Making cents of all this

Gawker Media’s Valleywag blog has gone public with a memo from Gawker management — specifically, from Noah Robischon, who presumably sitteth at the right hand of Nick — announcing a new pay plan for the blog staff. Some of its points, I think, are worth noting by those of us who don’t get paid by the pageview:

It’s only on the internet that a writer’s contributions can be measured. At newspapers, a reporter’s reputation depends on the opinion of their editors, which can be fickle. Some people get on because they play the office politics well. Or simply because they’re more aggressive in lobbying for more prominent jobs, or pay increases.

Advertising people say that the internet is special, because the audience’s engagement is so much more measurable than that of newspaper readers, or television viewers. Which makes it so bizarre that most writers, on the internet as in print, are paid for the sheer brute quantity of their output.

“Don’t knock sheer brute quantity,” said some character who put up over two thousand posts in each of two consecutive years.

In short, we have repeated the bad habits of traditional media organizations: leaving remuneration to the arbitrary will of upper management; and, by treating words as if they were Soviet steel output targets, encouraging quantity over quality…. [W]e now really are reaching the limits of sheer volume. Readers can’t take any more. And the proliferation of blogs, and social news services such as Digg, has changed the rules.

Where there was a shortage of attitude and commentary, there’s now a surfeit. And what’s in heavy demand, and short supply, is linkworthy material, by which I mean a secret memo, a spy photo, a chart, a well-argued rant, a list, an exclusive piece of news, a well-packaged find.

I daresay, three, maybe even four percent of my stuff thus qualifies.

To be fair, I can see Robischon’s point, and it’s been all too visible throughout the Denton Empire, which at times has come off as a, perhaps the, leading vendor of snark qua snark. (Major exceptions: Lifehacker, because it’s firmly anchored in reality, and Fleshbot, because it’s firmly anchored, um, somewhere else.) So paying these folks a flat monthly rate plus bonuses for pageviews, as the new plan ordains, actually makes a certain amount of sense.

Although there’s this, from a commenter:

Gee, that’s a great idea. I’m sure no one would ever once consider using zombie PCs to increase their monthly bonus.

But it was always thus: there exists no system that cannot in some way be gamed.

I just hope they’re not relying solely on Sitemeter numbers to pay these folks.

1 comment

  1. McGehee »

    2 January 2008 · 10:53 am

    Where there was a shortage of attitude and commentary, there’s now a surfeit.

    I don’t think the quantities of attitude and commentary have changed, so much as they’re more overt than they used to be.

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