No, writing for free isn’t slavery (via @paidContent, @mathewi, HT: @peterjblack)

Wait, isn’t this the opposite of what I posted last week!?

Well, I think it’s important to have a look at what everyone involved has to say. My personal conclusions about writing for free haven’t changed, but this article by Mathew Ingram is a rebuttal of (or at least a reply to) the recent New York Times piece.

As more than one person pointed out during the debate on Twitter that followed the publication of the piece, there have always been people willing to write for nothing —the barriers to entry are just a lot lower now. To some, that is a great thing, a democratization of content that allows anyone to reach a potential audience, but to others these writers who work for free are like virtual “scabs” crossing a picket line and endangering the livelihood of other writers.

I don’t disagree with Mathew at all – in fact I even describe the circumstances around which I personally support writing for free. And yes, of course writers have always worked for free or for little money; I’ve often espoused my belief that if you are writing fiction for the sole purpose of making money you probably shouldn’t be writing.

Having said that, though, I didn’t quite see the original article’s core complaint as ‘we shouldn’t write for free’, but rather ‘we shouldn’t be expected to work for free’. If you offer your services for free, or negotiate after the fact, that’s different. Being approached by a business to give up free work so they can make a profit, though? I’m not entirely sure. Exposure isn’t quite quid pro quo.

A number of people tried to argue that publishers are the ones who set the price for things, and they are ruining the industry by not paying writers — although even Kreider admits in his piece that most of the people asking him to do things for free have little or no money. But the point is that this view of the industry gets things exactly backwards: the reality is that media or content broadly speaking has gone from being primarily supply-driven to almost totally demand-driven, and that has changed the economics in some fundamental ways.

It’s a worthwhile read, so check it out in full here: http://paidcontent.org/2013/10/28/no-writing-for-free-isnt-slavery-and-other-misconceptions-about-the-economics-of-online-media/

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