How Have You Devalued Professional Writing Today?

This week’s discussion about paying writers has led some to argue that publishers, by asking for free or cheap work, and writers, by accepting little to no wages, are devaluing the work of professional writers. 

What else is devaluing the work of professional writing on the web? 

1. By having this debate, for free, on, and, are we devaluing the work of professional writers who might write about it for a publisher that is paying them? 

2. If you wrote a print magazine story for a publisher, then asked that publisher to “unlock it on the web for free,” are you undercutting or devaluing the work of those who write exclusively for the web? 

3. If you only share free content on Twitter and Facebook, versus paywalled content or ebooks, are you undercutting or devaluing the work of publishers who paywall their content? 

4. If you publish free content on the web, are you killing the ancillary revenue that a writer could bring in from future reprint rights for those stories, or the ability to repurpose those stories into a book? 

5. If you pay freelancers, are you killing the opportunity to provide healthcare and stability to a full-time writer instead?

I’m not trying to be flip, but I think we, the Internet, are all somewhat responsible for the sorry state of freelance writing. I hope we can take steps to improve it. 

For what it’s worth, Longreads is trying to do its small part: We currently set aside ~30% of our Member dues to pay writers and publishers for reprint rights to our weekly Member Picks. 

And last night, Pocket‘s founder Nate Weiner spoke at the SF Hacks/Hackers journalism panel and asserted our commitment to publishers and how we can help solve the bigger problem of supporting high-quality content on the web. I’m excited for what’s to come on this front. 

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