literature & technology: should writers be paid for being published online?
A debate which has been brewing for a long time flared up again recently: should writers expect to be paid for writing for publication on the internet? Online publications Mamamia and The Hoopla recently published pieces on why they don’t pay writers (Mamamia) and why they do (The Hoopla). The Mamamia article in particular seems to have caused quite a stir. Editor Mia Freedman argues that while they have about thirty staff members, including some full-time and part-time staff writers, who are paid for their work, the online magazine does not pay for freelance contributions. These writers instead receive exposure for their work and the honour of being published by Mamamia. There is nothing wrong with this, to a certain point. So long as it has been made clear to the writer that they will not receive monetary payment for their work, and the writer is okay with that, there should be no problem.
However, writing in the digital age is not a lesser craft than writing for print media. The same skills, and then some, are required to write for online platforms. Just because anyone is able to publish something they have written online, on personal blogs, and because most online content is free for readers, does not mean the writers should not be compensated for their work.
Lip does not pay their writers. Or their editors, or subeditors, or any of the other people who work hard to keep not only the online magazine running, but to get Lip into print. One of the reasons for this is because Lip stopped receiving funding a few years back and the magazine is slowly trying to get itself back on its feet, online and in print. Lip makes it clear to their writers that, unfortunately, they are not in a position to pay their writers. Yet so many of us choose to write and work for Lip. According to some of the comments underneath the Mamamia article, this shouldn’t be the case. We, as writers, should have more integrity than that and only work for markets which are paying.
Most writers I know aren’t in it for the money. They would love to be able to earn a living from their writing, but first and foremost, they write because they have something to say and they want people to read and engage with what they have to say. I write for Lip because I want to support a magazine which I believe in. I write for Lip because I enjoy reading and writing about what I read, and Lip has given me the opportunity to do just that. I write for Lip because it means the articles I write have an audience. No, I don’t get paid in money for my work. But I feel like I get paid in other ways: I am a contributor for a wonderful women’s magazine; I discover books I never would have otherwise when I get sent books for review; I get to work with lovely people and, at the end of the day, I am doing what I love: writing.
Even so, there is a very fine line. I write for Lip, and will continue to write for Lip, because I love every minute of it, and, even though I’m not paid in money, I feel like the other benefits outweigh that. It is up to a writer’s discretion to decide if they will take on a project which offers no monetary payment. For some writers, the thrill of seeing their name on a published article for the very first time could be payment enough. For writers still feeling their way in the industry, it could be accepting work which feels like a step forwards and something to add to their portfolio. Because, let’s be honest, who is going to pay a writer with no previous experience? For seasoned writers, it could be contributing to a magazine like Lip, or Mamamia, because they feel like they have something important they need to write about and one of these online magazines provides a perfect opportunity.
If the publication can find the means, they should definitely pay their writers. Their writers’ words are valuable and an integral part of the publication. But at the same time, these online, independent platforms where writers can write honestly and with integrity are an important part of online media. Writers should not immediately disregard non-paying markets. If they look around and give it a shot, they might just be surprised at what non-monetary rewards come their way.
Image source: 1