloggers that what will happen is that currently unpaid bloggers will get paid. My view is that if everyone boycots the Huffington Post until they agree to stop using unpaid bloggers, what will happen is that currently unpaid bloggers won’t be writing for the Huffington Post anymore.
After all, it’s not as if the Huffington Post has some kind of across the board policy of refusing to pay writers. They pay Sam Stein. They pay Jason Linkins. They pay for the content that it’s worth it for them to pay for. They don’t pay their unpaid contributors because the unpaid contributors generate very little traffic, so it wouldn’t be worthwhile to pay them. A handful of the very most popular unpaid bloggers — people who are generally already established public figures like Robert Reich or Bob Kuttner — would get a bit of extra money, and the other unpaid bloggers would need to drift off to other outlets. That would reduce overall revenues at Huffington Post and, as discussed previously, depress the earnings of the site’s paid staff.
Loomis also says lots of other things that I agree with. America produces too many PhDs. There’s a lot of dishonest hype about the information economy. The blogosphere is no longer the kinda sorta open meritocracy that it kinds sorta was in 2004. The disagreement is that I don’t think refusing to read the Huffington Post until it stops publishing unpaid bloggers solves any of these problems.