Entertainment Weekly, the venerable consumer-friendly magazine about movies and TV and the like, is under the same crunch as the rest of the media industry; its parent company, Time Inc., has recently gone through a series of layoffs. But the manner in which the magazine is attempting to build out its brand is the absolute worst-case scenario — bad for authors and for readers.
Lucia Moses at Digiday reports that Entertainment Weekly is to launch an online “contributor network” that is to feature readers as writers, particularly on “TV and eventually other areas […] staff reporters don’t cover deeply.” In other words, anyone can now write for Entertainment Weekly, but they shouldn’t expect a check.
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In an ideal world, writing for free would never happen — it’s work and should be compensated — but perhaps there is an argument that a community platform could give rise to particularly innovative or exciting takes. So far, the beta page is just recaps of TV shows in the EW house style. There’s something deeply disingenuous about opening up a website as a platform for young or eager writers to ply their trade for free when they’re not expected to do anything new. Why would Entertainment Weekly hire any of the people contributing to the community page when they’ve already shown they’re willing to do the work of a writer for free? Pardon me — not for free, as they’ll have the “prestige” and “access to editors” that Entertainment Weekly promises. Prestige entirely aside, how helpful or receptive will be editors staking their livelihoods on writers not waking up and demanding money for labor? How can any writer producing identical content to their counterpart distinguish herself enough to make exposure meaningful?
Link to the rest at Salon and thanks to Meryl for the tip.
This is the same thing that Forbes blogs does.
PG is not offended so long as contributors understand they’re doing it for free and retain all rights to the content they create. EW gets content for nothing and the work of contributors is shown to a much larger audience than would ever see their blog.
Some traditional magazines are laying off staff because advertisers and paying subscribers are leaving in droves. PG never likes to see anyone get fired, but if the magazine is going to disappear should it continue with its present payroll, those jobs are going to disappear at some point anyway. If the magazine collapses completely, everybody gets fired. If it continues in a different form, at least some people (maybe not the most deserving ones) do get to keep their jobs.
Indie authors are part of the freelance economy, usually operating alone or with periodic assistance from other freelancers like editors, cover artists or book designers, selling on common markets like Amazon. While PG has held some very good jobs, all-in-all, he prefers the freelance economy for himself.
A former compatriot of PG owns a PR agency and she helps clients write items for Forbes blogs as a means of promoting their businesses and personal brands. She writes a very popular Forbes blog to do the same thing for herself. She doesn’t feel exploited in the least.