Labor Clash Hits New York Blog Circuit

OK, so it wasn’t exactly the newsboy strike of 1899. But over the past several days, a class struggle of sorts broke out between a handful of New York bloggers and blog owners over the value (or lack thereof!) of writers in the age of SEO (search engine optimization) and slide-shows.

Henry Blodget, the CEO of Business Insider, got things started last week when he fired John Carney, a talented and well-liked financial blogger.

Foster Kamer, of The Village Voice, (having already broken the news) then took to his personal Tumblr to criticize Mr. Blodget’s “toxic” long game and to argue that the only thing which had previously justified Mr. Blodget’s business model was the employment of writers “who’re much loved, who love their work, and who work hard.”

But how much is a writer, even of the beloved variety, actually worth these days? And do fellow writers tend to overestimate their value–out of kinship, self-interest, and naivete about the business side of web journalism?

Felix Salmon of Reuters and Mr. Blodget proceeded to spend the weekend batting those questions back on forth.

Mr. Blodget on Twitter:

–So, adding the 600,000 pages for your salary / bens plus all the rest of the co’s costs, a $60k journo needs to produce 1.8mm pages a month

–Basically, the key point here is that it is HARD AS HELL to generate enough readership to pay your freight online and not everyone can do it

–So I sometimes wish journos preaching from newsrooms paid for by more than ads would be more understanding when bemoaning online content

Mr. Salmon on Reuters:

It’s absurd to assume that your own overhead should be somehow apportioned between journalists on the basis of how much they’re earning, and in fact it’s even more absurd to think of journalists as profit centers in the first place. Journalists are cost centers: you spend money on them in order to attract a high-quality readership. If a journalist does that but you’re having difficulty monetizing that readership, then don’t blame the journalist, and don’t try to get him to chase pageviews instead.

While New York’s first blogger strike might still be a long ways off, we suspect the tension between influential bloggers and the publishers who employ them is just getting started.

#teamMarx