Wednesday, February 23, 2011

We Are Creating the Coal That Fires This Oven

David Carr is the salaried media columnist at The New York Times, but he's written about and experienced the phenomenon of unpaid content and he's here to talk to us a little bit about this deal.

Mr. DAVID CARR (Media Columnist, The New York Times): Good morning.

MONTAGNE: You titled the piece that you wrote in The New York Times yesterday "A Nation of Serfs," meaning what? Meaning people on property that's not their own?

Mr. CARR: Yeah. When you talk about people who provide platforms - be it Facebook or Twitter or LinkedIn or Koora - they own the interface and the technology. Huffington Post is a little different deal because they are a news platform, but again, a lot of people work for them in unpaid ways.

And as we all we all Twitter away and type away and update our Facebooks, we're creating the coal that sort of fires this oven and creates these values, but they continue to own the lands.

MONTAGNE: Right. And there's somebody at the top who benefits mightily in that kind of old-fashioned, capitalistic way.

Mr. CARR: Well, let's be honest, it's always been .. it's nobody ever got rich - well, very few people ever got rich writing. What's unusual about the era that we live in is not that content comes cheaply. You know, writing beats working, so I'm going to choose it every single time.

But the fact that it seems to be dropping to a price of zero - if you look even beyond the social networks and The Huffington Post - content farms like Demand Media, where they're employing professional journalists, but they're being paid at the rate of $10 or $15 or $20 a story. As content doubles every year - becomes more and more ubiquitous - the price of it is bound to go down, as is the compensation.

MONTAGNE: Well, the way you describe though, the charm of being able to write for free, it's very much an opportunity to use your wit with an audience.

Mr. CARR: Oh, it's a great place for showoffs, there's no doubt about it. Those of us who write for a living, we're among the first and early adapters of Twitter, along with technical people. And it's not as if we get nothing in return. We're able to promote our work, much of what I Twitter about.

Sometimes I, you know, write about my commute home to New Jersey on the bus, but other times I'm promoting my work or the work of others. I've been rewarded with almost 300,000 followers, and those people are a kind of social and business asset. I can't really put a number on them, but there's some value in that.

MONTAGNE: And just one other thing about this sale. I wonder even though it doesn't change what the agreement was with the Huffington Post, that is, we get an audience and you get our talent for nothing. It's maybe one thing to write for the Huffington Post and another to write for this, you know, gigantic entity, AOL.

Mr. CARR: Yeah, you're talking a big corporate blob that's worth $2.2 billion in terms of market capitalization. And while I'm sure people are interested in accessing an audience, you'd have to think that a lot of people at the Huffington Post were somewhat politically motivated to contribute to the civic common and what they felt were progressive and additive ways. It feels a little different when you're sending that copy to a big gigantic media conglomerate, at least I think so.

MONTAGNE: David, thanks very much for joining us.
Mr. CARR: Oh, an absolute pleasure, Renee.

Copyright © 2011 National Public Radio®. All rights reserved.


  1. Well, I wrote a comment and it got gobbled up. I'll simply say that I love the picture, love the blog world, and am grateful for comments. They can make my introverted, isolated day. Not to mention that through the blog world I meet new friends like you, which expands my world.

  2. Very nice photo!!
    I started blogging for family but they don't read my blog much anymore. I blog now because the people who read my blog and comment have become friends. I enjoy reading about their lives too.

  3. I like the photo of your sweet dog.

  4. I can't figure it out myself. I'm pumping out words all over the place for nothing, and it seems wrong, because writing shouldn't be devalued--people have to and deserve to make a living at it, even if I don't need to. And we all read writing that has been recompensed that isn't all that great. I'm not certain what exactly I get from all this, except that it is undeniable that the audience is necessary. I wouldn't do it and stash it away in a trunk. Is it ego, or love, or a simple binding of souls? I have no idea.

  5. "What is your altruistic purpose for blogging? It seems like all bloggers basically write about their own lives. Is there anything wrong with that?

    Not in my opinion. The world needs more entertainment, especially if it's free. Having a feeling of being connected with others is healthy, too. It's good for the soul to remember we're not alone in the world. It sure has helped me."

    I am going to be bluntly honest here Donna. Specifically, because I am annoyed as all hell about someone seeing my blog content for what it is most certainly not (I posted about it today).

    Here is my truth about why I blog and what blogging does for me... it is purely and simply a way to have social connection with people. My life is nothing like I thought it might be. I am married to an introverted soul who would be happy if no one ever darkened our door. I have a son with autism who is in his own little world. My life is socially isolated except for the efforts I make to be connected to people with church, work, and yes, blogging. I have been on a lonely journey in many ways (I won't bore people with the details) and thus crave and need the social connection and relationships that my life with my husband and son can't give me. I've worked and struggled to love and accept the life I've been given and if my sharing that feeling of grace being poured down around me can help others, all the better. I have true friendships that have developed from my blog... people who I genuinely care about and feel cared about from as well. THAT is my payoff. A feeling of being connected in my socially isolated world.

    Is there anything better than people reaching out to people? I just don't think so. As I am feeling really raw right now, I'll stop blathering.

  6. I hope that I've jarred someone, anyone into feeling something other than the numbness that the over-stimulating-to-the-point-of-a-shutdown- of-feeling-anything-at-all-unless-one-is-told- how-that-should-feel-world. None of us should be telling each other how to feel, but I can't help but wonder that speaking of our own trials and triumphs might be just the navigation another might need to carry on.
    Seems many blogs these days fall in line with what everyone WANTS to hear, not so much what one may need to hear to live more fully.
    I don't believe everyone blogs for ego sake, if that were true it would mean, paid or not- the end of the beauty- that we freely speak to one another, openly and without regard to gains on our own behalf.
    I may be fooling my self, I'm awfully good at that sometimes- but I hope my experiences and the lessons I've learned, might make a good difference to someone else. It is with hope that I write because it seems love these days is more suspect than hate...there's the bottom line on why I write and why I will continue to do so.

  7. I do do love the picture of your dog. Taking pictures of my dog sleeping in so many positions with her long legs often dangling in strange postures is one of my favourite things.

    Better still is for her to move up onto the bed and put her head on my shoulder to have me stroke her neck and face. Sorry I cannot take a picture of us, The odd couple.

    I have not read your blog for a while, you seemed to have stopped posting. Now you are back at it. I look forward to reading it more regularly.


Thanks for enabling my writing habit. I live for feedback.