Crikey‘s new The Daily Review: why you shouldn’t volunteer for a for-profit media organisation

Freelancers and current, past and future Crikey contributors:

Today, Crikey is launching a new arts website called The Daily Review. It has no contributor budget.

We are writing to ask you not to contribute to it for free, and to tell you why we won’t be doing so ourselves.

This is about fairness, and recognition of the value the work of arts writers has contributed to a publication we are immensely proud to write for. It’s about beginning a discussion. To that end, we have CCed Crikey‘s editor Jason Whittaker, The Daily Review‘s editor Raymond Gill, and Private Media CEO Marina Go and Chairman Eric Beecher on this email.

Crikey‘s arts, entertainment and culture coverage was always an extra, an add-on, a side street. Thanks largely to Jason’s championing of the coverage, it’s now a big deal: it’s a large enough piece of the Crikey pie that it’s getting its own website, with a significant investment of money. The Daily Review already has a paid full-time editor, and a paid full-time journalist.

Crikey‘s arts coverage has, until now, been on its blogs. Crikey bloggers are paid on a sliding bonus scale. (Those contributing to Curtain Call may not even be aware of this, given the blog’s multi-voiced nature.)

Some Crikey blogs make money. Some even hit the high end of this scale every month. If you’ve blogged for Crikey, you may have been regularly paid for your work or you may have never seen a cent.

The bonus system—one that values content based on the audience it attracts, a flawed system that doesn’t value writers or writing—was at least a nod to the worth of the content it rewarded.

Not paying contributors (and the based-on-pageviews payment scale) made a degree of sense before. Now it looks like an organisation getting greedy. At its launch, and at least until the end of the current financial year, The Daily Review has no contributor budget at all.

(Some existing Crikey arts blogs will remain in their current form, with their content syndicated on The Daily Review and in its twice-weekly email iterations. Pageviews on Daily Review will not count toward bonus payments.)

Contributors to the Crikey subscriber email are paid per piece, at rates starting at $150, regardless of word length. Crikey considers their writing to be worth money, but not yours. The contributor budget for the daily email runs to tens of thousands of dollars every month.

For those of you who’ve been writing for Crikey for years now, the announcement of an arts portal should have been an exciting thing; it should have meant money in your pocket—financial recognition of the contribution you’ve made to the Crikey brand. Instead, it’s a slap in the face. Your work has made Crikey‘s arts coverage the go-to destination it has become; without it, The Daily Review would be an unimaginable proposition.

The switch to an aggregated arts site means that, for contributors, there will be no bonus scheme in place. If you choose to contribute to The Daily Review, you will be writing for free, and you will be doing so for a website that makes money. You will be doing so for a website that pays over $100,000 a year in salaries to its two staff, but pays you nothing.

It is ethically reprehensible for a company to expand and actually stop paying the people who produce its product. A company which asks its readers to pay for content doesn’t feel the same obligation when it comes to its writers.

In a statement on Mumbrella, Jason Whittaker described The Daily Review as “an unashamedly commercial venture” and “fertile advertising ground”. The Daily Review will make money.

The Daily Review‘s success depends on its content. If you can’t afford content, you cant afford to launch an arts website. If you can’t afford to launch an arts website, don’t launch one.

Crikey is the only site of its size and scope that regularly publishes large amounts of content by unpaid writers. Indeed, there are far smaller sites that pay their contributors; Junkee, The Hoopla, Birdee, Mamamia, The King’s Tribune, Writers Bloc, SameSame and Mess+Noise all pay for the pieces they publish. Contributors to The Daily Review should be paid, and they should be paid at the same rates as regular Crikey contributors: a flat rate, starting at $150 per piece.

Arts journalism is a small pond, and it’s likely you will be asked to contribute to The Daily Review at some point, as the number of writers willing to give their work away shrinks. Don’t work for free.

By refusing to volunteer for a for-profit media organisation, you’re beginning a conversation about your value. If that value is zero, there are other outlets that will pay you for your work.

Please feel free to forward or republish this email in full.

Sincerely,

Byron Bache, Laurence Barber and Bethanie Blanchard

with

Karen Andrews, John Birmingham, Chris Boyd, Mez Breeze, Ruth Brown, Thomas Caldwell, Anwyn Crawford, A.H. Cayley, Sam Cooney, Paul Donoughue, Daniel Dalton, Lisa Dempster, James Douglas, Glenn Dunks, Monica Dux, Ben Eltham, Clementine Ford, Melita Granger, Amy Gray, Michelle Hamer, Rebecca Harkins-Cross, Craig Hildebrand-Burke, Nic Holas, Jane Howard, Amber Jamieson, Tara Judah, Briony Kidd, Elmo Keep, Brodie Lancaster, Benjamin Law, Patrick Lenton, Celeste Liddle, Brendan Maclean, Aicha Marhfour, Jess McGuire, Neil McMahon, Jennifer Mills, Kat Muscat, Roger Nelson, Josh Nelson, Lefa Singleton Norton, Connor Tomas O’Brien, Geoff Orton, Chad Parkhill, Cameron Pegg, Jana Perkovic, Karen Pickering, Bhakthi Puvanenthiran, Senator Lee Rhiannon, Judith Ridge, Ian Keith Rogers, Rochelle Siemienowicz, Ellena Savage, Jack Shit, Rachel Short, Matthew Sini, Angie Smith, Matt Smith, Benjamin Solah, Andrew Stafford, Andrew P Street, Lloyd Bradford Syke, Peter Taggart, Gillian Terzis, Sam Twyford-Moore, Stephanie Van Schilt, Jordan Beth Vincent, Nadine von Cohen, Alex Sol Watts, Christopher Welldon, Caitlin Welsh, Marcus Westbury, Cameron Woodhead, Tyson Wray, Sean Wright and Stella Young

42 Comments

  1. jennifer mills

    Adding my name to this list of signatories, and sharing via @paythewriters. Thank you all for taking a stand – you do not do so alone.

  2. irfan

    “Indeed, there are far smaller sites that pay their contributors; Junkee, Mamamia, The King’s Tribune, Writers Bloc, SameSame and Mess+Noise all pay for the pieces they publish.”

    Out of curiosity, how much do they pay?

  3. Byron Bache

    Most of them pay token amounts. Mamamia pays $50 per piece, though they have a host of caveats about who they won’t pay and why. Junkee, SameSame and Mess+Noise all have the same parent company, so imagine their rates are all similar; I’ve heard Junkee pays $50-$100 per piece, but I don’t know if that’s accurate.

    Elmo Keep wrote a really great piece about this very thing today: http://elmolikesthings.tumblr.com/post/66627542726/digital-publishing-is-a-pyramid-scheme

  4. Michelle Hamer

    “Indeed, there are far smaller sites that pay their contributors; Junkee, Mamamia, The King’s Tribune, Writers Bloc, SameSame and Mess+Noise all pay for the pieces they publish.”

    I was not paid for my contribution to Mamamia – an 800-word piece. I know of several Mamamia writers who are not paid for their work.
    Several other media outlets; such as Fairfax have reduced what they pay contributors to a level more common ten-to-fifteen years ago.
    Thank you for making this issue public, I add my name to the list.

  5. Considered

    With regards to mamamia, it is important to note that much of their content is created by their ‘dozen or so’ unpaid interns.
    Bad form across the board.

  6. Jackie Randles

    Hi Byron

    May I publish an excerpt from this post in Living Ethics, the newsletter of St James Ethics Centre see http://www.ethics.org.au

    BTW, this is a not for profit organisation devoted to raising awareness about ethics and I think your comments are extremely thought provoking!

    Kind regards
    jackie Randles

  7. Byron Bache

    Jackie, you’re very welcome to do so.

  8. Can I add my name to this?

  9. Marian Edmunds

    I read and support independent journalism as much as possible although journalism, my career for more than 25 years, no longer provides a viable income stream. A few months ago I renewed my subscription to Crikey and (First Dog aside) this development makes me want to review this.

    My post, Journalism at the precipice, written last year. http://theparadigmshuffle.wordpress.com/2012/06/20/journalism-on-the-precipice-or-is-it/

  10. “Exposure” and “experience” are common media euphemisms (lately all too oft expressed) for “we won’t pay”, but just because they have no price attached doesn’t mean they have no value.

    It would be a sad day for our community broadcast sector if commercial media who profiteer scared away our volunteers, without whom hundreds of community radio stations could not fully function.

    We commend the content makers who fight the good fight for fair pay for creative property, but also praise the people who generously do good for their communities beyond the measure of a dollar.

    - Jon Bisset
    General Manager
    Community Broadcasting Association of Australia (CBAA)

    See http://www.cbaa.org.au/news/Why-you-should-volunteer-for-not-for-profit-media

  11. As a small time freelance writer AND a unionist, I’d like to add my name to this if I can.

  12. Byron Bache

    Celeste: of course. It’s done.

  13. You can add my name to this list, for whatever it’s worth.

  14. Aicha Marhfour

    Please add my name to this. Thank you so much for the stand you’re taking.

  15. Paxy

    Seriously, those kinds of numbers are shameful, none more than zero I guess, but $50-$100 sounds fairly pathetic too. No wonder we are often exposed to such drivel these days (present company excepted of course). Why be a writer? It’s not like the bulk of the youth of today are reading anything much longer than a sentence or two in an SMS anyway.

  16. Neil McMahon

    Fully concur. Please add my name.

  17. Nothing like working for free is there? Unfortunately, there are so many people who think they are writers who’ll gladly do this sort of work because they think that the exposure will help them. It won’t.

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  19. irfan

    Eureka Street pays $200 per contribution.

  20. you are welcome to add my name to this vital intervention, should you consider it fit to publish. enough is enough! salutations to all who are taking a stand.

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  25. Journalism is turning into a pyramid scam with the writers at the bottom getting zip. To hell with it.

  26. Fleur

    Shame on Crikey!! We pay to subscribe to it so they should totally pay the people whose work and words builds their brand and their profit margin. Outrageous!!!!!! Note to Crikey — I will not ‘click through’ to a single Daily Review article until you pay the writers.

  27. Jordan Beth Vincent

    This is so important. Please add my name to your list. Well done!

  28. I’m late to the party but feel free to add my name to this one.

  29. Melita Granger

    Please add my name to the list.

  30. Craig Hildebrand-Burke

    This is all excellently said. I would love to add my name to the list, if at all possible.

  31. Briony Kidd

    Please add my name. I agree with Matthew…like a pyramid scheme. And common across most art forms in this country as I understand. The implication is it’s such a fortunate thing just to be able to *be* an artist/writer that you shouldn’t expect money as well. Counterproductive to quality.

  32. As a fellow writer who encounters similar free content requests all too often, I’d like to be added to this list. Thanks.

  33. Feel free to add my name

  34. Anwyn Crawford

    Should’ve posted yesterday, but, yes, a round of applause to Crikey contributors for taking a stand in principle and solidarity with other writers. Please add my name to the list.

  35. Miriam

    I emailed Crikey yesterday with a longer piece on a political issue with excellent sources. They responded after four minutes (not enough time to have done anything else than to skim through it), saying “Can I confirm if you were seeking payment”. When I said I indeed was, the answer was “We’re going to have to say no to this one, as our budget is really tight, but please do pitch in future for future stories”.

    I am very certain the editor didn’t even read my piece properly. I now have another outlet interested.

  36. Please add me.

    I contributed plenty to Crikey – not just their blogs (one which I managed, Laugh Track) but also for their daily edition. I wrote many ‘daily proposition’ pieces for them and was never offered payment. I asked once, but they didn’t pay for that specific section (go figure).

    I knew what I was getting into though, and Crikey are by no means the worst offender. But things need to change.

  37. Billy C

    Perhaps we could all write to major arts organisations asking them to not provide complimentary tickets to writers for the daily review unless they are being paid for their work. Critical publications survive on the generosity of producers and artists providing free tickets. They will be pretty stuck if they have to shall out hundreds of dollars per review.

  38. Add me also please

  39. Jack Crap

    and how is any of this different to writers fraudulently calling themselves “producers” and “directors” trolling for free work from performers and storyboard artists and animators in an attempt to score money from Hollywood after a tropfest win?

    How is this different to Gabriel Clarke and Graphic Festival making money from grants etc., by using the work of animators and illustrators FOR FREE? Since Graphic cannot exists without NON VERBAL material? Because as of now it’s not. And until writers stop attempting to use artists in the exact same way Byron and all of you above are complaining about, including everytime a writer tries to co crew into a deferral gig for a short film in the hopes of that short film getting the writer a paid gig in LA or London, everyone on the list is a hypocrite.

  40. Byron Bache

    Jack,

    I just engaged the only animator I know to do $800 of paid work. I’m not exploiting anyone, and I don’t believe anyone else on the list is currently exploiting animators or illustrators.

    It sounds like a worthwhile battle, but it has absolutely nothing to do with this.

    Byron

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  42. Jack Crap

    Nice try toots, but it has everything to do with this, and your saying that it does not, smacks of the “I’m not to blame” BS of Peter Slipper and Craig Thompson. No dice, babe.

    You are free to boycott anyone/any site/any page you like. And any competent artist/illustrator is free to boycott any ‘writer’ on your list, here, and any site they work for, and any production company (including ut not limited to Zapruder and SBS) for exactly the same reasons. Oh, and ABC too, in case you’re thinking of bunking up with certain people who have development deals involving ‘post apocalyptic sci-fi’ drivel. Fair is fair. You can say “it has absolutely nothing to do with this”, and we can share this page with IATSE in Hollywood, their sister unions in Wales and England and New York and see of they wanna work with you. Ala the WGA strike of 2007.

    Then again, you write ABOUT fiction which writers compose, rather than composing it yourself, so you likely don’t care unless you mistakenly think the relationships between IATSE and the WGA apply to you (which would make you an utter dimwit, along with anyone else on your list).

    The fact that you are willing to pay $800 to an animator is great, and cancels any snarkies I’ve typed above, IF that $800 is limited to MEAA/MPAA standards and minimums. Meaning if you are asking for less than 20 seconds of animation, and that is not a deferral deal (because if it IS deferral, it’s not a paid gig as you’ve said above, and you’ve LIED). After her debate on ABC RN for the sake of copyright, Elmo Keep knows exactly what I am talking about, and despite any response you give, she and all writers on this page will be held to the appropriate EQUAL account.

    No writer gets to have their cake and eat it too, punky-brewter.

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