18 October, 2012  |   11 Comments

A Union for Bloggers

At my day job, I work with a lot of bloggers.

Wait.
Actually, I’m going to call us publishers.
I call us publishers because now that Twitter, Pinterest, Facebook, freelance gigs and Instagram (mllehelenjane) roll up into compensatory audiences, blogging is too limiting a verb.

Publishers.

Publishers write, photograph, record, collect and produce amazing works of art every day.
Mostly for free,
sometimes for a little endorsement on the side,
sometimes only for endorsement.

Life is crazy and fun and full of fancy today.

Working with publishers, I see how much compensation varies by vertical. This means that compensation varies widely between food and parenting, tech and fashion, lifestyle and personal diary.

I see how influence isn’t always reflected in numbers.
I see what’s quantifiable and what can’t be captured by the numbers.
I see true talent ignored and diva-like demands from the lesser talented.
I see few safeguards or people who trying to make their living on the internet as compensation from the top to the bottom can vary 100% from month to month.

It’s a craft that takes time, skill, relentless creativity, curiosity and that undefinable secret sauce.

It’s risky.
It’s crowded.
It’s filled with weirdos.

Working with publishers, I see strong similarities to actors.

and THEN she posted a picture of herself standing next to Jennifer Garner like that MEANS something...

Actors work at a craft, can become well established in their niche, develop a following and become endless sources of fascination/revulsion to their audiences. Their personal lives are often mined for their roles, and a carefully scripted personal life can add to their net worth. Their net worth can vary wildly due to demand and a fickle viewing public.

(Sound familiar?)

Character actors make less than “leading” actors make less than action stars make less than the Academy Award winners.

For example, parenting/personal diary publishers can make less than food publishers who make less than fashion publishers who make less than lifestyle publishers who all make less than the tech and coupon publishers*.

It can feel cutthroat — with the perception that only all the same people up for the same gigs.

Actors/publishers put time into getting these gigs that isn’t repaid if programs don’t come through.
Actors/publishers are open for scrutiny from a public that doesn’t understand what it took to get there.
Actors/publishers aim for public acknowledgement of their talents.

Actors also have a union, the Screen Actors Guild, through which they get insurance, and have basic baseline rates established.

Publishers, well, they don’t. And content farms, plunging CPMs and a general assumption of, “Anyone, even MOMMIES, can do this” all conspire against us for the minimum base amount.

What would a Professional Publisher’s union look like?

  • Basic established industry rates commensurate with provable audience numbers.
  • Group insurance rates available.
  • Retirement options.
  • Definition of industry best practices.
  • Recognition from the community.

I know unions are so out of vogue right now, but I think some industry protection and standardization could actually help some folks. Who knows, as the borders between television, computers and movie screens blur, maybe SAG could expand to include publishers.

Thanks, LA, you're the foxiest.

There are about seven thousand disclaimers about what kind of union expert I’m not that I could put right here, but I’ll just ask, what do you think? Is it navel-gazing narcissism writ large or is it a solid effort that could protect the vulnerable?

*Not fact, just used for example.

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11 thoughts on “A Union for Bloggers


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