I’ve been chasing one of Australia’s largest media corporations for the money they owe Australian Women Online. Of course I’d be more than happy to discuss the matter with them, if only they would reply to my emails or return my telephone calls. This is no way to treat a publisher but whose going to stop them?
Getting paid on time and being treated with the same respect given to any other business owner, are just two of the issues confronting the professional blogger. Perhaps it’s time we organised and formed a union, or as a good friend of mine suggested, established a Bloggers Guild, to represent our interests. To borrow a phrase from the union movement, ‘United we stand, Divided we beg’ and I’m tired of begging, aren’t you?
I think someone must have started a rumour that bloggers make lots of money from advertising on our websites and we are prepared to give our labour away for nothing because that’s what the PR Industry, Corporations, Event Organisers and others ask us to do every day of the week.
Let me explode the myth right here and now. Bloggers don’t make a lot of money out of advertising, especially since the bottom fell out of display advertising during the GFC. Another reason is that much of the money businesses use to spend on advertising is now being spent on PR campaigns.
With the growth of the PR Industry bloggers are now working longer and longer hours for no pay. Since their corporate clients have discovered there is value in engaging the blogosphere (especially female bloggers), bloggers are being asked to promote their products on a regular basis – for free. As a blogger friend of mine said to me a few months ago “Everyone gets paid in the equation except me”.
PR companies have never paid for placement of a news story and nor should they. However, when you blog about a product, you are not a journalist writing a news story, you are working as a spokesperson for that brand and should be compensated accordingly. Currently, only media personalities are paid to act as a spokesperson for a brand and in many cases, bloggers are expected to promote the media personality’s involvement in the campaign as well.
Earlier this year Australian Women Online was involved in a major campaign for one of the big four banks. The media personalities got paid and we didn’t, and yet it was us who delivered more quality traffic to the website than anyone else, including the ‘paid talent’. Next year when they approach us, I’ll be demanding we receive fair compensation for the work we put in and the results we are able to deliver to the bank. If they so no, I’m prepared to walk away and perhaps it’s time all bloggers took a similar stand.
But it’s not just the PR Industry who have been exploiting the blogosphere’s lack of collective bargaining power. From time to time, I’m asked to speak at different events and not once have they ever offered to pay for my travel expenses, let alone pay me an appearance fee. I wouldn’t mind so much if the event organisers weren’t actually making a profit out of it. We don’t get paid for all the promotional work we do and yet we are expected to pay our own expenses for the privilege of speaking at an event which will line somebody’s pockets. Thanks but no thanks. I’d rather spend the little money I earn on fancy luxuries like food!
I guess it’s our own fault really. For far too long we have undervalued our labour and now we are paying the price for that grievous error. We need to stand up and demand a better deal for bloggers. How long do you think we can sustain the status quo – one more year, maybe two? If we are to achieve longevity, we need to become economically sustainable and we can’t do that when we are on our knees begging for scraps.
I recently appeared at the Sydney Bloggers Festival where the message was that this is the time for bloggers. I’m thinking perhaps they have been misinformed. They asked me to speak at the Melbourne Bloggers Festival but since I have to travel on my own dime, I’ll have to respectfully decline – I can’t afford it!