Communion Of Dreams


Exposed for what it is.
February 7, 2011, 11:55 am
Filed under: Art, NPR, Press, Promotion, Publishing, Science, Society, Writing stuff

I woke this morning, birds singing, the sun shining, and feeling wonderf . . .

No, wait. Scratch that. It’s winter. No birds. Greyness in the dark, as the sun wasn’t up yet. And I had the usual collection of aches and pains common for middle-age .

Still, nothing unexpected hurt, and while I’m not quite to the point where I am pleasantly surprised to wake up at all, I still tend to think that any day above ground beats the alternative.

Then I paid attention to the radio. To this, in particular:

Today AOL announced that it had agreed to acquire the Huffington Post website for $315 million. $300 million of this is in cash, the rest of the purchase in AOL stock. Arianna Huffington, who co-founded the site six years ago, will continue on as President and editor-in-chief.

Gah.

OK, I didn’t read the Huffington Post. No, not because of their slightly-liberal slant – their politics don’t bother me in the slightest. Rather, because I hated their overall design and shallowness. And their willingness to promote anti-science claptrap. And Arianna’s voice makes my teeth hurt, and I can’t read anything the woman writes without hearing her voice.

But still, something about the sale bugged me more than these little things would explain.

It wasn’t until I had some coffee and had a chance to get my brain completely up to operating speed that I figured out why the news rubbed me so much the wrong way: exploitation.

OK, let me explain. I used to own an art gallery. And for 8 years I, my partner, my wife, and my employees busted butt to create a great space to showcase lots of local and regional talent. Over that time we represented hundreds of artists, did well over a hundred featured shows, sent out tens of thousands of full-color postcards, and sold a bunch of artwork. We did everything we could think of to promote our artists, to display the artwork to its best advantage, and to make sure our partnership with our artists was to everyone’s advantage.

And one of the things which used to chap my ass the worst was local bars and restaurants which used to exploit artists by hanging their artwork on the walls and saying it gave the artists “exposure”. I even wrote about this in my newspaper column after I had closed the gallery. The bars and restaurants almost never displayed the work well, seldom had any decent signage about the work/artist, and rarely if ever sold anything. But in exchange for this “exposure” they got to put fresh artwork up regularly to decorate their walls, without having to actually, you know, buy real art from real artists.

And this is why it bugs me so much to hear that the Huffington Post has been sold for $315 million. Because they have a business model which doesn’t pay their writers – they just give them “exposure.” Oh, some celebrities may get paid for contributing. But the average blogger who creates content for the site doesn’t get squat.

Will any of that $300 million in cash from the sale be parceled out to the people who have been writing for the site? Nope.

So, the lesson is clear: there’s gold in them thar artists – so long as you’re the one to be doing the exploiting.

Jim Downey

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2 Comments so far
Leave a comment

I never thought about it like that. Interesting insight. I’m glad I read this.

Comment by Joe Kreydt

Thanks, Joe – I’ve just seen too many artists fall prey to these kinds of schemes.

Comment by James Downey




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