I see that the Huffington Post has quietly ended its "Contributor Platform" blogs. They've been moving in this direction ham-fistedly for years, and it's a shame since the blogs are how HuffPo came to fame, and with some pretty renowned people writing them. (Barack Obama, Walter Cronkite, Oprah Winfrey, senators, governors, and many, many, many more.) Despite the "reasons" they publicly gave in an article about something else, saying that there are other outlets, the reality is that the new owners haven't never wanted to deal with having such contributors and began burying them since AOL took over and then subsequently had others come in after.
Though the Huffington Post kept the announcement as low-key as they could, the New York Times recognized this for the significant story it is, and wrote a long, detailed article on it here. They note that the Contributor Platform blogs encompassed over 100,000 writers and drove 10-15% of traffic on the site.
As readers of these pages have figured out over the years, I've had issues with HuffPo's treatment of their independent contributors for a long time. Even during the original ownership, I battled with the editors on occasion, though there was always a sense of accommodation. Their tech editor once called me and had a 30-minute conversation, ultimately addressing some of the problems. Contrast that with recent days when I haven't heard back from the anonymous "Blog Team" for probably the past two years, even when asking about a glitch on the site. In fact, if one went to the Huffington Post and even tried to find contributor blogs, it was basically impossible. The link to them disappeared. There was no search engine on the site. In fact, after they changed to their new platform, if they didn't "approve" your article it was explained to me that they coded the piece so that it literally couldn't be found with even an outside search engine (like Google or Bing.) That's how buried it had become. Only if you knew specifically who you were looking for or had a direct link could you find anything on the Contributor Platform. (When I asked why on earth anyone would write an article for free that couldn't be found -- I didn't get a reply and never again heard from the "Blog Team.")
Happily, I recognized this years ago, which is one of the main reasons I began my own site here and have been writing for HuffPo far, far less over the years. In fact, I haven't written an original article them in five years, instead just re-posting pieces from here. So, it doesn't actually affect me much. And there is almost a sense of relief and even "good riddance" for what has been so poorly managed in recent years. But the Contributor Platform began life and remained a good and valuable forum in general. And I know others who still write for the Huffington Post today, for which that's gone.
And to be clear, the Huffington Post has always taken advantage of getting free writing from its unpaid Contributor Platform. That was always a question of whether or not to participate. But speaking only personally, it was to my benefit professionally to keep writing for them. Too many reasons to go into, but among other things I did get income as a result of writing for HuffPo. Not directly, mind you, but indirectly, hired for work as a result of it. And I was published in the anthology, Clued in to Politics, published by CQ Press. (Standing for Congressional Quarterly.) So, it was worth my while. But even that dwindled in recent years, with the change of management, which is largely, again, why I began writing on this pages for the most part.
All things do pass. This is not an "outrage." After all, they've been driving in this direction for a long time. And the news coverage of the Huffington Post, which has become its core, will continue. But unlike a lot of things that do pass...this one was absolutely unnecessary. And an act of arrogance. So be it. Things move on.
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Robert J. Elisberg is a political commentator, screenwriter, novelist, tech writer and also some other things that I just tend to keep forgetting.
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