A Bloggers’ Labor Union?

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.

8 thoughts on “A Bloggers’ Labor Union?

  1. Blogs and the whole internet really reflect the new order econmic order. Can’t find someone to do something for you in North America.

    Go to India.

    Still to expensive?

    Go to Thailand

    Still to expensive?

    Go to Vietnam.

    Welcome to the new economic order. A blogger union would be a complete waste of time.

  2. I would like to point out that there already is a writer’s union, just like there are unions for construction workers, etc.

    But I should remind people that despite these being in place, plenty of people choose not to join them. There are plenty of people willing to work for ‘pennies’. There are people who also do quite well based on their performance and skill, not based on what the union says is a good wage.

    As a writer, I’ve yet to feel the need to join and as a blogger I’d be reluctant to join the tirade against what people pay. I’ve given up on trying to fight those who pay pennies, that’s their problem.

    Setting examples and providing opportunities for others to improve are better than trying to convince those penny payers that they can afford a dollar.

  3. Want people to stop hiring bloggers? Start a union. There was a time and place for unions, it’s not now and it’s not for blogging. I went through the same thing with freelance writers. Some people did start a union, but not too many people want to hire freelancers who are part of one. I just think it kind of defeats the purpose.

  4. Whatever happens to this idea, there will always be people out there prepared to write for a tiny amount of cash. The simple fact is that this is, and will remain for the forseeable future, a buyer’s market. Pay rates may increase for the high quality work, as high quality writers become more in demand, but there will always be someone out there prepared to do the monkey work for peanuts.

  5. There’s a place for unions. This isn’t it.

    Blogging is an entrepreneurial endeavor and a creative endeavor. The idea of creating a blogging union is a false promise of riches to those who are struggling. Just because you’re a member of the actors guild, doesn’t mean you’re going to make Tom Cruise money. You’ll most likely still just be another starving actor.

    At best, I see this as an idea to divert the attention of bloggers and divide the blogging community. This is how big business raises the bar and makes the barrier to entry tougher. It’s how they turn worthy competitors into struggling competitors. It’s how they turn entrepreneurs into “employees”.

  6. Thanks for giving me another reason to list why bloggers annoy the crud out of me. Most bloggers are just electronic hack writers on a shorter time frame, myself included, and are overwhelmingly convinced of their own literary genius. All creative endeavor is a marketing game, not a game of skill, and I am absolutely fed up with writers, musicians, artists and bloggers who forget that nobody cares how talented you are, it’s only your ability to tell the world how talented you are that will matter.

    Blogging union? Disgusting. I like unions, and this right here is just an example of entitled elitists feeling put upon.

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