The Value of Uncompensated Employment at The Huffington Post

April 13th, 2011

I have previously blogged about the value of unpaid internships to college students, namely the experience, skills, knowledge, and connections they make. Were interns to demand a salary at minimum wage, employers would be better to not hire them in the first place. This is a lesson that Jonathan Tasini–who brought a suit against the Huffington Post for failure to not pay unpaid contributors–would be well advised to learn. His over-the-top rhetoric suggests a fundamental misunderstanding of how the market works:

“In my view, the Huffington Post’s bloggers have essentially been turned into modern-day slaves on Arianna Huffington’s plantation,” he said. “She wants to pocket the tens of millions of dollars she reaped from the hard work of those bloggers…. This all could have been avoided had Arianna Huffington not acted like the Wal-Marts, the Waltons, Lloyd Blankfein, which is basically to say, ‘Go screw yourselves, this is my money.’”

Contributors to HuffPo gain nonpecuniary benefits–namely exposure and free publicity, something any aspiring blogger needs (trust me, I know about this). As Eugene Volokh noted:

He provides content, and is paid in eyeballs rather than dollars. Lots of people have taken time and effort to try to reach a much smaller audience (say, on a street corner), with no prospect of payment. Tasini was given a great opportunity to spread his ideas to a considerably larger potential audience, and he took advantage of it, presumably because spreading the ideas was compensation enough to entice him.

Were Tasinin to have demanded a salary, like the never-hired paid interns, he would have never written a single article for HuffPo.

This tweet sums it up perfectly:

[qtweet 57966404414083072]