The Dilemma of Writers in the Age of “Free”

Ah, yes. There was a time when perhaps a guy like me could have made a regular income at writing articles. My wife and I are reading a book about country living in which a couple in the 80’s moved out to the country and lived off of freelance writing (did people do that at one time?). Now, everyone thinks because of the internet all reading material should be free. Thank God I sell books and put some food on the family table (everyone weeps for Derek, sigh). Here is a great thought piece on the hypocrisy of Ariana Huffington (so-called liberal) and her massive sale of HuffPo (The Huffington Post), which is essentially a legal sweatshop for writers lured by vanity:


About Derek Leman

IT guy working in the associations industry. Formerly a congregational rabbi. Dad of 8. Nerd.
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2 Responses to The Dilemma of Writers in the Age of “Free”

  1. Jeff Allen says:


    I hear your lament, and I read the post you linked to. I do agree with you that there are a lot of writers being taken advantage of in today’s market. However, perhaps I’m simply naïve but don’t a fair amount of people make money writing the form of paid-for posts to blogs or in book (or ebook) publishing?

    Aren’t blog posts merely “loss leaders” for the purpose of enticing the reader to purchase a paid-for product or service? To go with your example, in the case of news that might be subscription or smartphone application, etc. In the case of your blog isn’t “free” article writing for your blog the opportunity cost you pay to network for more speaking engagements and sell your books? I don’t know what your sales numbers look like but do you suppose you’d be selling more books if you did not have a blog?

    Though I agree with you that some in the new media industry take it too far, isn’t some devaluation in a writer’s salary (or per-article commission as the case may be) legitimate? Not to go all “Adam Smith” on you, but couldn’t it be said that writers are less valuable today because the barrier of entry has been lowered by the Internet over-saturating the market with a lot of bad writers thus devaluing the individual writer? What do you think?

  2. Jeff:

    You’re right that the barrier to entry is lower. And you could argue that I would not be savvy enough in a business sense or talented enough as a writer to make it over the higher barrier that used to exist.

    But, instead of using me as an example and forcing me to either act like I have the stuff to be a successful freelancer or act like I don’t have the stuff, let’s consider “Blogger Shakespeare.” Let’s say he is quite good.

    Problem for “Blogger Shakespeare” (let’s call him B.S., haha) is the market for paid writing has plummeted to unheard of lows. B.S. would have done very well before, but now he is drowned by a sea of mediocre voices and has no market. The buyers are all buying low-quality drivel at a price of zero. They have not yet figured out, and maybe won’t for a decade or two, that they’d be better off paying for less information presented by more professional writers and thinkers that getting tons of free information with junk and treasure mixed together.

    Journalism is a dead-end college major now. Humanities offer little hope for gainful employment. The writer has less ways to earn a living. But his audience of skimmers is larger. Many people probably spend 10-30 seconds on one of my blog posts. They’ve got 30 more articles to read tonight and they haven’t decided which ones are worth more time.

    Derek Leman

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