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Kim Voynar

By Kim Voynar

AOL Cans Freelancers, Goes Old-School

Not that anyone’s going to be shocked by this — it’s been coming at least since the HuffPo merger, but really long before that union was incepted — but AOL’s finally bringing the axe down on a ton of freelancers — while telling most of them they can continue to write — for FREE! — if they want. Well, gosh, I bet they sure do appreciate the hell out of that.

But wait! Some of the freelancers are being offered full-time staff positions, and some AOL folks — like AOL Business and Finance Editor Peter Goodman — are trying their damnedest to put the good old AOL Corporate Spin on the bullshit. Christ, Peter. Even Beavis and Butthead knew that if you paint a turd gold, it’s still just a turd painted gold.

From Goodman’s letter to Business Insider:

And we do want people right here in the newsroom, to participate in the sorts of spontaneous conversations that often yield the best ideas. This is something about which we are unabashed and even proud: We are assembling a first-rate group of full-time staff to take us forward. In many cases, we have been hiring people who have previously been freelancers into these full-time jobs. And, in some cases where geographic reach is needed (for example, autos coverage in Detroit), we are keeping people in place beyond the company’s core offices in New York, Washington, and Los Angeles.

Riiiiight, Peter. Because heaven knows, people aren’t capable of engaging in “spontaneous conversations” virtually, right? You ever here of webcams and chat and email? Cell phones? All those tools that telecommuters and freelancers are well-skilled at using?

What’s seriously befuddling is watching new media-incubated HuffPo suddenly trying to go all Old Media, with the canning of far-flung freelancers and the insistence on the need to invest in an old-school, physical “newsroom” as being necessary for the running of a business that is ENTIRELY ONLINE. This is about as stupid as the dumbass old school Kodak managers I used to work with insisting that photographs have to be taken with film.

Look, I’ve been working in digital media for a long time now. I’ve been working in this business as a telecommuter for over 15 years. I’ve managed entire teams of people scattered cross-country in a virtual office space using internet technology and conference calls. It’s leaner, it’s tighter, and for a corporation the size of AOL which is always crying the need to cut expenses, it saves literally millions in overheard to reduce infrastructure, not build more of it. And it boggles my mind when people whose primary experience lies only in mainstream media just do not get this.

Further, you have Arianna Huffington, who built an online business that she sold for $315 million, to a large extent using freelancers, who’s now a part of AOL — which is now attempting to spin the idea that work done by freelancers is somehow less professional, less reliable?

I want to make sure it’s really clear what we’re talking about here when we’re talking about AOL getting rid of freelancers. These are not, for the most part, inexperienced college interns who are not legitimate journalists. AOL took advantage of the freelance model for a long time as a way to keep sites churning out the content that drives the traffic that makes the ad sales that fills the coffers that lines the pockets of the higher-ups come year-end bonus time. Cinematical’s staff, for instance (at least while I was there) was entirely freelancers — including the editorial staff.

As editors, we were paid a flat rate for our “editorial services” and then for our writing on top of that, but we were all contractors who got no benefits at all: No health insurance, no 401K, no PTO, nada. So if AOL’s intent was actually to reward the people who have worked their asses off for years as contractors by finally making them full-time and giving them decent salaries and benefits, hey, awesome.

A lot of the freelancers don’t live in NYC or Washington DC where they could report to an old-school cubicle farm to be word monkeys in a cage, though, so I guess those folks, however talented they might be and however much they’ve contributed to AOL’s traffic over the years, are just shit out of luck, eh?

One Response to “AOL Cans Freelancers, Goes Old-School”

  1. Mike says:

    May I say one thing?
    Going to anyways, is FUCKING JOKE!
    I signed up and in a matter of minutes I got 12 phone calls from colleges around the country wanting me to put myself into more debt. I didn’t check any of the boxes and there is no option on the site to remove your account. Your email gets flood with garbage and bullshit and you get calls from 8am to 10pm from every Tom, Dick and Harry for nothing but shit.
    If I ever find out where the owner of lives here in California, I will give him his spam and bullshit back in his face and when I am done the SOB will need plastic surgery. I went to the site in hopes of work and I get bullshit on my cellphone and email!
    Now he wants make sure the whole world gets spammed with bullshit. I haven’t been able to get one contact for any jobs on that fucked up site and I can’t see bidding low for a job that is high paying job. This is just plain stupidity. Anyone remember when Temp Agencies start?
    What happened to the hard worker that wants to make a living working 40 hours a week. Replaced by a temp so the fat cats get more profit and the job market took a major dive and the hard worker can be found at the unemployment line trying his guts out to support his or her family.
    Put me in a room with this PRICK and I will show him Freelance, right down his throat with all his teeth and then I will take him to the desert and put him in the sand up to his neck power honey his head and let the creatures of the feed on his pea sized brain. I can understand doing freelance work as a side job but it has become a monster that will destroy the economy and country like the USA and since he has now a location in Australia(bunch of cons there anyways(who would want to work on a desert island in the first place?)and now is wanting to make a stand in New Zealand, I am heading there in 3 years and if I come across this fuck stick. I am turning into shark bait.
    This asshole needs his brain checked..oops..there isn’t one he is making a profit from having companies spam your emails and your phones day and night. We thought we had gotten rid of those annoying calls, well guess what! This prick just upped that 100x. I fought for the USA and because of all this shit I can’t get a job. Makes me think what was I fighting for? To have my life in the shit and my phone and email being flooded by assholes like this.
    God help this prick if I ever run into him. Because I might just send him to the pearly gate and, hope they reject his ass and God sends to me as I know where I am going and I will make his soul suffer for eternity and then send it back to purgatory.
    Govts are wanting the owner of Wiki Leaks locked up, he just delivered what most wouldn’t tread, good on him. This prick needs to be locked up in a shark tank and then throw the key away.

Quote Unquotesee all »

“The thought is interrupted by an odd interlude. We are speaking in the side room of Casita, a swish and fairly busy Italian bistro in Aoyama – a district of Tokyo usually so replete with celebrities that they spark minimal fuss. Kojima’s fame, however, exceeds normal limits and adoring staff have worked out who their guest is. He stops mid-sentence and points up towards the speakers, delighted. The soft jazz that had been playing discreetly across the restaurant’s dark, hardwood interior has suddenly been replaced with the theme music from some of Kojima’s hit games. Harry Gregson-Williams’ music is sublime in its context but ‘Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots’ is not, Kojima acknowledges, terribly restauranty. He pauses, adjusting a pair of large, blue-framed glasses of his own design, and returns to the way in which games have not only influenced films, but have also changed the way in which people watch them. “There are stories being told [in cinema] that my generation may find surprising but which the gamer generation doesn’t find weird at all,” he says.
~ Hideo Kojima

“They’re still talking about the ‘cathedral of cinema,’ the ‘communal experience,’ blah blah. The experiences I’ve had recently in the theatre have not been good. There’s commercials, noise, cellphones. I was watching Colette at the Varsity, and halfway through red flashes came up at the bottom of the frame. A woman came out and said, ‘We’re going to have to reboot, so take fifteen minutes and come back.’ Then they rebooted it from the beginning, and she had to ask the audience to tell her how far to go. You tell me, is that a great experience? I generally don’t watch movies in a cinema at all. Netflix is the future. It’s the present. But the whole paradigm of a series, binge-watching, it’s quite different. My first reaction is that it’s more novelistic, because if you have an eight-hour season, you can get into complex, intricate things. You can let it breathe and the audience expectations are such that they will let you, where before they wouldn’t have the patience. I think only the surface has been touched with experimenting with that.”
~ David Cronenberg