In the last few days there has been a lot of press about the prospects of a labor union for bloggers and/or writers. The conversation really took off yesterday with the TechCrunch article Is Blogging Ready For a Unionized Workforce?.
The basic concern is that most bloggers are working for pennies an hour while a handful of probloggers and blog owners are raking in the dough. In other words, most bloggers are working at slave wages. So maybe a union would help raise wages?
David Krug at Telegraphik suggests the need for massive reform in the way blog networks are run:
Bloggers are fed up with payrates, we want insurance, and we want to be able to set standards on how this industry — online publishing is run.
One of the issues that particularly has troubled me in the last few years is how blog networks pay their bloggers. Most of them offer a percentage of profits that a blog makes rather than paying by the post, or one of many what I consider more ethical alternatives.
Krug is voicing a concern with the way the free-market blogging industry has panned out. He wants to see some institutionalized method for improving the quality of life for bloggers.
I don’t see these reforms being successful through a traditional labor union (Note: traditional labor unions do not discriminate based on quality, and that’s the fundamental problem as I see it). In fact, I don’t think that the goal should be to improve the quality of life for *all* bloggers who want to join a labor union.
Rather, I do think that the free markets could willingly support and encourage the development of a “Premium Blogger Collective” that organized the very best bloggers on the internet into a union-like collective and then served as an authoritative central location for businesses and high quality publishing firms to find quality bloggers at premium rates.
Not only do I think that a free-market would support such an endeavor, but Google itself has now put in place the infrastructure to encourage the economics of quality. As a friend of mine put it, they’ve turned the “authority” and “quality” buttons way, way, way up on their search algorithms.
The key to such a collective would be to place high thresholds on blogger entry, ensuring quality bloggers, and gaining the confidence of publishers who are willing to pay a premium for good writing. If the collective were to be successful, it would handle billing and blogger payments, while using some of the profits for important things like insurance.
Despite my suggestions, I do want to provide the following warning. It is my view that the economics of blogging and even SEO just don’t scale well for the aspiring entrepreneur. If you’re serious about getting rich, then you need to become an owner, and you need to start hiring other people to do your work for you. The key to becoming rich on the Internet is putting your assets to work for a strong recurring revenue.
To back up this idea, let me leave with you with the following brief article from Andy Hagans where he diagnosed the fundamental economics of blogging and SEO with an elegant reference to investment guru Warren Buffett. The fact of the matter is that blogging and even SEO are, at a very deep level, bad business models. They simply don’t scale well. And in my view they certainly don’t scale well enough to give every blogger the kind of labor union support that Krug is calling for.
If you really want insurance, then start acquiring good assets and get yourself in the position to hire others. It’s that simple. That’s how business works.