I know next to nothing about “mommyblogs” — not being a mommy — but I do know they have become a popular form on the Web, especially among parents. Not surprisingly, like other freelancers, it seems that many of these bloggers don’t have enough information to figure out whether they are getting fair compensation for their writing. On this blog, called strollerderby, Katie Allison Granju wonders whether its time to change that:
In my own case, I would absolutely love to have the opportunity to sit down with other mommybloggers and lay it all out on the table with regard to how much our personal blogs are earning via ad revenue and other income opportunities. I know I am not alone among other mombloggers in that I honestly have no idea whatsoever whether I am earning a reasonable amount relative to my blog???s traffic. I know that it sure doesn???t seem like much when I look at what other types of online publications are charging for fewer pageviews than I am getting. Increasingly, I suspect that the very thing that makes the mommyblogging community so special and wonderful ??? our collaborative, supportive and non-competitive approach to what we do ??? is also the thing that is allowing more traditional business entities to take advantage of us ??? both individually and as a group.
I wish Katie and the other mommybloggers the best of luck.
The freelancers who had been working for the Huffington Post are still being kept up in the air as to whether they still have jobs, according to this report by Forbes’ Jeff Bercovici. He says that HuffPo’s executive editor told the freelancers in conference calls that it would be another three weeks before they knew, but apparently hires are already being made, and some are concerned that the new organization is hiring from outside in preparation to getting rid of the current crew.
Which wouldn’t surprise me greatly; often, organizations find it more convenient to make a clean sweep rather than take the trouble to really evaluate their existing workers. In the same way that the New York Times recently dropped all their front-of-the-book writers at the New York Times Magazine, new executives and/or organizations like to send a message that they are fixing things by simply getting rid of current personnel — or freelancers — whether or not they are doing a good job.
AOL’s freelance and contract-based employees saw 200 of their full-time counterparts get laid off two weeks ago as part of the merger with the Huffington Post. They learned yesterday that several dozen of the sites they worked on will cease to exist as standalone brands. But they’ll have to wait a few weeks more to learn their own fate.
Back in the late 1980s, I worked for a magazine called PC Sources which was unexpected folded. The employees were divided into three categories: those who would be laid off immediately, those who would be laid off after a month, and those who would remain employed and put in other positions. We couldn't figure out the thinking behind this — we had an excellent group of staffers, and those who were slated for immediate termination weren't any less valuable than those kept on. Then somebody did their homework, and came up with a possible answer: The Worker Adjustment Retraining and Notification Act (WARN), which required that employees at qualifying companies receive at least 30 days notice of a layoff. By keeping a portion of the staff, and holding on to another portion for an extra month, the company could bypass the law and save the salaries of a good percentage of the staff.
I've never been sure whether that was true, but it sounded good. And it's a law that AOL, which recently laid off a large number of its employees (and which plans to dump the majority of its contract freelancers) may find itself tripping over, according to a recent article at Forbes Magazine
. According to the article, it's possible that the most recent version of the WARN Act
, which says that employers must give 90 days notice (and which drops the requirement of number of laid-off workers from 50 to 25), does apply to AOL's many freelance workers (although AOL, in a quote in the article, says not).
It's a typical situation. During the recent dire recession, many companies either tried to make up for layoffs by giving the work to the remaining workers, or tried to switch to a less-expensive freelance workforce, despite laws that try to avoid that. It will be interesting to see if AOL's freelancers will be considered full-timers by the courts.
Content farms — Web sites which push themselves into the Google ratings (and so into higher ad revenue) by amassing pages of either copied or quickly written content — have come under attack by Google itself. Recently, Google changed its algorithms to push many of these sites much further down in its ratings, so that sites that had maneuvered themselves into the first pages of searches are now down on, say, page 48.
Because many of these content farms use large numbers of freelancers — paying them, on the whole, very low rates and so encouraging them to work fast, carelessly, and without much attention to facts — I thought I'd offer some links about what is becoming something of a controversy.
First, from Search Engine Land, a rundown on what Google did, why, and its probably effects:
The Kansas City Star approves:
However, there have been, according to some journalists and bloggers, some innocent bystanders who have been caught in the crossfire. SearchEngineWatch reports about the collateral damage, while the Guardian talks about some British sites which, it says, has been unfairly targeted:
One site already has had to adjust for the change: A site called Mahalo has laid off 10% of its staff and has stopped using freelancers, at least temporarily:
Finally, Fast Company claims that some of the bigger content farms have actually escaped Google's wrath: