LinkedIn Cuts Out Writers

For content providers, the Internet is usually a good news – bad news story. It initially sounds like good news; once you dig a little deeper, you learn about the rotten underbelly. And so it goes with today’s New York Times article about LinkedIn and the fact that they are offering original content by the rich and famous.

For free.

LinkedIn is offering original content by content providers, in the form of essays about how to improve your career prospects among other things.

Read down a little bit and you quickly learn that the rich and famous people who have been asked to contribute are not being compensated. Which makes you ask: how did they get these people to do it? Well, the truth is they aren’t.

People like President Clinton don’t write their own opinion columns, they’re ghostwritten by interns. Personally, I don’t think that this should be permitted. If someone’s byline appears under an article, it seems to me to be a basic predicate of journalistic ethics that that piece should be offered by the person it purports to be authored by.

So why do they do it? Or more accurately, why do their interns do it? For the free publicity. For politicians and other people who make their living by selling influence – and speeches and books – it makes sense to promote yourself anyway you can. It doesn’t matter that they don’t get paid.

The problem is, this practice leads to a lot of crappy content by people looking to promote themselves and it drives down the prices for those of us you were actually trying to learn a living as writers. It’s ugly, it’s nasty, and I don’t know when it’s going to come to an end.

Waiting for Arianna

Arianna Huffington sells her blog to AOL for $315 million. But what about the thousands of bloggers who made her rich by working for free?