Sorry, You Don’t Speak For Me

This week saw a new chapter in the ‘gender wars’ of Australian politics. While journalists and feminists were questioning Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s Women for Gillard speech a sexist and derogatory menu from a Liberal National Party fundraiser emerged.

Of course, mainstream media were keen to know what women really think about this, and who better to ask than Mia Freedman. While she spoke endlessly about women’s reactions, no one bothered to ask why she continues to disempower women by not paying for their written contributions to her site, while she continues to turn a profit from them.

Well this week I thought I would re-publish my open letter to Mia on why this is just not on.

Dear Mia,

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing because I saw something this week that really concerned me – as a feminist, a journalist and an employer.

In the midst of the twitter feeds over the Royal Prank I saw yourself and Marieke Hardy engage in an interesting conversation. Marieke quite forwardly asked if you wish to discuss on twitter why you don’t pay your writers.

To which you responded.

Now I had heard from a colleague you did not pay your contributors and did not believe it – until now. After reading this profile on you I could see you had a thriving and growing business on your hands. The advertising you attract is high end, you have a shopping arm, a ‘waterfront office’ and managed to purchase the rights to ivillage for Australia.

Obviously your business model is working well for you, I mean you can afford a nanny! Good on you.

Knowing all this I was perplexed as to why you don’t pay your contributors. The next day you posted your response.

In it you note you publish around 70+ articles a week and 70% of those are from your paid staff and free working interns. That leaves approximately 21 articles a week coming from aspiring or established writers. Some of the work is reproduced or unsolicited. Regardless, all of it comes from people sharing their opinions, thoughts and experiences with your growing community of readers who are getting their content for free.

Now I get that the business model for delivering free content is a work in progress but let’s admit it Mia, yours is working. And well done.

Everyone is giving their own version of it a go. I personally love The Hoopla’s, they are asking us to contribute what we can and not setting a price, they are then publishing their quarterly financials for us to see how it is spent. Brave wouldn’t you say?

And yes we all do a bit of writing for free. I’ve done it to get myself out there and for things I am passionate about. But I have done so for websites that I know are not carrying advertising or with a group of writers all doing it for love (including the editor/publisher).

A site like yours, I could not. My conscience would not allow myself to. It would feel like exploitation. The readers who engage with the work and comment on the article I write become another stat on your analytics. And we all know in the world of new media, this is  how advertising dollars are derived.

Your 1.2m readers are worth a lot of money.

Now you can give all the personal reasons you want as to why you don’t pay for contributions but I’m an employer too and I believe when people do work for you, you should compensate them. Especially when the work they do is profiting your company.

But more so when they are part of our workforce who are still fighting for equal pay for equal work.

As successful business women we can make an impact on that, especially for those who will come after us.

Kind regards,

Louise

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