Digital Serfs

With AOL buying the Huffington Post for about a third of a billion dollars, many have begun to ask how those who originate content in the digital age get paid. Huffington Post was created with mostly unpaid blog posts. The bloggers got a lot of exposure and understood what they were doing, but they may not be so sanguine as they watch the big checks get written. It’s all well and good to say that you are blogging to create PR for yourself, but at some point, you have to put food on the table. David Carr wrote a thoughtful article on this subject for the NY Times today (At Media Companies, A Nation of Serfs). It’s nicely summed up with a quote from Anthony De Rosa, a product manager at Reuters. “The technology of a lot of these sites is very seductive, and it lulls you into contributing,” he said. “We are being played for suckers to feed the beast, to create content that ends up creating value for others.”

We in post production are digital content creators, too, and many are facing declining wages as our technology gets democratized. Will Huffington Post begin to pay everyone? Or will we continue to chase each other to the bottom? Jaron Lanier, in his brilliant book “You Are Not a Gadget,” indicates that creative people are destined to become the peasants of the digital age. “The combination of hive mind and advertising has resulted in a new kind of social contract,” he says. “The basic idea of this contract is that authors, journalists, musicians, and artists are encouraged to treat the fruits of their intellects and imaginations as fragments to be given without pay to the hive mind. Reciprocity takes the form of self-promotion. Culture is to become precisely nothing but advertising” (p83).

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One Comment on “Digital Serfs”

  1. JT Says:

    The idea that we should give away everything for the good of the whole certainly takes on a different feel when those gifts are turned into profits. I find the whole thing a bit disturbing. Lanier’s book is something more people should read.


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