No Pay to Play

play No Pay to PlayBack in April, the New York Times' glossy sports magazine Play, which appears as a Sunday insert four times a year, rolled out a weekly e-mail newsletter.

The newsletter, which is delivered to the readers’ inboxes for free, includes a weekly batch of brief, original items.

At the time, we noted that Play would be paying its contributors significantly less for e-mail pieces than for those appearing in the magazine. Would that make it difficult to recruit writers?

Play managing editor Bill Brink told us that in order to attract e-mail contributors, he was considering reaching out to untapped sports fans writing for non-sporty sections of the Times.

Over the summer, Mr. Brink has apparently been testing out an additional strategy.

In mid June, he sent an e-mail to potential contributors, explaining that in lieu of an actual paycheck, he could offer writers a slightly less tangible form of remuneration: an author bio, mentioning any books they’ve written and the address of their personal web sites.

Apparently, not everyone is psyched by the offer.

One Play freelancer who has seen the email wrote to us today.

"I wonder whether Brink's superiors know that he's actually asked writers to work for FREE…,” wrote the freelancer. “And promising to plug a writer's other work as a quid pro quo is unethical, in my opinion. At the very least, it puts the editor in a compromised position, and as an editorial practice, it makes the Times look like podunk.com."