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Erik Wemple
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Posted at 04:20 PM ET, 10/26/2011

Gawker pay-for-links scoop: Journalism is a miserable racket

As a journalist, you always know that your chosen professions doesn’t pay. You and your beloved colleagues are either:

1) Unemployed;

2) Nervous about becoming unemployed; or

3) Resigned to a career without raises.

Perhaps the worst news about our industry, though, comes from an irresistible piece today by Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan. The story recounts a series of exchanges between Nolan and some marketer with an outfit called 43a. The company pays journalists to plop links in stories that go to the Web sites of its clients.

How much for a link? One hundred thirty dollars for a hack like me, but $170 for a master craftsman like Nolan.

Think about that for a second. Though it sounds like a nice spiff, how many links can you sneak into your copy without getting busted by the ethics police? And how many posts can you generate per day?

An industrious blogger can put out between five and eight good, meaty blog posts per day. The link farm 43a, according to Gawker, allegedly works with several companies that I won’t mention here because I haven’t confirmed that they’re clients. Let’s just say that one of them is named JohnDoeCorp. and offers services in the health-care field.

Somehow I’ve now got to find a way to sneak JohnDoeCorp. into my copy. So that means I’ve got to find some health-care media stories to dredge up. I’ve got to find some kind of wrongdoing or drama or something noteworthy or newsworthy happening in that media world, just so I can make that link to JohnDoeCorp.

And to avoid detection by other gotcha media writers, I have to be careful about those links. If I can do, say, thirty posts in a week, I could probably escape without notice by linking to JohnDoeCorp. twice a week, at $130 a pop.

Let’s add up the filthy earnings now: Over the course of a year, I’d get $13,520 — not all of which I could pocket, of course. I’d have to share at least a fifth with my look-the-other-way editor. So, essentially, $10K for my journalistic soul. How cheap we come.

I think I’ll stick with “free”links and forgo the new living-room set.

By  |  04:20 PM ET, 10/26/2011

 
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