Business EXTRA! BLOGGERS SUE ARIANA HUFFINGTON FOR $105,000,000!
Lawsuit still winding its way through the courts…
Major Class Action Lawsuit Filed Against Huffington Post and AOL
April 12, 2011
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE NEW YORK, NY:
A class action lawsuit was filed today against The Huffington Post.com, Inc., Huffington Post owner Arianna Huffington, her co-owner, and AOL.com, Inc. alleging that thousands of writers and other content providers have been wrongly denied any compensation for the substantial value they created for the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post was recently sold to AOL for $315 million. “Arianna Huffington is pursuing the Wal-Martization of creative content and a Third World class of creative people,” said Jonathan Tasini, the lead plaintiff in the suit. “Actually, that is unfair to Wal-Mart because at least Wal-Mart pays its workers something for the value those workers create. In Arianna Huffington’s business model, economic gain is only reserved for her. Everyone else, apparently, is expected to work for free regardless of the value they create. Greed and selfishness is the order of the day.” The class action, filed in the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York on behalf of a putative class of over 9,000 writers and other content providers to The Huffington Post.com states deceptive trade practices and unjust enrichment as causes of action. The complaint requests at least $105 million in damages on behalf of The Huffington Post’s uncompensated writers and other content providers. THE FULL COMPLAINT CAN BE DOWNLOADED HERE:
The suit will pursue novel issues in the digital age. “We intend to prove at trial that the content and services provided by the over 9,000 members of the class created substantial value for the Huffington Post and we hope to establish a strong precedent that in the digital age content producers must be compensated for the value they create,” said Plaintiff’s counsel Jesse Strauss. A conference call to review the case will be held at 11:00 AM EST on Tuesday, April 12. Invited participants may dial in at 1-712-432-0900 using access code 515711#. Tasini was the lead plaintiff in a previous landmark case won on behalf of freelance creators, Tasini v. The New York Times, which reaffirmed creators’ rights in the digital age. The United States Supreme Court ruled in favor of the creator-plaintiffs in June 2001. Kurzon Strauss LLP is a premier New York-based commercial litigation and corporate transactional law firm. For more information, please visit www.kurzonstrauss.com. Contact: Jonathan Tasini 646-202-0091, Kurzon Strauss LLP: 212-822-1496 For more information on the lawsuit, visit http://www.facebook.com/pages/Huffington-Post-Justice-Campaign/200077036698848?ref=ts&sk=wall (note: because one journalist violated the embargo, we are releasing the information to be published immediately prior to the call at 11 am—though that journalist is not receiving the information) Jonathan Tasini
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AOL’s Huffington to Add News Staff as Part of Local Site Revamp
AOL Inc. (AOL), seeking to revive sales growth after buying the Huffington Post, is hiring as many as 800 full-time employees at local-news operations across the country and reducing the use of freelancers.
Arianna Huffington, the Huffington Post co-founder who became the editor-in-chief of AOL’s media operations, said she intends to increase content at the company’s Patch websites covering 797 local markets nationwide. AOL may hire as many as one full-time journalist per Patch site, though the final number hasn’t been decided.
“Each site will now have its own team,” Huffington sa
id in an interview. “It’s always greater and better to have a team.” Until now, content for each Patch website has been produced by a single full-time local editor and freelancers.
Huffington, who joined AOL as part of the $315 million Huffington Post deal completed last month, said the Patch sites will also incorporate bloggers and commentary. Those social elements helped her turn the Huffington Post news-aggregation model into a website that grew to attract 25 million unique visitors per month within six years after it began.
“We are basically going to make Patch a lot more social,” said Huffington, 60. “It’s a great way to have people in the town, from the mayor to high-school kids, engaged.”
Huffington said she will name a new editorial executive to work on the social-media initiative in the coming days.
AOL, spun off from Time Warner Inc. in 2009, has reported declining sales for five straight quarters. After acquiring the Huffington Post to help increase online content and boost ad revenue, AOL in March said it would shed up to 900 employees from its global workforce. Patch represents about 20 percent of New York-based AOL’s employee roster, which totals 5,000.
Today, the Huffington Post and AOL were sued in New York over claims that the writers of website content weren’t paid for their work. The suit, brought by writer Jonathan Tasini, seeks class-action, or group, status. AOL is reviewing the suit and will comment later, said Lauren Hurvitz, a spokeswoman.
AOL rose 23 cents to $20.03 at 1:17 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares had lost 16 percent this year before today.
AOL Chief Executive Officer Tim Armstrong invested more than $50 million last year to jump start the expansion of Patch sites, which aim to attract local online advertising from neighborhood businesses such as restaurants, hair salons, florists and car dealers.
Armstrong backed the startup with $4.5 million in 2007, when he was working at Google Inc. AOL bought the company in 2009, after he became CEO.
The number of Patch sites will soon top 800 with the debut of operations in Iowa and New Hampshire — the two states where the 2012 presidential elections will kick off — as well as two new sites in Newark, New Jersey, according to Janine Iamunno, a Patch spokeswoman. That’s up from 100 sites in August 2010.
The Patch sites, designed for communities with populations of 15,000 to 75,000, face increasing competition for advertising dollars from local blogs. Rivals also include businesses like Groupon Inc., the coupon site that offers deals-of-the-day to users, based on their geographic location.
“We have seen a lot of locally-targeted sites do very, very well with local advertising, and one that comes to mind is Groupon,” said Kip Cassino, research director at Borrell Associates in Williamsburg, Virginia. The local online- advertising market will probably be worth $15.8 billion in 2011, he said. By 2015, it will grow to $24 billion, he said.
“But I have real questions about the viability of the Patch model,” he said in an interview. “Their idea is you’ll want to go to those sites because you want to know what’s on the school menu, or who’s on the high school wrestling team. It’s like the local section of a newspaper. And newspapers always struggled to get advertisers into the local section.”
‘Dicey’ Reader Comments
Chris Tolles, CEO of Topix.net, a hyper-local news business jointly owned by newspaper publishers Gannett Co., Tribune Co. and McClatchy Co. (MNI), said that once the Patch sites introduce more social forums and commentary, it will be challenging to maintain a dialog among users that advertisers will be comfortable with.
Topix, which started in 2005 and has $10 million in sales, has about 5,000 local sites, in communities with populations of 45,000 or less, Tolles said. Each day, the company handles about 1,000 complaints regarding user commentary, he said.
“They’ll get a lot of heated comments and discussions at the local level,” Tolles said in an interview. “We have a lot of commentary on our sites that is dicey. But then it’s also stuff that newspapers are not going to cover.”