Home Is It Time for a Blogging Union?

Is It Time for a Blogging Union?

Blogging is now big business. Mike Arrington reminded us of that with a rant this morning. According to Arrington, about $25 million of VC money went into the coffers of top-tier blogs and blog networks last year, $8.5 million the year before. And maybe I’m reading him wrong, but I detected a bit of distaste when he talked about blog writers starting to think they’re worth more than the $5 per post standard apparently set by pioneering blog networks like Weblogs, Inc. and Gawker Media.

“Those salad days are long gone,” wrote Arrington. “Writers suddenly want to be paid market wages, far above the $5 per post that they received two years ago. No, we’re talking a big salary, with benefits, and stock options. There went half your margins at least.”

I won’t disclose what ReadWriteWeb pays its writers, and I honestly don’t know what the site’s revenues are like, but suffice it to say I make enough to pay my bills by blogging here full-time. And I don’t think that’s a bad thing. But the majority of bloggers probably aren’t being paid what their outlet could afford to pay them. Some, like those who write at the Huffington Post or DailyKos, might not be paid at all.

A bloggers union is an idea that was most recently advanced last month in an issue of the Columbia Journalism Review. “It’s a Wild West out there for bloggers — even though, without them, the Internet’s frontier would not have expanded so broadly or so rapidly. And even though, without them, the Web-derived profits many of these blog sites are starting to rake in simply wouldn’t exist,” wrote Chris Mooney.

Mooney envisions a professional guild for bloggers, not unlike the Writers Guild of America, that would strictly rep professional bloggers. How you weed “professional bloggers” from the hobbyists would be task number one for guild organizers, whom Mooney thinks would initially be the blogosphere’s most successful writers — i.e., people who have sway with management. Unionizing bloggers is something the National Writers Union recently voted to be a priority.

Organizing bloggers is also a meme that popped up last August when some political bloggers started talking about it. There were arguments made both for and against the idea, which organizers hoped would give them the leverage necessary to demand better healthcare, better pay, and more access. All of which are generally good things.

The arguments against blogger unionization are mostly two-fold: 1. blogging is still in its infancy and is barely ready for a unionized workforce, and 2. the blogosphere is built on the idea that anything goes, and organizing would undermine that premise.

However, like it or not, I think some sort of bloggers guild is probably on the horizon. The first steps toward that idea might actually have been taken this week with the announcement of a new ad network aimed at long tail bloggers by Blogger & Podcaster magazine. What makes the BPN ad network stand out is that they’re planning to provide healthcare for members and that it is non-exclusive. Though it’s not quite what Mooney envisioned (BPN is working with long tail bloggers rather than those writing for top-tier sites), it does have the makings of a foundation for a future organized coalition of bloggers. (Note that there are a number of real challenges to organizing bloggers under the National Labor Relations Act in the US — this post on MyDD has a good overview.)

What do you think? Mooney says that organizing bloggers is “not only inevitable, but necessary.” Do you agree? Or do you think organization goes against the freewheeling principles that the blogosphere was founded on? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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