Business Huffington Hit for 105M
The Huffington Post and AOL have been hit by a class action lawsuit filed by a group of bloggers. Lead plaintiff of the lawsuit is former blogger on the website, Jonathan Tasini, a noted social activist and commentator who had previously written over 200 articles for the website.
In a press release, Mr. Tasini stated: “In 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, and that is just wrong.”
Since its inception in 2005, the Huffington Post has often featured blogs from an array of well-known public figures and lesser-known citizen journalists. However, the recent $315 million media merger with AOL attracted significant criticism from the contributors who helped catapult the website into notoriety.
In a statement to The Fresh Outlook, Mario Ruiz of the Huffington Post deemed the lawsuit “wholly without merit.”
He said: “As we’ve said before, our bloggers use our platform – as well as other unpaid group blogs across the web — to connect and help their work be seen by as many people as possible.”
In an e-mail to members of the Huffington Post’s blog community announcing its acquisition by AOL, Ms Huffington underlined the importance of bloggers to the website’s profile, saying: “Our bloggers have always been a very big part of HuffPost’s identity – and will continue to be a very big part of who we are.”
The Fresh Outlook spoke to Mayhill Flower, a former contributor to Huffington Post, who claims that despite various promises made by Ms Huffington, she was never paid for her work. She said: “[Ms Huffington] was leading me on, telling me to go out and work up a proposal for various projects for which I would be paid. But then, at the end of the day, after I’d spent a lot of time and money doing research and traveling to talk to subjects, [Ms Huffington] would always say she couldn’t afford it.”
The promise of high readerships and online recognition is not enough for some of The Huffington Post’s unpaid contributors, and many have felt the recent sale to AOL represents a diversion from the Huffington Post’s original left-wing foundations. As a consequence, Huffington Post bloggers are seeking alternative ways to publish their content.
The Huffington Post Union of Bloggers (HPUB) states its aim as being: “To build a news and views website for change and transformation; not driven by advertisers and a Board of Directors beholden to shareholders.” Founded just over a week ago in response to the changes apparent on the Huffington Post, the website has already received thousands of hits.
Speaking exclusively to The Fresh Outlook, a representative of HPUB shared his views on the lawsuit, saying: “I think this legal case is a disaster for the Huffington Post, regardless of the outcome, which is why I think Jonathan Tasini has done it. It upends this notion that bloggers are happy to create content for free.” He went on to say the potential for thousands of disgruntled bloggers to sign up to the class action suit represents “awful publicity” for the website.
Additionally, he spoke at length about the effects of AOL’s ownership of the Huffington Post, stating: “From a business standpoint [Ms. Huffington] has completely wrecked the brand which was built up around a specific identity.” For him, the sale to AOL means “the model that [Ms. Huffington] built is going to stop working”.
The class action lawsuit is not the only backlash to hit the Huffington Post and AOL. In March, the US journalists ’the Newspaper Guild, formally supported a strike against the Huffington Post, launched by Visual Art Source, calling on all unpaid writers to withhold their work from the online publication. They stated on their website: “We feel it is unethical to expect trained and qualified professionals to contribute quality content for nothing.”
By Elena Cresci